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Colorado entrepreneur Juan Stewart, a longtime Boulder resident and native of Guatemala, is no stranger to the hustle of startup life—and his hard work has finally paid off big. On Friday evening, Stewart appeared on Season 14 episode 12 of the ABC television show Shark Tank, where he pitched his two-year-old product, Frescos Naturales to the sharks: business titans including Mark Cuban, Daymond John, Kevin O’Leary, Lori Greiner, and guest Daniel Lubetzky, who search for companies in which to invest.
On the episode, Stewart impressed all the judges—especially Daniel Lubetzky, a Mexican American businessman and founder of Kind Snacks, who agreed to mentor Stewart. In the coming months, Lubetzky will help Stewart scale Frescos, helping to better position the company for future investment.
Frescos, a line of canned and carbonated aguas frescas, was inspired by the drinks Stewart enjoyed as a child in Guatemala. One day, when he made a batch for his family, his son recommended that he bottle and sell them. So Stewart began slinging sips at local farmers markets, eventually distributing cans into local restaurants and grocery stores. In October 2021, Stewart pitched his business at Naturally Boulder’s annual pitch slam, where he won the grand prize: $3,000 cash, $75,000 worth of in-kind business services, and a booth at Natural Products Expo East 2022.
We caught up with Stewart to learn about his Shark Tank experience, including how he prepared for the show, what the intimidating pitch was like, and what it means to represent his state and the Latino community.
5280: What was the process like to apply for and appear on Shark Tank?
Stewart: Unlike a lot of other entrepreneurs who go on the show, I had very little familiarity with Shark Tank. After going through an accelerator program, my mentor suggested I should look into the process, and after I watched one episode, I thought, Yeah, I can do this!, and I applied in the late fall of 2021.
How did you prepare for the show?
At first, the process was overwhelming! There were multiple stages of the application process, and, when I was accepted, it was a whirlwind few weeks to prepare for the filming in the summer of 2022. The Shark Tank team was so generous with their time in helping me prepare and perfect my pitch and was always available to answer my questions. The producers supported me every step of the way from answering my questions about the filming process to providing opinions about the pitch I was rehearsing. While I’ve “pitched” to an audience before, preparing for the national audience Shark Tank reaches was a whole new level, so all their guidance was greatly appreciated.
Walk us through what happened and how you were feeling during filming.
It was crazy, but also a lot of fun! I was there by myself. They put you in a room inside a trailer outside the studio, and you wait until it’s your turn. I was the last one to go that day and had to wait in our trailer for hours—by myself—going over my pitch and trying to stay focused. I must have gone over my pitch 100 times! I had my music on my headphones the whole time, keeping me grounded, inspired, and ready to go. Then eventually they call for you, you do makeup, they set your mic, and you stand outside the tank. Then the countdown begins, the door opens, you walk in the tank, stare down the tiburones (sharks) and the fun begins!
How did you feel when Lubetzky made his decision?
I went nuts after I finished filming—I couldn’t believe that I was walking away with support from Kind founder Daniel Lubetzky, a fellow Latino entrepreneur who I deeply admire. Daniel and his team are partnering with me to help build Frescos to a place at which we are better positioned to take on investment. I’m looking forward to learning from their expertise, ranging from supply chain and manufacturing to marketing best practices.
What’s next for Frescos?
I’m excited to spend time building a bigger community of Frescos lovers locally and supporting our recent launches into Kroger and King Soopers along with our Ralph’s expansion in Southern California. We’ve been lucky to build a loyal consumer base through selling at local farmers’ markets, and now I’m looking forward to expanding our audience and sharing these flavors with more people. As for future flavors, of course I’m always thinking of new recipes, but for now I think we’ve got a great core lineup!
What does this experience mean to you as a Colorado entrepreneur?
The support locally has been amazing—I really couldn’t have done it without the network of support that Colorado has for the natural foods industry. From buyers to distributors to customers who shop local and keep us going, it is a dream to have the opportunity to grow Frescos here! As a minority-owned business, it’s a beautiful thing to make space for us in Colorado.
What does the experience mean to you as a Latino founder making products inspired by your roots?
It means the world to me! I couldn’t have a more genuine connection to a product: Frescos are literally my childhood, my family, my whole cultural identity is packed into them. Over the holiday break I spent time with my family in Guatemala, and when I arrived at my grandma’s house, she had just made fresh fresco de mora (blackberry fresco). It was a delicious and magical moment for me knowing I’m bringing a part of her to the U.S. with Frescos. I feel so lucky to have landed where I am and be able to introduce people to the flavors and beauty of Guatemala and Latin culture.
Any fun behind-the-scenes stories you can share about the experience?
Being in the tank is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. It’s a rush of emotions and definitely a bit nerve-wracking! When I realized Daniel Lubetzky, a fellow Latino, was one of the sharks, I knew he would be the perfect partner for me as he’d understand what I’m trying to achieve with Frescos by bringing the flavors of my homeland to U.S. consumers. It was inspiring to see him in the tank. It was also awesome to see the sharks enjoy the product and my presentation—especially Mr. Wonderful, who is notoriously anti-beverage pitches!