Katey Jo Evans Of The Frozen Farmer: 5 Important Business Lessons We Learned While Being On The Shark Tank


Have passion for your business. When I was in the tank, there was a moment I felt like I was fighting for my business like my life depended on it. It was at that moment that I realized that no one will ever care about your business as much as you do. You’re going to spend a large portion of your life working hard for your business, so be sure it’s something worth fighting for. Be sure it’s something that you love doing, something that you’re passionate about growing.

As a part of our series about the ‘5 Important Business Lessons, I Learned While Being On The Shark Tank’ I had the pleasure of interviewing Katey Jo Evans.

An entrepreneur, innovator and the co-founder of The Frozen Farmer (@thefrozenfarmer), Katey Evans has appeared on ABC’s critically acclaimed, Emmy nominated television show “Shark Tank,” not once — but twice — in 2020. During her first appearance, Evans landed a $125,000 investment deal from now-partner Lori Greiner for her a farm creamery business in Bridgeville. Katey is passionate about her platform of reducing food waste by sustainably sourcing “upcycled fruit” in The Frozen Farmer’s line of frozen confections. Evans has taken the The Frozen Farmer from a shoestring startup to a brand that is on the shelf in more than 8,000 stores across the U.S. Katey launched d2c sales online, shipping into nearly every state in the U.S. in 2020. Katey is a recipient of the 2020 Delaware Business Times 40 Under 40 Awards, a past recipient of a $50,000 USDA Value Added Producer Grant, has earned a Blazing New Trails Award, and has been featured as a speaker at the Delaware Women in Agriculture Conference, the Grow + Fortify Summit, Delaware Social Media Conference, Sussex County’s Today and Tomorrow Conference, Delaware Ag Industry Week, the Women in Hospitality Conference, and was recently invited to participate in the Global Food Forum with USDA Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, where she was the only female farmer representing the food production industry. Katey and her family were featured in a national ad campaign for being good stewards of the land for Global Fertilizer Day by The Fertilizer Institute and her family has been part of a chain wide “know your local farmer” campaign at Giant Foods for the past several years. Katey is a member of Delaware Women’s Workforce Council, aimed to achieve gender equality in the workplace in the First State and has obtained national certification by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) for The Frozen Farmer. A mother of three, Katey is involved in growing the farm-to-school partnership with local school districts in Delaware that serve her fresh homegrown produce in their school cafeteria. Furthering her farm-to-school efforts, Katey hosts field trips on her family farm and is passionate about agriculture education and agri-tourism in the state of Delaware.

“𝘕𝘦𝘷𝘦𝘳 𝘴𝘵𝘢𝘳𝘵 𝘢 𝘣𝘶𝘴𝘪𝘯𝘦𝘴𝘴 𝘫𝘶𝘴𝘵 𝘵𝘰 𝘮𝘢𝘬𝘦 𝘮𝘰𝘯𝘦𝘺. 𝘚𝘵𝘢𝘳𝘵 𝘢 𝘣𝘶𝘴𝘪𝘯𝘦𝘴𝘴 𝘵𝘰 𝘮𝘢𝘬𝘦 𝘢 𝘥𝘪𝘧𝘧𝘦𝘳𝘦𝘯𝘤𝘦.”

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit more. Can you tell us a bit of the backstory about how you grew up?

Growing up I was an only child. I’ve always been very independent. My mom worked late and was finishing her college degree at night so I spent a lot of time with my dad growing up. He was the coach of every team I ever played on and taught me how to hunt, fish and love the outdoors.

When I was 12, my first job was on a neighbor’s farm picking produce and planting pumpkins. The squash plants made my arms and legs break out in hives and the summer heat was brutal but I spent my summers outdoors so I didn’t care. I loved to work, even at such an early age. It gave me purpose and taught me responsibility.

In high school, I was class president for three years straight and wanted to earn some scholarship money for college so I decided to run for the Miss Delaware National Teenager title in my junior year and won the title. I spent a lot of my year as Miss Delaware National Teenager speaking to schools and serving the community. It taught me a lot about leadership and service.

I went off to college, got a degree in communications and ended up falling in love with a farmer who lived just a town over from where I grew up.

When you marry a farmer, you marry the farm too, so I moved back home and helped him grow the family farm business together.

Can you share with us the story of the “aha moment” that gave you the idea to start your company?

My husband, Kevin and I were sitting at the Sunday supper table with my parents talking about how we were losing profits on the misfit fruit our grocery store retail partners wouldn’t buy due to cosmetic reasons.

