Blondie's Cookies After Shark Tank: We Caught Up With The Founder

It's all about the cookie. This slogan has driven Blondie's Cookies for decades, and the unwavering passion for pastry has brought the company to many places, including ABC's "Shark Tank." Brenda Coffman, also known affectionately as the namesake Blondie, appeared on the show in 2012, over 10 years ago. A lot has changed about "Shark Tank" since then, but a lot has stayed the same, too. Blondie's Cookies appeared on the show asking for $200,000 in exchange for 3% of the business — which, according to the sharks in the episode, was an over $7 million business evaluation.

Coffman had the chance to present her top five best-selling cookie flavors to the sharks and talk to them about her business, which then included brick-and-mortar stores in both her home state of Indiana and a few remote locations in Florida. Sadly, none of the sharks took the bait, and Coffman didn't walk out of the tank with a business deal. But she didn't leave empty-handed — she got some pretty invaluable advice from Barbara about her Florida stores, but more on that later. We spoke to the founder, Brenda Coffman, about what the cookie business has been up to since the episode aired a decade ago, and what Coffman's experience was like on the show.

Brenda didn't fully know what Shark Tank was when going on it

It's a more common story than you might think — business owners on "Shark Tank" not signing up to be there in the first place. More times than you might realize, a friend, family member, or business partner signs the business up for "Shark Tank" in hopes the company has a chance of making it on the show, like Coffman's story. "I had an office manager who was just in love with the show," Coffman said. "And she thought, and still thinks, that our cookies are the best in the country, and she was just determined to get us on the show. I didn't really know she was doing this."

Blondie's Cookies made it through preliminary screenings and interviews before getting the call that the brand was going to the on the show. "Several months had passed and then I got a call while I was at the grocery store one evening about 8 o'clock at night," Coffman told us. "I was doing the family grocery shopping and got a call and I remember having to say, 'Excuse me just a moment I need to put the bananas down, I can't think straight." Even after several rounds of interviews, Coffman still wasn't sure what she was signing up for. After all, she'd never appeared on TV before, and though "Shark Tank" was popular, it didn't yet have the lasting cultural impact it has today.

Though Blondie's Cookies didn't get a deal, Shark Tank still saved the business

"I think if I hadn't gone on the tank, I wouldn't be talking to you today," Coffman said to us. Though many of us at home watching "Shark Tank" think it's a sad ending when a business doesn't walk out of the tank with a deal with one of the sharks, that's not necessarily the case. The sharks can provide insight and advice, and the exposure from the show can help businesses tremendously. Coffman noted that since appearing on the show, she's completely revamped and expanded the mail-order section of Blondie's Cookies, focusing a lot on bringing the cookies to the customer rather than the customers to the cookies.

A lot has obviously happened since the episode aired in 2012. For starters, the COVID-19 pandemic affected all businesses greatly, but especially food-based ones. But Blondie's Cookies was able to persevere through the "financially difficult" time, and the company's ability to survive was partly due to some advice shark Barbara Corcoran gave Coffman in the episode.

The company closed the Florida store locations

That invaluable advice Barbara gave Coffman was to simply close the four Florida locations of "Blondie's Cookies" she had opened less than a year before. The delicious, huge cookies with frosting on them were an absolute hit in her home state of Indiana, but the business faced some struggles when attempting to expand to another state. "I think I was vulnerable when I went on the tank because I was going through some losses and having to deal with some actual failures for the first time," Coffman reflected.

Blondie's Cookies wasn't new on the scene making rookie business mistakes with the Florida stores, either. "I really do think that we were very very close to filing bankruptcy because of those stores. All the way down to the closest people to us, our attorney, our accountant, all said 'You can't pull out of this. You need to exit,'" Coffman said. "And I said 'No. After 27 years I will not leave my vendors holding the bag. I will not leave my employees without jobs. We will get through this, God willing, and I think the sharks had an awful lot to do with that, and the show itself, and the number of people who watch the show." So in the end, Coffman did indeed close all the Florida locations, and it was ultimately for the better for both Coffman and Blondie's Cookies.

Pitching the Sharks in 2011 was a lot different than it is today

Coffman had a unique "Shark Tank" pitching experience, and it wasn't just because she appeared on one of the very early seasons of the show. "I pitched our pitch to the sharks on the 10th anniversary of 9/11," Coffman recalled. "It was a little bittersweet for us because being in shopping malls in Indiana when 9/11 occurred, people may or may not remember, but shopping malls were thought to be the next targets. And so a lot of the shopping malls shut down for a short period of time."

