Souper Cubes After Shark Tank: We Caught Up With The Founders
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Souper Cubes After Shark Tank: We Caught Up With The Founders

Mar 03, 2024

Making soup from scratch is one of life's simple pleasures, but dealing with excess leftovers is an entirely different story. The trusty old margarine tub is a tried and true storage option, but what if you only wanted to thaw a single serving of soup? Better yet, what if there were a way to prepare frozen home-cooked meals with the ease and convenience of a T.V. dinner?

That line of thinking led Jake and Michelle Sendowski to develop Souper Cubes, one of the most memorable culinary products in "Shark Tank" history. Jake and Michelle put their strengths together to forge the ultimate tool for frozen soup storage, and their hard work paid off in spades. In 2020, Souper Cubes' founders brought their silicone-based meal prep solution to the masses on "Shark Tank."

Whether you recall Mark Cuban's superhero-style announcement of "Souper Cubes!" or the generous offers Jake and Michelle received, it's hard to forget this company's "Shark Tank" segment. The entrepreneurial couple walked away from the shark tank with the deal of a lifetime, winning Lori's golden ticket and $400,000 to invest in their business. Curious as to what Souper Cubes has been cooking up since its "Shark Tank" days? You're in luck. Recently, we spoke to Jake and Michelle to find out more about their 'souper' business following its fateful appearance on the show.

Jake and Michelle came up with Souper Cubes out of necessity. In 2017, the couple noticed the limited options available to consumers who wanted to store and thaw leftover batches of soup quickly. "One of the difficulties for us is that we were a family of two, and every time you make soup, it's a really big portion. You might not want to eat it for days in a row," Michelle said.

At first, Michelle used standard ice cube trays to store frozen broth for future use. But after some frustrating experimentation with this method, she realized she needed to make a switch. "I never knew how much volume was in each ice cube," she recalled. Using ordinary ice cube molds proved difficult when making recipes requiring a precise amount of broth, like traditional risotto. At Jake's suggestion, Michelle set out to find a larger tray with lines of measurement. "So I looked online to find one because it seemed like a really obvious solution. And I couldn't find it."

After Jake sketched the prototype on a piece of paper, Souper Cubes was born. Beyond adding measurement lines, the founders manufactured Souper Cubes using 100% silicone instead of hard plastic. The flexible, oven-safe material made extracting soup from each tray easy, and the addition of steel reinforcements in the rim offered solid protection against spills.

In the beginning, Jake and Michelle marketed Souper Cubes to customers on Amazon as third-party sellers. Although Souper Cubes started somewhat small, the company managed to impress some big-name stores within its first year of sales. "From pretty early on, we wanted to make a premium product that was high quality," said Jake. "And so we started contacting specialty kitchen retailers. And the first one that we contacted was Sur La Table." By the end of 2018, Souper Cubes established its first retail partnership with Sur La Table stores.

Initially, Souper Cubes' founders designed the product without an accompanying lid, similar to a traditional ice cube tray. "We had to set a budget for the project, and the lid mold would have blown the budget. We sold the first couple thousand pieces without lids," Jake reflected. But it wasn't long before customers shared their desire to store leftovers for prolonged periods, prompting a change to the product's design. "We were like, 'Okay, time to make the lid,' and Sur La Table helped us move that project along as well," Michelle said. With its lid design firmly in place, Souper Cubes was well on its way to becoming a household name. "It was just a side project for a while," Jake told us. "Until it became clear that this was much bigger than what we were doing for our regular jobs."

By the end of its first full year in business, Souper Cubes had earned $940,000 in sales. As the company blossomed, friends and family nudged Jake and Michelle to turn their attention to one television show in particular. "The first time we ever told anyone about Souper Cubes, people were always like, 'Oh, that's a really fun idea. You should go on Shark Tank,'" said Michelle. "It was kind of like a throwaway comment," added Jake. The pair laughed off the suggestions at the time, but neither could predict what would happen next.

In early 2020, "Shark Tank" producers contacted Souper Cubes directly and encouraged them to apply for the show. However, Michelle explained, being invited to apply didn't provide the couple any special treatment beyond skipping the lengthy audition queue. "You still have to go through the same process that anyone else does. It's just an encouragement," she told us. "We're big fans of 'Shark Tank' and what it stands for. So we thought, okay, we'll fill out all the paperwork and go through the process." Soon after submitting the forms, Jake and Michelle learned they'd be entering the shark tank — but not without a few hiccups along the way.

Because Souper Cubes' episode went into production at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the founders described the process as "a huge anomaly" involving a lengthy quarantine and restricted interactions with the sharks. "We had no idea the world was about to shut down," stated Michelle. "Our year was really atypical because of COVID, so when I hear other entrepreneurs went on 'Shark Tank,' I always ask them, 'What was it like?'"

