St. Olaf Magazine | Winter 2019

Diving into the Shark Tank

When Kate Tecku Field ’10 pitched her business venture, The Kombucha Shop, on the November 18, 2018, episode of ABC’s popular reality show Shark Tank, she wasn’t sure if the “shark” investors would bite. But they did.

Shark Tank invites entrepreneurs to pitch their business ideas to a panel of well-known investors, who then decide whether to invest as business partners. “About 40,000 entrepreneurs apply every season,” says Field, who was encouraged by a Shark Tank producer to submit an audition tape. In the end, she decided the time and effort involved in putting together the audition tape would be worth it if she could get on the show. “I’ve been eager to reach new markets and I couldn’t pass up the chance to get my company in front of millions of people,” she says.

“They loved [the tape]! I was in,” she says. “My biggest fear was making a fool of myself on national television, so I decided the only way I could do it is if I prepped like crazy. I was very nervous in the days leading up to [the show], but felt very confident when I finally walked out into the tank.”

Field asked the sharks for $350,000 in exchange for 10 percent equity in The Kombucha Shop, which sells kits to brew the fermented tea beverage kombucha at home. Each kit costs $49 and includes the ingredients and equipment to brew the drink, which is made from green or black tea and is known for its health benefits. In a recent profile, the Wisconsin State Journal noted that Field’s product is the top-selling kombucha brewing kit in the world.

Field accepted a shared deal with shark investor Barbara Corcoran and guest shark Sara Blakely, the founder of Spanx.

“The viewer reaction to the episode was overwhelming positive,” says Field. “Sales shot up and we were just buried under orders for a month after the airing.”

Kate Tecku Field ’10 pitching her business, The Kombucha Shop, to judges on ABC’s Shark Tank. Courtesy of Mitch Haaseth/ABC ©2018 American Broadcasting Companies.

Students and alumni will have the opportunity to ask Field more about her experience with the sharks in April when she returns to campus to deliver the keynote address at the annual Ole Cup student entrepreneurial competition, hosted by the St. Olaf Piper Center for Vocation and Career, which provides students with the resources to help turn their business ideas into reality.

Field has also been an active participant in the Piper Center’s Connections Program in Washington, D.C., and Madison, Wisconsin, where she lives with her husband, Cam Field ’10. An environmental studies and political science major at St. Olaf, Field received the college’s Kloeck-Jenson Scholarship for Peace and Justice, which supported her work at the Washington Environmental Council in Seattle. Just a few years after graduating from St. Olaf, Field founded The Kombucha Shop in a storage closet in Madison, Wisconsin, noted the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

What is her advice to young entrepreneurs? “Don’t let the fear of failure stop you from striking out,” she says. “No matter how it goes, you learn and grow an incredible amount. And, you may just surprise yourself with what you can accomplish.”

Watch Kate’s appearance at