Swimming in shark-infested waters has helped gourmet tea entrepreneurs Shane Talbott and Steve Nakisher brew up a business expansion.
As a result of their appearance in the latest season of the reality competition show Shark Tank, Nakisher and Talbott, partners in life as well as business, have seen their Talbott Teas company become part of Jamba Juice, promising a much larger market for an enterprise that started as a tea bar for clients of the pair’s Chicago hair salon.
“Being on the show is one of the scariest things we’ve ever had to do,” says Nakisher. On the ABC series, entrepreneurs make a pitch to the millionaire “sharks” in hopes that the latter will bankroll expansion of their business.
While Talbott Teas has many of the characteristics the sharks find desirable — it’s a growing business with room to expand further and popularity among big-city consumers — Nakisher, 41, and Talbott, 38, got an offer from only one shark, venture capitalist Kevin O’Leary. Afterward, though, O’Leary worked with fellow sharks Daymond John and Barbara Corcoran to craft a bigger deal, with Jamba Juice. The teas will soon be available at Jamba Juice locations as well as all the other outlets that have carried them, and Talbott, a certified master tea blender, has become Jamba Juice’s vice president of innovation, developing new tea flavors and related products.
Talbott Teas, which will retain that brand name, currently has 23 varieties. The loose-leaf teas are all-natural and organic, from certified fair trade growers, and are blended with fruit, flowers, herbs, and spices. Both caffeinated and caffeine-free teas are available, and they are free of preservatives or artificial colors and flavors.
The acquisition by Jamba Juice represents a big step up from Talbott Teas’ unpretentious origins, although it’s not the first time the company has gotten a boost from television. Nakisher and Talbott met 15 years ago in Chicago, which is still their home base, and four years into their relationship opened a hair salon on Oak Street, an upscale shopping thoroughfare on the city’s fashionable Near North Side. Talbott, a hair colorist, decided to bring his other passion into the business, creating a tea bar so patrons could sample his homemade blends. It became a big hit.
“His clients were loving it, and he was giving clients little baggies to take tea home,” Nakisher says, laughing. “I said it looks too much like drugs.”