Two Adventurous Entrepreneurs Swim with Shark Tank Celebrity

Some small businesses stand out with the product they offer. For others, it’s the service they provide. But for the coffee subscription service MistoBox, it’s both. Now add to that an infusion of celebrity capital from the popular TV show Shark Tank and you’re brewing up the perfect blend for success.

Connor Riley and Samantha Meis co-founded MistoBox based on a school project while attending the University of Arizona. They describe themselves as “two adventurers with an entrepreneurial spirit.”

The online business was officially launched in 2012 with funding from Kickstarter. Its mission is simple—make it easy for customers to discover the world’s best coffee.

Here’s how it works. You subscribe to receive samples of coffee based on your preferences. As often as you choose, you receive personalized shipments from their network of the country’s best artisan coffee roasters. Find one you like? Order more from MistoBox.

A Shark Bites

It was their college connection that eventually led to their appearance on Shark Tank in 2013. The two snagged more than one offer from the show’s celebrities but struck a deal with entrepreneur and Dallas Mavericks owner, Mark Cuban.

“We went with Mark because we felt like he was investing in our life,” Riley said. “He shared our passion for building something we believed in and that was important to us.”

It turned out to be a great partnership. Cuban offers valuable business advice that they use to grow their business. At the same time he lets the MistoBox owners run the business the way they want to.

Their appearance on the show netted more than capital and a savvy investor. It also helped to build their brand. They had a huge response after the show aired. And their activity level has remained higher than it was prior to Shark Tank.

“It’s surprising the number of people who saw the show and still recognize us,” Riley said.

3 Lessons Learned

As any new business grows, there are lessons learned along the way. Here are some from MistoBox that might apply to your business:

  • Tech is everything – MistoBox operates online and outsources many of its functions including sourcing and shipping. So it’s critical to have a technology partner who can provide reliable Intranet service. They count on it to fuel a user-friendly website, communicate to customers and transparently track shipments. It’s an integral part of how customers view their brand.
  • Learn from mistakes – Every business makes mistakes. But learning from them is what sparks innovation. MistoBox mistakenly acquired office space early on. But they soon learned that the overhead could be redirected for use to grow the business instead. It’s important to do a cost/benefit analysis but you also need to consider opportunity costs. Could the investment be used to achieve a higher yield elsewhere?
  • Hire what you can’t do – Together, Riley and Meis have expertise in digital marketing, analytics and customer service but needed help to source great coffee. So they hired a coffee connoisseur to scout it out. He’s also great at educating customers on their choices. That adds value to customers and lets the owners concentrate on what they do best.

One of the keys to a small business’ success is differentiating itself in the market. For MistoBox, that’s a mixture of great product and stellar service. It’s why the business is named after the Italian word for mixture—misto. Customers are treated to a mixture of great coffee conveniently discovered in their home or office.

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