We had come off of a flooded strawberry market and had a whole truckload of berries that were just one day past the peak of ripeness that we couldn’t sell to the grocery stores.

My mom, Jo Ellen, who had spent more than 35 years of her career in accounting and finance, had been homemaking ice cream for more than half a decade as a hobby. She had become locally famous as “Mama Jo, the ice cream lady.”

After eating some of her homemade strawberry ice cream made with the strawberries from our farm and listening to how she wanted a change of pace from what she’s been doing her whole life in finance, the idea of The Frozen Farmer was born.

The Frozen Farmer has allowed Mama Jo to follow her passion in making ice cream and a way for us to reduce the amount of food we waste on our family farm operation.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

Being on ABC’s Shark Tank was certainly the most interesting thing that’s happened to us so far! It was probably the most pivotal moment for our business as well. It literally put our brand on the map with grocery retailers across the United States.

At the time, it really felt like good and bad timing. In 2019, we pitched our business, auditioned, and flew to California to film our segment in the tank. Our episode aired in March 2020 on the first Friday that America was officially in pandemic lockdown. Our episode got record ratings because everyone was home! While that seemed great, grocers were having huge supply chain issues, so they weren’t looking for new products. We were afraid that this big moment would pass us by.

Luckily, our episode re-aired in June 2020, and that’s when we started getting calls from retailers. Everyone had adjusted to this new normal and felt ready to take on new products like ours.

Can you share a story about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or take away you learned from that?

Before we even knew how to make ice cream and were just in the very early planning stages of starting The Frozen Farmer, we bought a food truck. Our initial business plan was to produce all of our flavors on the truck and sell our flavors from there. We bought the truck, not knowing anything about the kind of equipment and space needed to make our line of frozen confections. We were just so excited to jump into the business. We didn’t do all of the homework beforehand to realize that making and storing ice cream on a food truck wasn’t a feasible business plan.

We learned quickly about the equipment, space and freezer storage needed to produce ice cream and that a commercial kitchen was the only way we could successfully launch our business. We still utilize our food truck to serve our frozen confections at offsite events like weddings and private parties but I have learned to do thorough research before I make a major business decision like that. In fact, now I research almost every business move I make before I make it, both big and small.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Of course, we are! Innovation is key to success. We have five new delicious flavors launching nationally in March that deliver on our mission to reduce food waste by using upcycled fruit ingredients. These flavors include four no-sugar-added Sorbets: Raspberry, Peach, Strawberry-Lemonade, and Mango, along with a Kroger-exclusive flavor, Apple Pie, an all-new FrobertÔ (our signature blend of ice cream and sorbet). Speaking of Kroger, one of the most exciting projects we are working on is connecting our sustainability mission with theirs. Kroger’s Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Foundation aimed to achieve zero food waste in its own retail grocery operations by 2025. We’re so impressed that such a large corporation is doing so much for sustainability, hunger, and reducing waste.

Ok, thank you for all that. Let’s now move to the main part of our interview. Many of us have no idea about the backend process of how to apply and get accepted to be on the Shark Tank. Can you tell us the story about how you applied and got accepted. What “hoops” did you have to go through to get there? How did it feel to be accepted?

The better question is what “hoops” didn’t we go through to get there? In early May 2019, I attended an open casting call in New York City where I stood in line for more than five hours with more than 600 other hopeful entrepreneurs. A month later, we found out we had made it through to the next round of casting and were given a 72-hour deadline for a ten-minute video about our company along with an even more detailed application. The busy season for our family farm and The Frozen Farmer both fall between Memorial Day and Labor Day so we were in peak season, juggling the day-to-day operations of our two businesses and this intensive casting process. By July we were asked to submit a more thorough financial update, send out more samples to the casting team, and were ultimately assigned to a team of producers who worked with us to refine our pitch. In August we were given a date to fly out to California and make our big pitch to the Sharks.

I was equal parts excited and exhausted from the whole casting process. I felt well prepared and ready for the challenge.

I’m sure the actual presentation was pretty nerve wracking. What did you do to calm and steel yourself to do such a great job on the show?

As I was preparing for the show, I told a good friend of mine how nervous I was to make my Shark Tank pitch. She replied, “God has walked this path before you. He already knows the outcome. He has led you here. Trust in Him.” That really calmed so many of my nerves because it gave a unique perspective on what I was about to face and it somehow made everything I was worrying about seem so superficial. It made all of the fears I’ve had my whole life seem silly. I made it a point to face so many fears in the weeks and days before making our pitch on Shark Tank and it was so liberating. I knew if I could conquer those fears, I could do anything.

