Crispy Cones: Here's What Happened After Shark Tank

Crispy Cones began as a side business for founder Jeremy Carlson. The inspiration came when he was living in the Czech Republic for a mission trip. There, he saw street vendors making cone-shaped pastries cooked over coals called trdelník. This style of spit-roasted, sweet treat is common across Eastern Europe, and there are tons of variations that go by many different names. Some are filled with ice cream.

Carlson (literally) dreamed of recreating this dish back in the United States and even visited the Czech Republic again to fine-tune the recipe. As a college freshman in 2018, he started making and selling them out of a roadside tent. Kaitlyn Carlson became a part of the business when Jeremy hired her to do social media marketing for Crispy Cones. They were later married in 2020 and devoted their careers to making delicious ice cream cones.

Crispy Cones appeared on Season 14, Episode 17 of "Shark Tank" in 2023 in front of Sharks Kevin O'Leary, Lori Greiner, Mark Cuban, Robert Herjavec, and Barbara Corcoran. The Carlsons pitched their product as the superior alternative to crumbly cake cones in which soft serve ice cream is usually served. Instead, this company's product is made out of dough that is cooked fresh to order and rolled in cinnamon sugar or cookie crumbles. They are then swiped with a yummy spread like cookie butter, filled with premium ice cream, and finished with an additional topping and sauce of the customer's choice.

What happened to Crispy Cones on Shark Tank?

Jeremy and Kaitlyn Carlson asked for $200,000 in exchange for 10% equity in their company. The Sharks sampled the treats and were blown away. They could not believe that the cones were cooked rotisserie-style instead of in a fryer. Through bites of ice cream, Mark Cuban was eager to get the negotiations started. "So we know it's good. It looks good. It tastes good. It feels good. It's creamy. It's smooth. It's tasty, but how tasty is the business?" he asked the entrepreneurs (via YouTube). "The business is super tasty," responded Jeremy.

In that initial four-month run during Jeremy's freshman year, the company sold $21,000. In the second year, he upgraded from a tent to a trailer and had $70,000 in revenues over a single semester. The third year of business fell during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the company still managed to gross $80,000.

The entrepreneurs decided to sell the trailer in 2021 with the new goal of operating as a franchise. That year, the Crispy Cones stores made $207,000, and the projections for 2022 were even better at around $500,000. The Carlsons also had 11 individuals lined up who were interested in opening stores, and the first franchisee was actually set to sign a contract shortly after filming. With the cost to make each cone falling between $1.50 and $1.89 and a retail price of $7.59, the numbers definitely looked promising.

Did Crispy Cones get a deal?

The two Crispy Cones stores were established with reasonable start-up costs, but even with solid sales, they had yet to turn a profit. Barbara Corcoran questioned Crispy Cone's readiness to franchise since they had not yet proven their concept. Mark Cuban agreed. "You're not in the ice cream business anymore. You're in the franchise business, and that's a completely different set of responsibilities," he said (via YouTube). Clearly, they knew how to make a tasty treat, but they had yet to demonstrate how they could systematize training and management practices at scale. This was enough for Cuban to say, "I'm out."

Robert Herjavec felt that Crispy Cones was trying to grow too quickly and decided not to invest. Kevin O'Leary appreciated the business at a smaller scale but had concerns about established competitors replicating the product. Despite calling the cones "insanely delicious," Lori Greiner did not think a franchise model suited the business (via YouTube).

Corcoran was the last Shark standing, and she did have interest. The Carlsons explained how much excitement there was around their products. Corcoran agreed that generating hype was important, and compared the quality of Crispy Cones to another successful investment of hers — Cousins Maine Lobster. She decided to make an offer of $200,000 for an increased stake of 20%. After some back and forth on equity, Corcoran was getting a bit frustrated. But, before she could back out, Jeremy came to his senses and took the deal.

What happened to Crispy Cones after Shark Tank?

Crispy Cones definitely got a boost after appearing on "Shark Tank" in the form of franchisee applications. The company received hundreds after the episode aired. Jeremy and Kaitlyn Carlson were even invited out to New York City to visit Barbara Corcoran. There, they were able to get to know the Shark better and network with other companies in her portfolio, which could have included other "Shark Tank" success stories like PipSnacks or Press Waffle Co. It took around four months for Corcoran's team to finish all of the necessary due diligence, and the deal officially closed in January 2023.

In the year and a half since Crispy Cones was on the show, it sold 27 franchising units. After the entrepreneurs appeared on an update segment on "Shark Tank," Crispy Cones received yet another influx of franchisee applications. In fact, the company planned to sell 100 franchising units in 2024 and also began partnering with food distribution giant Sysco to get all those delicious ingredients to the various stores.

Is Crispy Cones still in business?

Crispy Cones is definitely still in business. With the level of success that they have seen, Crispy Cones has actually become one the highest-performing investments in Barbara Corcoran's portfolio.

At some stores, the company has transitioned to a model where customers order at kiosks. By cutting down on personnel costs and giving guests a number of choices right at their fingertips, Crispy Cones has been able to increase revenues by about 60%. The new locations will be a mix of small, streamlined locales and larger, more traditional stores. Most of the franchisees commit to just a few shops, but others have plans to open several.

At the time of writing, Crispy Cones has six stores in Idaho, Utah, Arizona, and Florida. The menu includes a traditional cone with a dusting of cinnamon-sugar or a rotating option — like coconut or cotton candy — and spread choices of Nutella, peanut butter, or cookie butter. Soft serve flavors are vanilla, chocolate, swirl, and a specialty flavor such as blackberry, raspberry, or peach. The cone can be topped off with a number of cookies, candy bars, nuts, or fresh strawberries, plus an extra drizzle of Nutella, caramel, cookie butter, or raspberry sauce. New flavors and toppings are released on a weekly basis and are available for a limited time.

What is next for Crispy Cones?

Despite some skepticism from several of the Sharks about scaling a franchising model, the strategy seems to be working well for Crispy Cones. Founder and chief executive officer Jeremy Carlson remains focused on expanding Crispy Cones through intentional franchising. He prides himself on having a personal connection with all franchisees and bringing a thoughtful, small-business mentality to those relationships. "One of our company mottos is 'revolutionizing the soft serve cone,' and we truly take that to heart ... It's revolutionizing technology. It's revolutionizing the guest experience," Carlson explains (via YouTube).

To apply, interested franchisees need $100,000 in liquid assets and a net worth of $300,000. The franchise fee is $35,000 — an increase from the $30,000 cost mentioned on the "Shark Tank" episode — plus 2% advertising and 5% royalty fees. Crispy Cones has plans to open additional locations in Utah, Arizona, and Florida, as well as branch out into California, South Carolina, North Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, and Texas.

In fact, in May 2024, Crispy Cones signed a deal with Dallas-Fort Worth-based franchisee Aman Tamana to open 10 locations over the next four to five years. It looks like Crispy Cones is poised to get its unique ice cream cones into the hands of dessert lovers across the nation in no time.