University alumni set to appear on ‘Shark Tank’

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Photo Courtesy of Keithan Hedrick

University of Illinois alumni, Quiante Hedrick and Keithan Hedrick appear on the tv show “Shark Tank” to pitch their company, Candi. The company allows the public to have meet ad greets with their favorite celebrities.

By Faith Allendorf, Staff Writer

University of Illinois alumni, Quiante Hedrick and Keithan Hedrick will pitch their company, Candi, to a panel of potential investors in ABC’s TV show, “Shark Tank” on Jan. 7.

Candi is a platform that allows fans to virtually meet and greet their favorite celebrities.

The couple said that while they are anxious about the experience, they are excited to have the opportunity.

“I’m feeling super ecstatic,” Keithan said. “It’s hard to quantify in terms of the amount of exposure of your business to millions of people across the world, and most small businesses can’t afford that amount of advertising. I’m super excited for it to air because not everyone who films the show gets to air.”

“It was definitely nerve-wracking, going through the process,” Quiante said. “When it comes to talking in front of people, I am not the best or most confident, so I had to muster up the courage to be able to speak in front of these cool, amazing people that I’ve only seen on TV, and I’m just thinking this is going to be a lot, but it was definitely an amazing opportunity.”

Keithan said there are two ways to get on “Shark Tank”: Business owners could attend an open audition, or the show could reach out to entrepreneurs. In the case of their business, producers for “Shark Tank” reached out to them.

In regards to founding the business, Keithan said Candi was a byproduct of another business he and Quiante designed in 2019 called Instaspeakers – an app where you can video chat with a translator on demand.

“From there, we pivoted to Candi and decided that we both wanted to do something within the entertainment industry,” Keithan said.

Keithan also said the inspiration for Candi came from a similar company called Cameo which allows customers to receive a prerecorded video from a celebrity.

“We were watching reaction videos where fans were super excited and crying about getting Cameo videos,” Keithan said. “We thought about how fans would feel if you actually interacted with that celebrity and could talk to them and get to know them.”

Keithan explained that to develop Candi, he and Quiante reach out to celebrities to partner with and that once they agree, the celebrities set their rates. Their first big partner was Grammy Award-winning singer, songwriter and actress, Mýa. With that, Candi launched during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in April 2020.

Keithan said Candi became a resource for people throughout the pandemic. He observed how some were using the platform as a sort of therapeutic experience.

“They were using Candi as a way to give themselves encouragement and lift their spirits throughout the process,” Keithan said. “I think about stories of fans who have been in the parking lots of hospitals where their parent was sick, and they were like ‘Thank you for this experience because I’m going through so much.’”

The couple also said they hope their appearance on “Shark Tank” inspires other small business owners.

“We built this business right from our home,” Keithan said. “We’ve done this with no prior connection to one of the hardest industries to crack in the world because of all of the barriers of entry between the average person and the celebrity. Your power is limitless”

“I want people who see us on stage to know that nothing is too far of a reach like if you want to be the next Bill Gates, or whatever seems astronomical to do or is super tough, it’s all tangible,” Quiante said.

Keithan and Quiante stressed the importance of hard work. Quiante worked from the hospital while in labor and said getting Candi to be where it is today required dedication.

“It was a lot of hard work,” Quiante said. “But it was also a lot of self-work for me, you know, trying to beat myself up to feel confident or to make sure that I felt like I belong in these spaces, and I do. Don’t doubt yourself.”

As a Black man working in the business industry, Keithan said he has noticed disparities in the business and entertainment industries.

“We have a mountain in this, for Black people represent so much of the talent and entertainment but have so little ownership,” Keithan said. “We look at TikTok and platforms where Black creators have blown the platforms up but have no ownership, so we don’t get to participate in the upside of what we create. We control culture but don’t get the benefit necessarily as much as others do.”

Keithan said, with Candi, he and Quiante, who is also Black, hope to create a representative entertainment company.

“We accept all talent, but it was important to have an entertainment company that is Black-owned,” Keithan said. “If it blew up because of our culture, our culture could also benefit from that representation.”

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