Quickly growing a business thanks to the power of social media and community connection is one feat, but taking it to the eyes of millions is another. 

That’s exactly what I Love Chamoy founder Annie Leal did – bringing her tangy candy and Mexican culture to ABC’s “Shark Tank.” 

Loading the player...

She got into a back-and-forth offer counteroffer with Kevin O’Leary on the Halloween-themed episode of the show. But at the end of the day, she couldn’t ride off into the “mariachi sunset” Mr. Wonderful had pitched her. Leal spoke to FIERCE after her episode aired to share her thoughts on the experience and why she left without a deal.

Preparing to visit the sharks

The idea to sign up for the program started as a fantasy when Leal was thinking up her chamoy business. She spent her life’s savings, put her heart and soul into her business, and launched it in August 2021. 

I Love Chamoy subsequently went viral on social media, thanks to Leal’s experience working in media. She previously told FIERCE that from that moment, she knew her business was something special.

As the growth continued, Leal’s followers brought “Shark Tank” to her attention again.

“My followers have been asking for us to go on ‘Shark Tank’ since I started the company,” said Leal. “It was important to them and to me to showcase Mexican culture and Mexican innovation on such a big national stage.”

The visual set up for Leal's presentation features a street vendor cart filled with fresh fruits.
Disney/Christopher Willard

After applying, she prepared and practiced her pitch for months. Since chamoy is the perfect topping for fresh fruits, Leal knew she wanted to put the spotlight on street vendors as a visual aid for her presentation. “[They] are the ones that have made Mexican snacks, like chamoy, popular in this country,” added Leal.

Why Leal couldn’t accept an offer from Mr. Wonderful

On the show, Leal said she’s “a big fan of taking calculated risks.” She initially asked for $300K for a 5% stake in the company. Mark Cuban showed his admiration for the growth Leal has accomplished in a short amount of time, calling her “insanely profitable.” However, O’Leary was the last shark interested in negotiating.

O’Leary wasn’t fond of her initial offer, leading him and Leal to counter back and forth. He ultimately offered the $300K she was looking for but with a 12.5% stake – much higher than she wanted. 

Leal made the decision to walk away after being determined to make a deal, following Cuban’s advice to stick to her guns. After exiting, she described Mr. Wonderful’s high equity offer as “bloodsucking.”

“It was a hard decision, but I had to follow my gut in that moment,” explained Leal. “Taking the deal would be undervaluing my company.”

No matter the outcome, Leal did it for her family

Since I Love Chamoy was created as a “love letter” to her culture, community, and her father, she went on “Shark Tank” to make them all proud. When asked for her and her family’s reaction while watching the episode premiere, Leal said: “Oh, we all cried.”

Over the past few weeks, Leal has received countless emails from people that connected with their story. She’s also gone back to one of the things she does best: creating social media content for I Love Chamoy, specifically sharing more about her experience on the show.

As for business, they got more orders for chamoy bottles that day than ever before.

Although she couldn’t get a shark involved in I Love Chamoy, she has no regrets. “The other sharks telling me not to take the deal and applauding after I said ‘no’ made me feel happy with my decision,” said Leal.