"We were in a quarantine bubble to film," Michelle said. During that time, the couple spent nine days confined to their hotel room until filming took place. Yet Jake and Michelle made good use of their time in the bubble, watching old episodes of "Shark Tank" to prepare for their debut. Ultimately, they hoped to attract more than just a single offer — which sometimes occurs when one shark quickly corners the deal, deterring others from contributing. "I remember when we were studying [past 'Shark Tank'] shows during the quarantine period thinking, 'If that happens to us, I'll be really disappointed,'" Jake told us. Of course, the couple also considered which shark would be their ideal pick to work with: Lori Greiner.

Michelle and Jake didn't know what to expect when approaching the shark tank. Truth be told, they weren't sure the sharks would like the idea of Souper Cubes at all. "Before 'Shark Tank,' anyone we told about Souper Cubes was family or friends," said Michelle. "To go in front of a panel who's never heard of you, who has no idea who you are, who doesn't have to be nice, is really frightening. You're like, 'What if they think it's a silly idea, and now on national television, this idea I thought was very clever, they're telling us just the opposite?'"

After flawlessly delivering their pitch to the sharks, the Souper Cubes founders asked for $400,000 at 5%. Within moments, they received two offers from Kevin O'Leary and Barbara Corcoran, though they weren't exactly what Jake and Michelle had hoped for. Then, their dream came true in a flash. Lori, the couple's shark of choice, suddenly presented Souper Cubes her Wonka-esque golden ticket. Lori offers the glimmering piece of (real) gold to entrepreneurs only once each season, granting them whatever they ask for without compromise. "When Lori's offer came in, it was perfect. It was exactly what we were looking for in terms of equity, and it was the exact shark we wanted. So it was a no-brainer to take hers," Michelle explained.

Although Michelle and Jake expected an influx of orders following their episode's premiere, they had no idea just how many viewers would seek out Souper Cubes. "We had an idea it was being received really well because, during the first two minutes of the pitch on the East Coast airing, we pretty much sold out of everything we had," said Jake. "By the time it aired in California, there wasn't much left." The overwhelming response to Souper Cubes led its website to sell out of product before the "Shark Tank" segment even aired in their time zone.

"Our segment went on at 8:12 pm. At 8:15 pm, I texted [Lori] a screenshot. She texted me back, 'Just wait!' I was like, 'Okay, how much bigger could it get?'" Jake recalled. It didn't take long before he had an answer to his question. "Within the first 24 hours, we had done over a million dollars in sales."

Behind the scenes, it can be tricky for businesses to prepare inventory leading up to their episode. "You don't have a ton of time to make production and move. Until [show producers] send you that [confirmation] e-mail, there's actually no guarantee that you'll be aired," said Michelle. "For a small business, it's hard to stock up and try to predict the response." But customer support for Souper Cubes never waned — and the company continues to thrive years after its big "Shark Tank" debut.

Lori has been instrumental to Souper Cubes' success in numerous ways, starting with communication and support. "One of the things I appreciate most about Lori is she's very accommodating, and she's always encouraging us to reach out to her," said Michelle. "She's even nicer than she appears on T.V. She's actually that kind. She's always very proud of her portfolio companies and wants to help." Shortly after partnering up with their shark, Jake and Michelle realized that Souper Cubes needed a new warehouse. Almost instantly, Lori provided the Souper Cubes team with thoughtful options — and, according to Michelle, they still use the same warehouse location today.

Interestingly, the Souper Cubes' shark has also worked to improve the company from a creative angle. "[Lori] has also been really helpful in revamping our packaging," Jake told us. "If you start as an online seller, you don't have to think about packaging in the same way that you do when you're in retail," Michelle told us that Lori's contributions have been invaluable to the young company. "Now, [Souper Cubes] is so much better for her insight," she continued. "We can go to her, and it feels like we're skipping 10 steps because we're able to tap into all her expertise."

Prior to the invention of Souper Cubes, nothing quite like it existed on the market. However, in the wake of the company's success, there have been a handful of halfhearted copycats. Yet Souper Cubes' superior design and customer service sets the product apart from the rest. "What we've really focused on is making sure that the quality of our product is above and beyond," said Michelle. Though Souper Cubes dupes may look similar at first glance, the subpar construction means they can't withstand baking temperatures or hold their shape under pressure like the original.

