Snacklins After Shark Tank: We Caught Up With The Founder

Whether you've tried the crispy vegan snack or just caught its "Shark Tank" appearance, you may have heard of Snacklins. Created by former chef Samy Kobrosly, Snacklins entered the natural foods scene in 2016 to great acclaim. There are plenty of plant-based snacks available on the market, but these crunchy treats have changed the game — an entire bag for only 80 calories, packed with nutrition, all with the satisfying crunch of a deep-fried pork rind? It's no wonder why thousands of customers from all walks of life are smitten with Snacklins.

During his "Shark Tank" segment, Kobrosly enthusiastically introduced the sharks to the delicious puffed snack, consisting of mushrooms, yuca, and onion. "I like the lightness. It makes me feel like I'm eating something healthy," said Barbara Corcoran. The Snacklins founder sought $250,000 at 2.5% equity — and after a few nail-biting moments, Mark Cuban took the bait, reaching a compromise with Kobrosly. 

Since partnering with its shark of choice, the company has grown exponentially. We recently caught up with Kobrosly to uncover more about Snacklins and hear how the company has fared since successfully navigating a deal on "Shark Tank."

Snacklins came to life in an unlikely setting

Founder Samy Kobrosly says that he "worked at a bunch of random restaurant gigs, everything from Michelin Stars to dive bars," prior to inventing the tasty veggie crisp. So, what led up to the creation of Snacklins? "At that time, I was actually working part-time at a barbecue restaurant that was known for randomly having vegan barbecue food," Kobrosly tells us. "And that's kind of where the original iteration of a Snacklin first came up." The chef had acquired a reputation for his eccentric culinary experiments, and a friend at his workplace suggested that he attempt making vegan pork rinds.

Feeling confident that he could bring his friend's vision to life, Kobrosly began toying with techniques to create the perfect pork rind-like crisp. It took months before the snack came to fruition, but Kobrosly knew he had something special when it did: "One day, it finally worked, and I was like, 'Holy crap, these puff up!' And so it started off as a vegan pork rind. I think that's kind of what got people intrigued and initially signed on for it." 

The first night Kobrosly says that he introduced Snacklins to restaurant patrons, a local brewery owner asked to serve the crunchy snacks at his establishment in exchange for free beer. From there, word spread quickly about Kobrosly's delicious new product.

Getting Snacklins off the ground

From the very beginning, Snacklins were a hit with everyone who sampled them. In fact, Kobrosly tells us that he regularly received encouragement to market his crunchy bar snack to the masses. "Someone was like, 'These are really awesome. You guys put labels on this, and you could probably actually sell these,'" Kobrosly recalls. Initially, the production of Snacklins started off relatively slowly with a single bag requiring several hours to manufacture by hand. But as demand for the plant-based crisps increased, Kobrosly and his team found themselves making Snacklins several times each week to satisfy customers: "It turned into that being my full-time job and the full-time job of many people around us."

To Kobrosly, Snacklins were gaining popularity for more than just their novelty factor as a plant-based pork rind. "It had nothing to do with the fact that it was a vegan alternative for pig skin," he explains. "It had everything to do with the fact that it was a veggie chip made with fresh vegetables, simple ingredients, [and was] low in calories." Eventually, Snacklins made the leap from the back of the house to the shelves of big-name retailers like Whole Foods. With business on the up and up, it wasn't long before Kobrosly got the idea to apply for "Shark Tank."

How Snacklins struck a deal with its favorite shark

While the first Snacklins audition didn't lead to a "Shark Tank" pitch, Kobrosly was invited by the show's producers to apply again a few years later. The second time was a charm, and Kobrosly landed an appearance on the 11th season of the series."Originally, I think it's just that's every entrepreneur's dream," Kobrosly tells us about why he applied to the show. "It was all pretty slow, but pretty quick at the same time."

