Shark Tank’s Maynard Okereke and Khasha Touloei talk to TVGrapevine.
Tell me about yourself and career.
I’m Maynard Okereke, COO of JADA, along with our CEO Khasha Touloei. We both met in college at the University of Washington in Seattle. I have a background in Civil Engineering and currently do work as a Science Communicator. Khasha graduated medical school and works as a board certified dermatologist.
What made you decide to come out with this product?
Khasha spent his childhood in Australia where Chicken Salt originated. In Australia, it’s a cultural phenomenon, used in every household and restaurant. While in residency, Khasha was having a difficult time getting his high blood pressure & diabetic patients to adhere to their strict diets, and started thinking about the seasoning that his Mom always used to make his meals taste better. The original Chicken Salt in Australia includes a number of additives and animal byproducts. Khasha decided to create a cleaner version, 100% vegan, and lower in sodium – all without compromising the same great taste. We became the first Chicken Salt seasoning to be introduced into the US market.
What are some challenges you faced?
We faced a number of challenges early on. During our beginning stages, we were fulfilling and manufacturing products on our own. We were looking for ways to expand, and eventually received an unexpected airing on national tv with celebrity chef Valerie Bertinelli using our product. Our sales increased significantly, but we had to find ways to scale and scale rapidly. The process towards investing in inventory, finding the right co-packer, and financing our growth 100% on our own has been a long road.
What do you hope to achieve by releasing this product?
We hope to be a major competitor in the plant based food space. We believe in being part of the work towards sustainable living, and being able to provide consumers with healthier options, and encouraging more home cooking. We believe our product, especially our new Plant Based Chick’n well aid greatly in this.
What made you decide to go on Shark Tank?
Shark Tank had always been on our radar, as it is for any entrepreneur. We had no idea the process of how to even go about getting on the show. We by chance heard about an audition happening in Los Angeles, but we were unable to make the scheduled date. We found another live casting they were doing in Nebraska, and flew down to have the opportunity to be interviewed for the show. Our goal has always been to make Chicken Salt & Turmeric Salt a household name, and we knew the chance to be featured on national tv pitching directly to the sharks would help greatly in that mission.
What was your reaction when Barbara decided to invest in it?
We were thrilled and relieved as well. Prior to the show, we were second guessing if any of the sharks would even find the value in our business. We believed in our mission though, and clearly Barbara saw it too. She was actually our main target, as she had worked with the most food brands out of any of the sharks. To receive an offer from her was definitely an exciting achievement.
How has your life changed since the show?
We realized that the real work would start, but didn’t realize it would be to this extent. We have received thousands of orders of our product, been reached out to by buyers, distributors, and others interested in collaborating. We definitely recognize a true need for our product line, which has empowered us to continue chasing more growth opportunities.
What’s next for you?
We hope to be available in retail locations with our Plant Based Chick’n product, as well as partnerships with restaurants, schools, and other facilities. We’ve identified a number of opportunities in the space, and we know that our Plant Based Chick’n is uniquely positioned to do well due to its shelf stableness, no soy, high in B12, and low calorie ingredients.
Anything else you want to share?
We’re very proud as well of our Turmeric Salt. There are so many amazing health benefits of turmeric. Our blends incorporate more turmeric than our Chicken Salt line and gives customers a way to include more turmeric in their daily diets.