Still, there's more to Souper Cubes' success than product design alone. "We have social media accounts and real people doing customer service. And so people know that they're working with a real, American-based company." With a perfect 5-star rating on both Amazon and Souper Cubes' own website at the time of writing, it's clear that countless fans remain loyal to the 'Shark Tank'-approved product. In fact, dozens of reviewers simply refer to Jake and Michelle's design as life-changing. "I do not know how I survived so long without my Souper Cubes," wrote one customer. "Freezing individual portion sizes is genius."

From the beginning of their journey, Jake and Michelle have worked to establish a strong rapport with their customers. The company boasts over 50,000 followers on its Instagram account — the result of Michelle's efforts. "In 2018, we started a Facebook group called Freezer Meals and Recipes just to have an interest group to attract people in to share recipes and tips about freezer meals," Jake told us. "And that has grown from the first couple of people to almost 20,000." Customers routinely share images of their Souper Cubes creations across social media, from frozen dinners to batches of warm chocolate chip cookies made using the company's beloved Cookie Tray.

Oftentimes, Souper Cubes fans are the inspiration for new Souper Cubes features and product development. Ever since Jake and Michelle first added lids to their design, they've listened intently to the suggestions and concerns provided by their customer base. "We've really benefited from our passionate customers, who I think are the best in the world," Michelle stated. "They supported us from the beginning, and they're always thinking of ways to help us. We couldn't do it without them." It's hard to believe, but Souper Cubes' customer service team is a two-woman operation, offering thoughtful responses to every question and concern that comes their way. "We work hard to make sure that we make our customers happy when it's reasonable, and we're able to do so," added Michelle.

The most obvious way to use Souper Cubes is for storing soup, but their true possibilities are seemingly endless. So soups aside, what do the Souper Cubes creators themselves love to make most? "My favorites are probably curry and rice, lasagna, and shepherd's pie," said Michelle. "My other unexpected one would be mini banana bread or zucchini bread. They bake perfect little loaves, and people don't always know that you can bake in silicone, but you can." Furthermore, Michelle points out that smaller-sized trays help make fun confections like chocolate peanut butter cups or cheesecake bars.

On the other hand, Jake suggests an even simpler dish that requires no reheating. "I think one of my favorites is hummus. It actually freezes really well. A defrosting tip would be to just let it thaw on the counter or in the fridge by itself and not microwave it. It comes back together with great consistency." But perhaps the best way is to use Souper Cubes as your personal prep cook. "Freezing individual ingredients in portions could be such a time saver when you're putting together something really nice, and you don't want or need to make every individual component of the meal." One of the Sendowskis' favorite make-ahead methods is to roast a whole eggplant, which can be frozen and reheated to produce tasty baba ganoush in minutes.

The newest addition to the Souper Cubes family, the No Mess Utensil Set, was actually invented by their shark, Lori. Home-shopping enthusiasts may recognize the utensils from past appearances on QVC, where they rapidly sold out while on the air. "When you're cooking, you hate that spoon that 'submarines' in — it's a big old mess," Lori explained to QVC. "It never happens with these. They hang on the side of the pot." Indeed, the unique S-shaped design could mean your days of scrubbing sticky sauce from spoon rests and stovetops are over. Plus, thanks to Lori's keen sense of design, the No Mess Utensils' silicone handles stay cool to the touch even when placed against bubbling hot sauce pots.

If the endless glowing reviews indicate any indication, Souper Cubes fans seem to love the collaborative effort. Not only are the stainless steel tools lifesavers for cooking, but customers also say they work wonders for canning and serving purposes. "[Lori] figured this one out years ago, and it makes total sense. So we were thrilled when she gave us an opportunity to sell it in a co-branded way," said Michelle. "And we have a new color coming out September 1 that we're really excited about."

Souper Cubes' product line has grown substantially since its "Shark Tank" debut, though its founders are careful when it comes to matters of expansion. "In general, our philosophy around adding products is that we want them to be complementary and part of the freezer-to-table experience," said Jake. For example, the company produces stoneware baking dishes that are just the right size to reheat frozen meals stored in Souper Cubes.

Over the course of the conversation, it's plain to see how Souper Cubes can benefit the whole family. For mom and baby, there's The MyMilk Tray, a recent release designed to store small quantities of breast milk without wasteful plastic packaging. And pets, too, can enjoy the perks of Souper Cubes — Michelle notes that shredded chicken, rice, and plain broth make a soothing snack for their pup.

The team is always thinking of ways to help home cooks, and we got the news about two new products arriving soon: freezer-friendly kitchen tape and water-based markers to help differentiate your red sauce from your strawberry smoothie. "The kitchen is the heart of the home for so many people, including us. And that's why we're so passionate about the brand and the products that we bring to market," Jake told us. Souper Cubes may have risen to fame for its novel approach to freezing leftovers, but something tells us we'll be seeing a lot more from this forward-thinking brand in the future.