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Cinnaholic Says Cinnamon Buns Are the Next Cupcakes, And 'Shark Tank' Agrees

The founders of Cinnaholic want to make their customizable cinnamon rolls a national brand. Here's how they snagged $200,000 on 'Shank Tank.'
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Chains like Sprinkles and Crumbs have made the cupcake a national staple. Now, a company called Cinnaholic wants to work the same magic – but with gourmet, over-the-top cinnamon buns.

Founded in 2010 by Florian and Shannon Radke in Berkeley, Calif., Cinnaholic is aiming to become the first large-scale, customizable cinnamon roll franchise. Think of it as Cinnabon, but with way more options.

While Cinnaholic has only one location, the shop's recent appearance on Shark Tank hinted that expansion and increased online business are in the brand's future. In an episode that aired last Friday, the Radkes negotiated a $200,000 investment for 40 percent of the company from Robert Herjavec.

Florian Radke had never heard of Shark Tank until the show's third season. Then, he caught an episode of the show on the television in the gym. Immediately, he told his wife and business partner, Shannon, "We should be on this."

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At that point, Cinnaholic was three years old. The business was dedicated to becoming what Radke calls "the Coldstone of cinnamon buns" – a purveyor of handmade, completely customizable treats with 30 frosting options and another 30 topping choices, from cookie dough to fresh fruit.

"Everyone was doing cupcakes, and we just didn't want to compete in that market," says Radke. "We are number one in the niche we created." 

The company also cashed in on another growing market as a 100-percent vegan business. Both of the Radkes are vegans for ethical reasons. However, both animal-rights advocates and individuals with allergies have been flocking to Cinnaholic. And, according to Radke, both markets are only going to get bigger in the coming years.

Cinnaholic, which sets itself apart from the cutesy cupcake market with its bold black-and-white store design, announced that it would begin franchising a little over one month ago. The company has already received over 100 serious requests from potential franchisees. Radke expects that number to skyrocket after last Friday's Shark Tank episode.

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The Shark Tank effect tends to translate into immediate spike in popularity for businesses featured on the show – especially those the sharks take a liking to.

"I hope we don't run out of ingredients," says Radke, who has been stocking up and bringing on extra employees in preparation for a potential 150-percent jump in sales. "I expect there will be a day we'll have to shut down and regroup."

Even when the immediate post-Shark Tank buzz dies down, Radke believes that Cinnaholic sales will only rise. And, as the company franchises, soon grabbing a Cinnaholic cinnamon bun may be as common as a celebratory cupcake. 

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