Prime 6: Here's What Happened After Shark Tank

Many barbecue fans love the unique, smoky flavor that cooking over charcoal brings to food when it comes to charcoal versus gas grills. However, traditional charcoal is not always the most eco-friendly choice. Frustrated by the lack of clean fuel options, keen grillers Riki and Oron Franco decided to look into a more sustainable alternative.

The husband-and-wife team started Prime 6 in 2018. Made from sustainable hardwood sawdust, Prime 6's charcoal is compressed and carbonized, without the use of chemicals or binders, into hexagon shapes that allow the heat to distribute more evenly. It lasts longer than regular charcoal, burns hotter, and is reusable. And when it finally burns out, it doesn't leave as much of a mess behind, either, making it easier to clean your grill.

To add to their sustainable, eco-friendly credentials, Prime 6 plants a tree for every pack sold. And in November 2020, having already made $300,000 in sales, the Francos took their product to "Shark Tank," hoping to secure a smoking hot investment to help grow the business.

What happened to Prime 6 on Shark Tank?

Founders Riki and Oron Franco traveled from New York City to appear on season 12 of "Shark Tank," seeking $200,000 in exchange for 10% of their company, Prime 6. The Sharks were impressed by the product, and also the figures; while selling for $18.99 retail, a nine-pound box only cost them $3.39 to make. And the day before coming on the show, Prime 6 had received an order worth $130,000 from Lowe's.

Kevin O'Leary was the first to show interest, offering the full $200,000, but in return for a 25% equity. Mark Cuban, Lori Greiner, and guest Shark, Blake Mycoskie, backed out, with Cuban and Greiner citing a potential conflict of interest due to their involvement in a similar company, Instafire. But Daymond John also offered $200,000 for 25%.

Prime 6 countered O'Leary's offer by suggesting $200,000 for 20% equity, but Chef Wonderful declined, partly due to the difficult retail environment at the time caused by the pandemic. With a focus on selling direct to consumers, and a desire to boost the company's online growth, the Francos accepted O'Leary's offer.

Prime 6 after Shark Tank

In an interview with NYC BBQ, Prime 6 co-founder Riki Franco described the experience of appearing on "Shark Tank" as "thrilling, stressful, and also a lot of fun." And a follow-up "Shark Tank" episode revealed that the business saw a huge boost in sales and exposure after the original show was screened.

When Riki and Oron Franco first pitched to the Sharks, Prime 6 had already done $300,000 in sales. But within three months of the "Shark Tank" episode airing, this had increased to $1.3 million in sales and purchase orders. The company had also planted more than 20,000 trees via its partnership with the non-profit organization, One Tree Planted.

As the pandemic hit, and restaurant service sales decreased, Prime 6 expanded its sales to reach customers who were staying at home, and cooking and grilling more. The company also began to roll out the product in 5,000 new stores following "Shark Tank," having been stocked in 1,200 stores nationwide before the episode aired, and the business looked to keep on growing. Kevin O'Leary's partnership with the brand looked strong in the subsequent months, with Chef Wonderful even filming a social media video to promote Prime 6 and offering a discount.

Is Prime 6 still in business?

Entrepreneurs Riki and Oron Franco described their plans after "Shark Tank" as "Grow, grow, grow!" (via NYC BBQ) — and they look to have done exactly that. Prime 6 is still going strong, with the product stocked in major retailers such as Walmart, Lowe's, and Kroger, as well as selling online via its own site, and on Amazon.

Prime 6 has continued to grow its presence with appearances at food shows across the country, and food festivals such as Pig Island. The product has also been featured on numerous media platforms, including being listed among the best eco-friendly products to buy in publications like Reader's Digest.

Prime 6 charcoal is currently available in boxes of nine pounds and 22 pounds, and the company has also started selling fire starters and fire logs. Formed from recycled compressed wood, the fire logs are suitable for pizza ovens, expanding Prime 6's offering beyond the barbecue world. And sticking to its purpose to deliver a more environmentally friendly product, Prime 6 has planted over 120,000 trees and repurposed over 2.5 million tons of sawdust.

What's next for Prime 6?

Prime 6 is continuing to expand across the country and shows no signs of slowing down. In January 2023, the company announced a partnership with Vesta Foodservice, distributing Prime 6 eco-friendly charcoal in California, Arizona, and Las Vegas. In July 2023, Prime 6 partnered with Halperns' Steak & Seafood to supply chefs in Georgia, Florida, Texas, North Carolina, and South Carolina.

In addition to being the founder and CEO of Prime 6, Riki Franco also acts as a mentor for other international startups, according to her LinkedIn profile, and is a co-founder of Alpha Cats, a New York network for professional women. Co-founder Oron Franco is Prime 6's full-time COO.

After just three years of being in business, having started out by selling products from the back of their car, the Francos declared that "best is yet to come" (via Instagram). And it is hard to disagree. As the business continues to grow and develop, its future looks just as sustainable and long-lasting as its charcoal.