A Winthrop University graduate’s business could be on its way to becoming a household name after an upcoming appearance on the ABC reality show “Shark Tank.”
Julie Busha, a 2000 alumna who lives in Cramerton, N.C., owns Slawsa – a food that promises to break the “mold of modern condiments” and bans “boring condiments.”
While Busha didn’t create Slawsa, she has shepherded the brand from a product sold in select stores to one that can be found in nearly 5,000 retailers, including major grocery chains and Walmart stores. Slawsa is also available online.
Busha first joined as a co-owner of Slawsa after a 10-year career in marketing for NASCAR driver Bobby Labonte.
With a small presence, she said, the Slawsa brand “needed a lot” a few years ago.
Earlier this year, her business partner and creator of the condiment asked Busha to buy him out.
Not long after, Busha answered a casting call to be on “Shark Tank’s” fifth season.
After waiting in line for nearly eight hours in Atlanta, she gave a short pitch to a casting agent. Among tens of thousands of entrepreneurs who applied to be on the show, Busha was chosen and flew to Los Angeles to film in July.
Her episode airs at 9 p.m. Friday.
On “Shark Tank,” entrepreneurs pitch their business and products to a group of investors who can choose to provide financial backing.
At times, the investors are tough on the entrepreneurs – asking detailed questions and poking holes in each business’ concept. Some budding business owners walk away empty-handed. Others leave the show with enough investor cash to expand and grow their brand and product.
Because of her contract with ABC, Busha can’t divulge many details about her pitch or whether the show’s investors decided to back Slawsa. Viewers tuning in Friday will see Busha in front of the investor panel and hear their decision.
Busha will be watching from home with a team of helpers, manning her e-mail, phone and the Slawsa website, she said. Based on the experience of past participants on “Shark Tank,” she said, she knows she’ll need to be ready for a surge in interest from people who watched the show.
While she knows the investors’ feedback, she said, she has not seen ABC’s edited version of her taping from July.
During the show, Busha will be on Twitter, sending out live tweets. She encourages Slawsa fans and viewers to follow along by including the hashtag #sharktank and @slawsa in their messages.
After the West Coast airing of the show, Busha plans to publish a prerecorded video on Slawsa’s Facebook page and website.
To add to the buzz of Busha’s “Shark Tank” appearance, she has declared Friday to be “National Slawsa Day.” She’s asking fans to include Slawsa when they make dinner that night, and tune in to see her on the show.
Last week, Busha participated in a Winthrop event dubbed “Eagle Nest,” intended to re-enact some aspects of “Shark Tank.”
Professors stood in for the show’s investor panel and grilled Busha about the Slawsa brand and business.
On Nov. 21, she’ll return to campus to talk about her time on the show and take questions from students. The event is free and open to the public.
Since graduating, Busha has often visited Winthrop business and marketing classes to share her career experience with students. She credits her senior year internship at IMG, one of the world’s largest sports marketing firms, with helping her jump-start her career after college.
Slawsa’s “Shark Tank” debut could make a big difference for Busha’s business, where she’s the only employee.
Some major aspects of manufacturing and distribution of Slawsa are handled by companies she contracts with, she said, but Busha manages the brand and is a “quarterback” of sorts, directing the companies helping produce Slawsa.
Owning Slawsa is a full-time job, she said, but she’s not yet made money for herself.
Luckily, while she was marketing in the NASCAR industry, she said, she and her husband were saving money so Busha would have the option to start her own business someday.
Slawsa is available locally at The Peach Stand in Fort Mill and Charlotte-area locations of Lowes Foods and Galaxy Supermarkets.
Anna Douglas 803-329-4068