For Nick and Elyse Oleksak, starting their own bagel business was a dream come true. Literally.
In May of 2012, Nick had a strange dream about bagels that were shaped like donut holes and filled with cream cheese. When he woke up, he immediately told his wife he had an idea for a new product. Elyse thought the idea was so crazy that it just might work.
“It’s one of those things that the second he said it, I was like, ‘How has no one done this before?” Elyse says. “It was so simple but so unique.”
And so Bantam Bagels was born. The couple, who worked on Wall Street and had never baked a bagel, began developing recipes from their apartment and testing the end-product with friends and family. In September 2013, after quitting their jobs, they opened a small shop in New York City’s West Village neighborhood. With flavors ranging from Strawberry Delight (plain bagel stuffed with strawberry cream cheese) to Hot Pretzel (pretzel salt bagel stuffed with cheddar dijon cream cheese), their mini bagel balls struck a chord with the New York crowd.
Bantam Bagels was bringing in $200,000 in revenue when its founders appeared on the hit reality TV show Shark Tank in January 2015. The couple walked away with a $275,000 investment from “QVC Queen” Lori Greiner for 25% stake in their company.
On Tuesday, the husband-and-wife team announced a deal with Starbucks that will place Bantam Bagels in more than 7,770 of the chain’s stores nationwide.
Though they declined to disclose its annual revenue, the company was bringing in $2.1 million in sales near the end of 2015. Today, it produces nearly a million bagel balls a week and sells them for $1.75 a piece.
Nick referred to Starbucks as “the ultimate partner” and said they had their eye on the coffee giant from the very early stages of the business. The Oleksaks emailed Starbucks’ New York City regional director, and he invited them in for a meeting. Soon after, they struck a deal and Starbucks began selling Bantam Bagels in roughly 500 New York City locations before expanding the partnership nationwide.
“We understand that Starbucks is more than a brand, it’s part of your life,” Elyse says. “To have our brand be part of people’s everyday lives is something you can only dream of as a small brand.”
In just four years, the entrepreneurial duo’s business has skyrocketed, and there are more plans for expansion. In October, frozen boxes of the bagel balls will be sold at more than 600 grocery stores, including Kroger, Safeway, and Fred Meyer.
“It’s like a constant swirl of panic and elation,” Elyse says. “You’re always feeling crazy excited and crazy panicked. And it’s something that gets addicting as an entrepreneur.”