Sienna Sauce After Shark Tank: We Caught Up With The Founder

Sienna Sauce is a brand with an inspiring backstory that makes a line of honey-based savory sauces in flavors like smokey brown and lemon pepper. The company was founded by Tyla-Simone Crayton after she was evicted from her house in New York, forcing her to spend a brief period homeless before starting over in Texas. But that's not even the most impressive part — Crayton was a teenager when she started the company with the support of her mother, Monique. She was only 16 years old when she pitched her brand on "Shark Tank" in 2020.

Guest shark (and fellow Texan) Kendra Scott offered Crayton a deal during her appearance on the show. We caught up with Crayton in an exclusive interview to see how things have been going for her and her company in the years since she swam with the Sharks and reached an agreement with Scott. Sienna Sauce has had an exciting run in the intervening time, though as you'll see, the brand's success might have more to do with Crayton's tireless drive than with "Shark Tank" or Kendra Scott.

Sienna Sauce's journey to Shark Tank took over a year

It's a long and winding road to earn an audience with the Sharks, even if the show invites you to apply. That's what happened to Sienna Sauce — a representative from "Shark Tank" contacted Crayton in 2019 and said that she should fill out an application. Sienna Sauce didn't end up being selected for filming in 2019, but Crayton reached out to the show's producers in 2020 to see if she should reapply. This time, her company passed the initial test and survived two more rounds of applications to finally earn a spot on the show.

After all the applications were done, the next step was crafting Sienna Sauce's pitch with the show's producers. "First, we sent in a video pitch, and then we ran our pitch by the producers and showed them what we had in mind," explains Crayton. "This was all virtual because of the pandemic." The pandemic was a recurring character in Sienna Sauce's "Shark Tank" journey.

Crayton was not able to set up her own props or cook food for the judges

After hammering out a script for the pitch, it was time to prepare the food and props. Crayton sent a bunch of sauce and merch to the show's producers, who built the set for the pitch. "We got on another Zoom call, and they showed us what the set was going to look like."

Crayton wanted to bring Sienna Sauce's culinary director with her on the show, but that was vetoed due to pandemic health restrictions. The food the Sharks ate had to be prepared at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas, which was "Shark Tank's" headquarters during the pandemic. However, Crayton still wanted to use her culinary director's recipes, so she and the producers worked out a solution. "The head chef at the Venetian Hotel used our recipes and created all the dishes for the Sharks to taste."

Shark Tank took pandemic precautions very seriously

In 2020, when Crayton's episode was filmed, "Shark Tank" was being produced in a quarantine-protected bubble in the Venetian Hotel. All the contestants stayed in the hotel, and the show was shot there as well.

"We flew to Vegas and took COVID tests as soon as we landed ... a car picked us up and drove us straight to the hotel." Once Crayton and her mother, Monique, arrived at the Venetian, they had to stay in their room for 10 days straight until it was time to film, taking many rounds of COVID tests.

We asked Crayton if it was hard to be holed up in the hotel room for so long, but she said she didn't mind it. "We just hung out. They gave us meals — the food was really good. The 10 days went by really fast because we just kept on practicing our pitch every day." Crayton and Monique also prepped by binge-watching old episodes of "Shark Tank."

What happened to Sienna Sauce on Shark Tank?

The Sharks were blown away by Crayton's drive to be an entrepreneur at such a young age. They were also impressed by how she and her mother had built a business after experiencing homelessness. However, some of the Sharks had concerns about the business. Kevin O'Leary brought up how competitive the sauce business is and questioned Sienna Sauce's lack of a distributor. Despite O'Leary's skepticism, guest shark Kendra Scott forcefully declared that she wanted to invest in Sienna Sauce. She cited her Texan roots and the fact that her jewelry company had also started as a mother-daughter partnership as her reasons for wanting to give the business a deal.

Scott offered Crayton $100,000 for 20% of Sienna Sauce. What the televised version of the company's pitch doesn't show you is that, at this point, Crayton tried to negotiate a more favorable deal with Scott. "I asked her if she would agree to give us any cash we needed to fund purchase orders — loans for P.O. financing. In our industry, the first thing you spend a lot of cash on is the product itself. If she financed the P.O.s and we paid her back over time, that would give us more runway to have more cash on hand to do other things with." Crayton's counter-proposal was edited out of the show, and she ultimately accepted Scott's original offer.

Sienna Sauce did not receive the money from Kendra Scott after Shark Tank

Although Crayton and Scott worked out a deal on the show, it was just a preliminary agreement — it wouldn't be finalized until Scott's team did due diligence. As of the date of our interview in August 2023, Crayton is still waiting to hear from Scott.

For the young entrepreneur, the point of being on "Shark Tank" isn't really to earn a deal with the Sharks, however — it's to make an impression on the viewers at home. "We're really pitching to the world. We're pitching to the millions of people who are watching us and hearing our story ... you guys are the ones who are going to buy our products."

On that front, "Shark Tank" was great for Sienna Sauce, though the effect was temporary. "We had over 10,000 sales in the first couple of months after we aired, but the 'Shark Tank' effect doesn't go into other years ... people think your business changes overnight and stays that way after 'Shark Tank,' but it really doesn't."

Is Sienna Sauce still in business?

Sienna Sauce isn't just still in business — it's doing much better than it was when Crayton appeared on "Shark Tank" in 2021. Not receiving the investment from Kendra Scott doesn't seem to have hurt the company at all. In fact, the business has grown so much that Crayton would no longer want the deal Scott offered during the episode. "When we were on the show, we were in like 10 Wegmans stores. Now we're in over 500 retailers, so we're not the same brand anymore. It's unfortunate that she didn't reach out in that time period because we would have loved to work with her."

Crayton is still open to making a deal with Scott, but the sauce boss would renegotiate the terms from a position of strength. "At first, we were trying to win her over, but now she would have to come back and win us over."

What's next for Sienna Sauce?

Seemingly not content with starting only one company before the age of 20, Crayton also opened a restaurant, Sienna Wings, which serves chicken wings tossed in the entrepreneur's signature sauces. Right now, there's just a single location in Sienna, Texas, but of course, the ever-ambitious Crayton has her eye on expansion. "My goal is that Sienna Wings will eventually become the largest competitor to Wingstop and that Sienna Sauce will just be along for the ride."

As for Sienna Sauce, it continues to expand the number of retailers it's offered in. "We're in Target in Texas, we're in HEB, we're in Wegmans in New York, and we just got into Albertson's in Texas." Crayton is balancing all of her business duties with her life as a student at UC Berkeley. She managed to start up the restaurant during her summer break this year. During the semesters, she managed Sienna Sauce (which is based in Texas) from California over Zoom. "People have this misconception that businesses are run out of an office building like in olden times. But in most businesses nowadays, the employees are contracted, and they live all over the country. They do great work; they're just not all in the same place."