It had been a dream of entrepreneur Kristen Dunning’s to appear on “Shark Tank.”
During the Season 15 premiere of the ABC TV show on Sept. 29, 2023, the MBA student pitched her business Gently Soap. Dunning had launched the company in 2020 to create a natural remedy that could compete with commercial brands to offer gentle cleansing for those with sensitive skin or other skin conditions.
Since the age of 4, she herself had dealt with severe scalp eczema that was described as mimicking the resemblance of a “baby alligator,” according to the company website. Dunning was told that creams and steroid shots would provide relief, however, she still experienced great discomfort.
“Growing up, Kristen dealt with it all: burning, peeling, itching, breakouts, flare-ups, you name. Trying everything on the market for ezcema and sensitive skin and receiving little to no results, she developed an interest in herbalism and DIY natural remedies,” the company website reads.
In 2018, she turned her pain into purpose while a student at The University of Georgia (UGA). She led a project that developed research to find botanical solutions. One year later, her first soap recipe was created and she worked to continue to improve her product until launching to market in 2020.
So far in 2023, she has sold $113,000 worth of products, per UGA’s Terry College of Business.
Kristen Dunning has gained a slew of support including securing The University of Georgia Venture Prize ($10,000), Collegiate Great Brands by Consensus ($25,000), and Essence and Aveeno’s Skin Health Startup award ($100,00), as well as becoming a finalist for the Black Ambition entrepreneurship prize.
The good news continue to ring in for Dunning as she landed a deal on “Shark Tank.” She accepted a counter offer from Candace Nelson, which included a $75,000 investment in exchange for a 25% stake in the company.
“I remember saying to my parents that I wanted someone who I could call up at anytime and ask questions to and someone who would champion all the things that matter to me about Gently Soap. Did y’all see that @candacenelson said literally those exact words in the tank? Did y’all see how she fought for me and made it clear that she understood the brands positioning and the direction? I knew as soon as she said that she understood passionate entrepreneurs and said verbatim that I could call her anytime – that she was my Shark 🦈 and I’m ecstatic to say that she is exactly who she said she was,” Dunning expressed on Instagram.
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What’s more, the “Shark Tank” deal has paved the way for Gently Soap to land its first high-end beauty retail partnership with e-retailer Thirteen Lune.
Dunning said, “With their help – Gently launched @thirteenlune and can now be found on their website and at their Flagship location. This is our first partnership with a high end beauty retailer and I can’t wait to fly to LA to see my soap sitting on a BEAUTY shelf ahhhhh.”