Though Coffman was excited about getting to pitch her business to the sharks, it was, as she described, a bittersweet experience for that to be happening on a hard day. Aside from that difficult circumstance, Blondie's Cookies had been in business for over two decades before appearing on "Shark Tank," so Coffman felt prepared as an expert businesswoman. "We'd been in business for 26 years when we went on the tank, so we weren't new, we weren't a startup," Coffman said. Coffman was prepared to appear on the tank, but if she were to go on today, a lot would be different about her pitching approach. The impact of social media on the business strategies, the growth of her mail-order sector of Blondie's Cookies, and the competitive cookie market (more on that later), all would make Coffman's 2023 version of her pitch different from her original pitch.

Shark Tank still impacts Blondie's Cookies' business

Even though the episode aired over 10 years ago, "Shark Tank" absolutely still affects Blondie's Cookies. Coffman shared that every time a rerun airs, they get a spike of business, and, as we learned earlier, Barbara's advice to Coffman really did change the entire future of the company. Blondie's Cookies will now be celebrating its 39th year in business on September 3, and the company has come a long way since its start. Coffman started Blondie's Cookies in 1985 and has been baking her signature cookies ever since.

Along with general exposure to the public and the advice from the sharks, the show helped Blondie's Cookies in another way. "We've gained some wonderful corporate clients out of being seen on 'Shark Tank,'" Coffman added. "We've been able to create relationships with them; do their gifting for them for their clients for many years now that are all over the country."

And Coffman only has positive things to say about Blondie's Cookies appearing on the show. "Many, many, many wonderful things came out of it, with the hard reality of closing some stores," she said. "Deconstructing a store is almost as hard as constructing a store."

Coffman still loves to bake and develop new recipes

Though Coffman obviously loves what she does, and has a lot of passion for baking cookies, it didn't come from an easy place. "My mom was quite the little sweet tooth person, truly, truly all her life," Coffman laughed. "She's the one that got me started baking." Coffman's late mother decided to get her in the kitchen baking as a form of therapy when Coffman's father passed away when she was 15. "She was always my biggest fan and my biggest supporter," Coffman said. "I definitely attribute a lot of our success at Blondie's to my mom." Luckily, Coffman's mom got to be there when the "Shark Tank" team came and filmed some B-roll at their house for the episode, and she also got to watch the episode with all of Coffman's friends and family at their house when it aired.

All these years later, Coffman still has that love for baking. She gets to be creative in the kitchen, too, with Blondie's Cookies' new item called the Big Bite: It's a cookie twice the size of the regular ones, and the flavor changes every month. Coming up with flavor combinations is fun for Coffman, and August's flavor is blueberry crumb sprinkle, you can expect September's flavor to be elephant ear sprinkle, celebrating the Indiana State Fair. October's flavor, if you're thinking even farther ahead, is a caramel apple sprinkle.

The cookie business competition has changed a lot

Back in 1985 when Blondie's Cookies opened its first store, specialty cookie shops were not a prominent thing. Coffman was ahead of the game. But now, there are tons of trendy competitors out there, like Crumbl Cookie and Insomnia Cookies, but Coffman has handled yet another aspect of the changing landscape with grace and confidence. "I think persistence, grit, and tenacity are all important," Coffman notes. "And trust me, there are days that I've wanted to hang up my cookie scoop and my icing bag and call it a day. But I think that everything can't be an immediate gratification."

As Coffman put it, Blondie's Cookies has "weathered so many storms," from 9/11, the 2008 economic crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic, and now having more competition in its niche. But at the center of it all is Brenda Coffman, baking her cookies and staying true to her mission. In fact, she welcomes the competition. "In the last four years we've had some competition pop up across the U.S. that we didn't have before," Coffman said. "And we welcome that competition because we have found that novelty wears off, but goodness doesn't wear off." Making quality cookies that people love and keep coming back to is at the core of Blondie's Cookies, which hasn't changed since 1985.

Blondie's Cookies is opening a new location

Since the episode aired, somehow a lot has changed at Blondie's Cookies, but the cookies' quality has stayed the same. The four Florida stores closed, which Coffman notes was an "absolutely good idea," and the business has been able to open a new store in Indianapolis at the Castleton Square Mall. Aside from the new location in her home state, Coffman also purchased a new building for Blondie's Cookies mail order division of the company to be able to ship the popular cookies to even more folks around the country. The building also includes a test kitchen for Coffman to experiment with all those new flavor ideas, and the corporate offices will be held there as well.

But that's not all — the new building even has an event space, which is significant because the company just held its first event there this past Saturday, August 26 for the town's 175th anniversary. Blondie's Cookies has been through so many things, and the company's appearance on "Shark Tank" taught Coffman a lot. But it's always been about the baking, and getting quality cookies is always something you can count on at Blondie's Cookies. After all, it's all about the cookie.