Kobrosly knew he had one shark in mind that he'd most like to work with. "Cuban was our guy," he says. The chef explains the team anticipated that he would understand manufacturing and "really support us in that endeavor." The Snacklins founder was met with skepticism from several of the sharks. "This food space is tough," said Barbara Corcoran, admitting her struggles with another snack startup, Pipcorn. Just when it seemed that the sharks might let Snacklins slip away, Cuban counter-offered with $250,000 at 5% and 5% advisory shares, which Kobrosly accepted.

So how did it feel when Cuban took a shine to Snacklins? "Oh, it was awesome," he tells us. "I mean, it's still surreal. I call it the 'Shark Tank blackout' because I kind of went in there, and I just blacked out. And the next thing I know, I'm in a van heading back to the hotel." When his episode aired, says Kobrosly, it was like reliving the for the first time.

Shark Tank changed the course for Snacklins

Though Snacklins was doing well prior to pitching to the sharks, business improved substantially after appearing on the show. The "Shark Tank blackout" experienced by Kobrosly preceded the magic of the "Shark Tank effect." After its fateful segment went live, Snacklins picked up countless new customers across the country, and things haven't slowed down since. "I would say we've been doubling every year since we started with them — it's been good," says Kobrosly.

Of course, Kobrosly credits Snacklins' earliest supporters with much of the company's success, including its newfound "Shark Tank" fame: "People really dug it. I think a lot of people have been supporting us since day one." On top of that, he says, being a winning contestant helped significantly when it came to forging new retail partnerships. "I think what is really is, it kind of validated our concept to a lot of the store buyers," he says. Knowing that Snacklins had earned a partnership with Mark Cuban, he adds, did wonders in terms of establishing trust and brand recognition.

How Mark Cuban's guidance has helped Snacklins grow

Kobrosly knew the snack-making process inside and out, but working with Cuban provided valuable perspective for the growing company. "Mark is great," says Kobrosly. "It's always good to get the perspective of somebody who is in the muck of it all the time ... whether it's any of our other investors or entrepreneurs that have mentored us through the years, they all give us that different perspective that you sometimes need." Being able to step back and look at the bigger picture, says Kobrosly, has been incredibly helpful for Snacklins.

Of course, Cuban's support has enhanced the company in other ways, too. In addition to improving his outlook, Kobrosly has noticed the biggest shift in terms of his company's production methods. Cuban, Kobrosly says, completely understood the company's approach to manufacturing. "Owning that manufacturing was really the thing that probably saved us the most," he reflects. "We found that was kind of our differentiator and the thing that's really kept us not only growing but kept us alive while everyone else kind of seems to be falling off."

Words of wisdom from Snacklins' founder

Kobrosly is the first to admit that building a snack empire from scratch isn't easy, but he wants aspiring business owners to know that it is possible. And while many sugarcoat what it's like to own a business, especially in the early stages, he simply tells it like it is. His best advice to those just starting out? "Just know that it's going to suck," he says. "All the disasters that can happen as an entrepreneur, I live for because those are what make the sweet moments even sweeter."

Still, he says, it's important to recognize that all that hard work will pay off in the long run. "It's going to be way more rewarding than anything else you've done, but it's also going to be way suckier than anything else you've done because you never check out," he says. Though Snacklins has proven to be a runaway success, Kobrosly is hardly content to rest on his laurels. "I'm always constantly thinking about snacks," he tells us.

Snacklins has big plans for the future of healthy snacking

There are many exciting developments on the horizon for Snacklins, though they can't be fully revealed just yet. However, Kobrosly tells us he aims to use the business to revolutionize the face of healthy snacking. "We're really taking this whole idea of, 'Why can't a chip be healthier? why can't we use fresh vegetables?' up a notch," says Kobrosly. Whereas many so-called "natural" snacks cut corners, sacrificing nutrients in the process, Kobrosly is committed to using only the highest-quality ingredients in his products.

More than anything, he feels gratitude for Snacklins' continued growth since its "Shark Tank" appearance. For Kobrosly, the most rewarding aspect is being able to improve the lives of others in more ways than one with Snacklins. "We're just still honored that this joke that started off at a bar is still trucking," he says. "We've had the same people working with us since day one, right? ...We're all living better lives today than we did five years ago now. I think that that's kind of really where it stands with us."