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Entrepreneurship: reality TV style

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When Indianapolis resident and self-proclaimed reality TV junkie Tekisha Collins learned that she would be competing on “Supermarket Superstar,” she was thrilled.

“I literally fell down the stairs I was so excited,” said Collins. “I was so overjoyed.”

Recently debuting on Lifetime, “Supermarket Superstar” is a reality competition series where aspiring food entrepreneurs have a chance to develop their products and earn a spot on supermarket shelves.

Gaining in popularity, TV programs like “Supermarket Superstar” are a new approach to entrepreneurship that provides participants with valuable opportunities that can be otherwise hard to come by in a sometimes difficult market.

On “Supermarket Superstar” in particular, contestants like Collins have the opportunity to be mentored by seasoned industry professionals like Debbi Fields of Mrs. Fields Cookies. Chris Cornyn, a branding expert, and celebrity chef Michael Chiarello also mentor the aspiring entrepreneurs as they try to get their products mass produced.

Stephanie Fernhaber, an assistant professor of management at Butler University, added that by competing on shows such as “Supermarket Superstar,” contestants like Collins will most likely benefit from the large exposure.

“If you go on one of those reality shows, it’s almost guaranteed that your sales are going to grow because it’s free PR (and) advertising to a huge audience,” said Fernhaber.

On the baked goods episode of “Supermarket Superstar” that will air nationwide Aug. 15, viewers will be introduced to Collins’ product, the Smoogy.

“A Smoogy is a frozen cookie. It’s a combination between a cookie and a cake and you eat it frozen so there is nothing like it,” said Collins. “It’s unique.”

Collins explained that the Smoogy comes in a variety of flavors and resembles a Whoopi Pie because it is a sandwich with cookies on the outside and filling in the middle.

On “Supermarket Superstar,” Collins competed with her lemon flavored Smoogy.

Collins also explained that it is very hard for individuals to earn a spot on the already crowded supermarket shelves that are dominated by large companies.

“When you go to the grocery store, you look at all the spaces that these big corporations have and there is no way little old me or a little old somebody that’s like me can walk through the front door and say hey WalMart, taste this, let me in,” said Collins.

Fernhaber also acknowledged that it is a “tough battle” to get a product into supermarkets but added that after an appearance on a reality show, supermarkets will be more likely to listen to an individual pitching a product.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 21,523 new food and beverage products were introduced into the market in the year 2010 alone.

“Let’s say you get on one of these reality shows and suddenly, you have all this demand … then supermarkets are going to be much more open to talking to you because they know there is a market for it,” said Fernhaber.

A testament to the “tough battle” Fernhaber spoke of, Collins, who has long considered herself an entrepreneur, attempted to get her product produced for two and a half years before competing on “Supermarket Superstar.”

Fortunately for those who do not have the opportunity to appear on reality TV, there are multiple resources available that can help entrepreneurs succeed, according to Fernhaber.

“There are organizations that will help with the startups, there are incubators, there are accelerators, the government even has the Small Business Administration,” said Fernhaber. “I think there are a ton of resources out there and entrepreneurs should take advantage of those.”

To see how Collins and her Smoogy do against the competition, tune in to “Supermarket Superstar” on Aug. 15 at 10:30 p.m. “Supermarket Superstar” airs on Lifetime.

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