So what was the outcome of your Shark Tank pitch. Were you pleased with the outcome?

I walked in with the goal of getting a partnership deal with one of the shark investors and was successful in getting a deal with Lori Greiner. I was thrilled to have the opportunity and even more thrilled that all of the sharks loved our flavors.

What are your “5 Important Business Lessons I Learned While Being On Shark Tank”? (Please share a story or example for each.)

1. Have passion for your business. When I was in the tank, there was a moment I felt like I was fighting for my business like my life depended on it. It was at that moment that I realized that no one will ever care about your business as much as you do. You’re going to spend a large portion of your life working hard for your business, so be sure it’s something worth fighting for. Be sure it’s something that you love doing, something that you’re passionate about growing.

2. Know your business and your numbers. You should know your business better than anyone. I still study our numbers before every buyer meeting to know how much I can negotiate or need to budget in promotional spending. If you don’t know your numbers, you will not only fail on Shark Tank but also in business.

3. Prepare and practice your pitch. I recited our Shark Tank pitch so much before filming the show, even my 6-year-old daughter could say it by heart, she heard it so much. Now it’s the pitch to retail customers that I find myself constantly practicing and perfecting. Whatever you are selling, know your elevator speech like the back of your hand. And if you don’t know how to sell, learn to because you’re not going to grow a successful business without sales.

4. Investors buy into people as much as ideas. People are drawn to authenticity so be your authentic self. The Sharks want to invest in entrepreneurs they can trust. They are looking for a passionate, likeable entrepreneur who is honest about their business and sales.

5. Your odds are as good as anyone’s. When we first opened our doors at The Frozen Farmer, customers had been telling us, “You’ve got to pitch your business to Shark Tank because this is the kind of thing they would love.” A farmer’s wife from a small town, I just kept dismissing the idea every time because it seemed like some crazy dream that we’d ever even be considered to be cast. But this was something we kept hearing over and over again — from our customers, our state senator, every time we turned around someone was suggesting we pitch our business to Shark Tank. It wasn’t until a buyer from a major retail chain mentioned it again that I finally decided to attend a casting call.

What advice would you give to other leaders to help their team to thrive and avoid burnout?

Set and maintain realistic expectations in the workplace. Setting achievable goals helps a team stay on task and focused.

Show appreciation. That can be something as simple as just verbally recognizing that someone is trying to contribute to the betterment of your business. Or treat them to lunch as a way to show thanks. It doesn’t have to be in a big way, but we all like to know that our hard work is recognized so sometimes a simple “thank you,” goes a long way.

Empower your team to regulate their own workloads by offering flexible work schedules. We are all human and juggling more things than just a job or running a business. Flexibility can offer an employee the time and space to address their personal needs and show up to the workplace 100% dedicated to focusing on the job at hand, without worrying about the personal things they have already been able to take care of.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

We have three daughters and we are big fan of Cinderella. In the movie, Cinderella’s mom tells her to “have courage and be kind.” This is something we talk about every morning when taking our kids to school. How can they have courage and be kind? It’s also something we like to talk about at the dinner table each night. How have they spread kindness in their day? If I could inspire a movement, it would be that we each have courage and be kind to others, always. You never know what someone else is going through so go out of your way to be kind. And may we talk about that kindness more often. Teach it to our children so that they value people and relationships over things. So that they know the true worth of spreading a smile, of passing along a kind gesture and so that they always have courage in their heart to do the right thing.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

The quote “if it was easy, everybody would do it,” is relevant to my life and something I hold with me every day because growing a business is hard. Being a mom is hard. Running a farm is hard. It’s none easy, but it’s worth it and that’s what keeps me going.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them :-)

I’d love to have a private breakfast or lunch with Bethenny Frankel. I’d like to tell her that she’s one of the reasons I finally got the courage to pitch The Frozen Farmer to Shark Tank. I submitted a Cameo request for her to send us a congrats video on landing full chain placement in Giant Food back in 2019 and she instead encouraged me to audition for Shark Tank. It was literally the last push I needed to get the courage and attend a casting call. I respect her so much for building the empire that she’s built — especially in the food space. I really love to show her words of encouragement affected our small, family business which is now a national brand on the shelves of more than 8,000 retail locations nationwide.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!



Edward Sylvan CEO of Sycamore Entertainment Group
Authority Magazine

Edward Sylvan is the Founder and CEO of Sycamore Entertainment Group Inc. He is committed to telling stories that speak to equity, diversity, and inclusion.