Evans lands deal to advance ice cream business
BRIDGEVILLE, Del. — When Mark Cuban, the billionaire judge on ABC’s entrepreneurial reality show “Shark Tank”, told Katey Evans that the ice cream industry she was trying to break into is extremely competitive and hard, the Delaware farmer quickly shot back.
“I love ‘hard,’” she said. “I was born for ‘hard.’”
Cuban declined to invest in her business, The Frozen Farmer, in a primetime episode that aired March 27, but fortunately for Evans, another judge did — Lori Greiner, the retail inventor known as the “Queen of QVC”, who agreed to a $125,000 investment in exchange for nearly a third of Evans’s growing ice cream enterprise.
“It’s really, really, really hard to be in the ice cream business, as they all were saying, but, yet, you have something that I think is like blue ribbon,” Greiner told Evans, who fought back tears.
In the space of a few minutes, The Frozen Farmer, which sells ice cream and sorbet made with misfit, discarded fruit from the Evans family farm, was launched from regional notoriety to an audience of millions.
“I think the most exciting part for me personally has been from hearing from so many viewers across the country and other countries too,” Evans said in an interview last week with The Delmarva Farmer. “I’ve not even touched the surface of the mail we’ve received since airing Friday night.”
Greiner said her investment was contingent on the company finding distribution with a major grocery chain — a goal Evans has met since the episode was taped six months ago. Pints of her company’s ice cream and “nice cream” — an ice cream/sorbet combo — can be found on endcaps at Giant grocery stores across the country.
Greiner said she could help Evans and The Frozen Farmer with packaging and marketing.
“Just to have a ‘shark’ behind you and the amount of expertise and industry knowledge they bring to the table is almost invaluable in and of itself,” Evans said. “She knows so many people in the food industry and packaging industry as well.”
At the start of her segment, Evans strolled onto the set before the “sharks” dressed in an ostentatious pageant gown as a nod to her background as a teenage beauty queen. She then tore off the red garment to reveal herself in a tank top and jean shorts more suited to farming.
“A lot of people don’t look at me as your stereotypical farmer. I don’t fit that mold, but I’m very involved in our operation,” she said. “It’s great when young farmers can kind of break the mold that way.”
The dress, she said, was the same she once wore in a Delaware beauty pageant. A Wilmington seamstress worked on it for more than a month before the taping, altering it and refashioning it into a breakaway gown.
Tearing away the dress was also a reference to the misfit produce she produces with her husband Kevin at Evans Farms, a 2,000-acre, third-generation family operation in Bridgeville. (Katey Evans married into the farm.)
I was “driving home the fact that things aren’t always as they look, meaning, you know, the misfit produce isn’t inedible,” she said. “It just isn’t cosmetically beautiful.”
The Evans family took over the farm from Katey’s father-in-law, Joseph Evans, a beloved farmer and volunteer fireman who suffered a fatal heart attack while fighting a fire in Bridgeville in 2005. She was brought to tears before the judges while remembering him and her first few years taking over the farm with her husband.
“There were a lot of hard years,” she said to group. “We were really worried we were going to lose the family farm, but we just hustled as hard as we could, and before we knew it, we had grown an operation that used to be 65 acres and just a dream to 2,000 acres, which is what we till today.”
With Greiner’s investment, Evans hopes to launch an e-commerce business that would allow her to ship Frozen Farmer treats across the globe. She said she would also like to move from the endcaps at Giant to the middle of the ice cream aisle.
“That, in the grocery industry, is considered like prime real estate,” she said.
Her priority, however, is to make sure that even as the company grows, product quality remains the same.
“That’s something that we’ve not been willing to compromise. That’s something that’s made growth challenging for us,” she said. “The sky’s the limit as far as where I see myself in 10 years. It comes down to how hard we work and how hard we hustle.”
1-800-634-5021 410-822-3965 Fax- 410-822-5068
P.O. Box 2026 Easton, MD 21601-8925