Bear Minimum: Here's What Happened After Shark Tank

For many people, cooking while camping is one of the joys of the great outdoors. But, it's not as fun trying to deal with heavy, cumbersome cookware, especially when you have to pack a cooler alongside a tent, backpack, and all your other necessities while going back to nature. This was a constant frustration for hiker Cory Santiago and his wife, Heidi. Realizing that the only options on the market were just smaller versions of pots and pans, or nesting pans (which were still too bulky), they decided to take matters into their own hands, eventually creating the Bear Minimum Bear Bowl. 

Cory Santiago started developing the prototype in 2014 from his Spokane, Washington home. Small and lightweight, the Bear Minimum Bear Bowl was designed as a cooking pot that could fold completely flat. Meaning, it was portable and could fit in your pocket, but it was also able to hold 32 ounces of water, fit on a camp stove, and withstand temperatures of up to 550 degrees Fahrenheit. Not only that, it was also easy to clean and could double as a portable water and food bowl for pets. With the success of the initial 32-ounce Baby Bear Bowl product, the Santiagos went on to create the 64-ounce Mama Bear Bowl and the 128-ounce Papa Bear Bowl.

When "Shark Tank" caught wind of the product and its success, producers called the Santiagos to talk more about the product, although Cory initially thought it was a joke. But, once they'd overcome the initial disbelief, the couple, along with business partner Tim Krauss (who was dressed as a bear) found themselves pitching the products to the sharks.

What happened to Bear Minimum on 'Shark Tank'?

Cory and Heidi Santiago appeared on "Shark Tank” in 2018, a year after they had launched a Kickstarter for their Bear Minimum Bear Bowl, in which they hoped to raise $1,000. They reached the funding goal in just 10 hours, and went on to raise over $41,000, as well as accumulating even more funding on Indiegogo. From these investments, they started building their business, and marketed and sold over 2,000 units in two months, quickly selling the Bear Bowl in more than 30 countries. 

When they came to "Shark Tank," the Santiagos were asking the sharks for $100,000 in return for 20% of their company. Daymond John praised the couple's passion for entrepreneurship following a series of setbacks, including losing a previous business they had put all their savings into after a middleman disappeared with their money. Instead of declaring bankruptcy, the couple worked a number of jobs and persevered with launching their camping cookware idea. 

Bear Minimum ended up receiving two offers from sharks: Guest judge Jamie Siminoff (CEO and founder of video doorbell system Ring who had himself appeared on "Shark Tank" five years earlier) offered $100,000 for 25%, while John also offered the $100,000, but for a greater stake in the company. The couple accepted the offer from Siminoff and were keen to build the business.

Bear Minimum after 'Shark Tank'

Despite describing the experience of appearing on "Shark Tank" as "intense," Cory and Heidi Santiago saw significant interest for their Bear Bowls after their episode aired. Orders increased from their normal pace of a few orders a day to around 100 orders a day.

Bear Minimum rode the wave of publicity after the show, too, with the Bear Bowl featured by several other camping reviewers and media, including Mobile RVing, Outbound Living, Outside, and The Grommet. Shortly after the "Shark Tank" episode, the Santiagos also revealed to local Spokane station 4 News Now that they had plans to launch additional products in future, such as an industrial-sized Bear Bowl, as well as other complementary items to go with the cookware.

The Santiagos also shared with the news channel that their company was in the process of finalizing its deal with Siminoff and ironing out the details. However, it's not clear whether the investment actually went ahead in the end, as no details about the final deal have since been made public.

Is Bear Minimum still in business?

Bear Minimum is still selling products via its own website as well as through Amazon, where it has received an average rating score of 4.2 stars out of 5 from 149 global reviews. However, the only product that is currently available to buy as of press time is the original 32-ounce Baby Bear Bowl. The larger capacity Mama Bear Bowls and Papa Bear Bowls are currently sold out, according to the website.

In the years since, Bear Minimum also went on to launch a practical complete outdoor cookware set that "fits in your pocket," encompassing a Liddle (a lid that doubles as a cooking griddle), a Bear Bones Stove that functions as a grill and a stove (and comes with a half-dozen skewers), plus a cutting board, and an "Eat'n card" with ten functions including spatulas, a large fork, a bottle and can opener, a peeler, and a cutting edge. This is also currently marked as sold out on the official website.

The company is still active on Instagram, posting photo and video content of their Baby Bear Bowl as recently as August 2023. Though there's been no official information regarding what the company is worth or how many sales they have brought in, some outlets have reported the valuation at just under $1 million currently.

What's next for Bear Minimum?

Despite plans to increase its range of products, the Bear Minimum website currently says that the Baby Bear Bowl was the only size available in 2022. Since that appears to still be the case in 2023 (it remains the only item being promoted on social media), it's not clear whether there has been an issue with supply and demand, whether the company intends to restock its previous products, or perhaps whether they will develop any further cookware in future.

According to LinkedIn, founder and inventor Cory Santiago is still running Bear Minimum, which he founded in July 2016, but since October 2019, he has also been working full-time as a Senior Buyer at Silgan Unicep, a liquid contract manufacturer based in Spokane, Washington specializing in the mold and fill of unit-dose solutions.

Heidi Santiago has been listed as executive assistant at Bear Minimum since January 2017, a position she currently still holds. Advisor and investor Tim Krauss is also currently still involved with Bear Minimum, according to LinkedIn, but has also gone on to have a number of subsequent product manager roles with other companies.