Making a splash: UI alumni appear on ‘Shark Tank,’ gain significant exposure for business


Photo Courtesy of Keithan Hedrick

University of Illinois alumni, Quiante Hedrick and Keithan Hedrick pose for a photo. The couple appeared on the tv show “Shark Tank” to pitch their company, Candi.

By Faith Allendorf, Staff Writer

On Friday, University of Illinois alumni, Quiante Hedrick and Keithan Hedrick appeared on ABC’s TV show, “Shark Tank” and pitched their business, Candi, to a panel of potential investors. Candi is a platform that allows fans to virtually meet and greet their favorite celebrities and influencers. One of the investors was Kevin Hart, a comedian who has experience in business ownership.

Since this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, the couple’s anxiety was high in the moments before they went in front of the sharks. Yet, they were confident.

“I was nervous, of course, to speak in front of them,” Quiante said. “But I was excited to pitch Candi and have to opportunity to possibly make a deal.”

“I was just excited, I don’t typically get nervous,” Keithan said. “We prepared and knew what we wanted to accomplish, so we were ready to just do it.”

Keithan and Quiante sought $500,000 for 15% equity from the sharks. Quiante explained they needed that money for three things: developing an app, hiring more personnel for talent acquisition and increasing marketing efforts.

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    “The cost to build our platform would be anywhere between 200k-300k,” Keithan said. “You see a lot of startups that have somebody who can build technology and knows how to code, and so they (startups) save a lot of money. We don’t have that.”

    Regarding advertising, Keithan also explained Candi solely relies on social media posts by celebrities to gain exposure.

    Unfortunately, no shark wanted to take a bite. The panel did not accept Keithan and Quiante’s proposal. The sharks had no problems or criticism with Candi itself, though. The problem was with how much Keithan and Quiante asked for.

    On the show, Lori Greiner explained that the amount they asked for was too much. Hart added that it was too early to invest that amount of money into Candi.

    Keithan explained the rules of Shark Tank. He said the amount of money in the original pitch cannot be negotiated lower, but the equity percentage can be changed. That is why he and Quiante were not able to modify their offer.

    Keithan also brought up the fact that, in a part cut from the final episode, Mark Cuban and Greiner said  if he and Quiante had requested a smaller amount, they would have gotten an offer.

    “I bet your bottom dollar that anywhere between 150k to 250k would have gotten us a deal,” he said.

    Besides the asking price, Hart also had a problem with Candi’s method of advertising. Hart explained he did not like the fact that celebrities do not get paid upfront for social media posts.

    “We knew that there would potentially be an issue with Kevin Hart about the fact that we’re relying on celebrities to promote for free without paying them upfront,” Keithan said.

    He then explained a past dispute Hart had with Sony Entertainment involving Hart not wanting to advertise a movie on social media for free.

    Keithan said he doesn’t necessarily agree with Hart.

    “Say a celebrity posted (a Candi advertisement) on their Instagram, and from that post, they get $10,000 worth of bookings,” he said. “They make the vast majority of that money, they make 75% of that $10,000, so that’s $7,500 while we only made $2,500. When they generate revenue, they get most of it.”

    Despite not getting an offer from the sharks, Keithan and Quiante said they are not disappointed. Quiante mentioned how proud she was of even getting the opportunity.

    “20k to 30k different companies try to get on Shark Tank, and only about 1% of those will actually get to pitch,” Quiante said. “And then it’s not guaranteed that all of those would get to be on air.”

    They also explained the opportunity brought free marketing and exposure to Candi, something the company needed.

    “Friday night, primetime on national TV on ABC for an eight-minute commercial for your business,” Keithan said. “Small businesses can’t afford that level of exposure; you’re talking millions of dollars of free press that we got.”

    “That’s marketing that we could not definitely afford at this moment,” Quiante said.

    The pair also said that since the moment their segment aired, Candi has received a huge boost in traffic on their website.

    “I think the moment we walked into the tank, our website had almost 10,000 users hit the site,” Keithan said. “I can’t express how much that exposure helps.”

    He also mentioned that a lot of people have reached out to Candi. They’ve received offers of partnerships, potential acquirers and have gotten tons of investments into the business.

    Keithan and Quiante do not plan on changing what they’re doing with Candi. They plan to focus on reaching bigger talent as well as advancing their technology.

    “Acquiring bigger talent would increase sales, and then we’ll be able to do additional marketing, which will be powerful for us,” Quiante said. “For now, we’re just doing it in the best way we can.”

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