By Jolene Ketzenberger
It’s been an interesting year for Indy resident Tekisha Collins — to say the least. Last summer, she appeared on the reality show “Supermarket Superstar,” progressed through the competition and actually won the grand prize. Her frozen treat, called the Smoogy, was to be developed and sold in supermarkets.
But it hasn’t worked out as easy as that. I caught up with Tekisha recently, and she talked about the reality of winning the program, the challenges of being an entrepreneur and where she sees Smoogy going next.
So how did it all start?
When I initially started Smoogy, I was laid off from my job in corporate America. I was at my company 7 ½ years, and they had a massive layoff. With a lot of things that people start, it’s because something dramatic happens, the loss of a job or you really feel that gumption to become an entrepreneur. So I would always make Smoogys for parties, or people would say can you bring some for this or for that. So that’s how it initially started.
Describe the Smoogy — what’s it like?
In short, what I have done is taken two of your favorite desserts – cheesecake and a cookie – and froze it.
How did you come up with the name?
My son named the cookie. He was 2, and he came up with the name, because at first it didn’t have a name. We just said, “Hey, can you make some cookie thingies.” So, okay, they were called the cookie thingies. But he came up with the name and the name stuck.
How did you try out for “Supermarket Superstar?”
Once I saw casting for the show, I thought it was my ultimate shot, my big moment. I went to Chicago, and I auditioned for it, and I made it through the first two or three rounds. And then a few months passed, and I got the call that I had actually been cast. I thought definitely it was a dream come true. But you never know how these things work out, and experience can be your very best teacher. I learned that reality TV is not reality.
You won the grand prize, but what happened next?
Since winning “Supermarket Superstar” with my product, Smoogy did make it into grocery stores on the eastern seaboard, in A& P. And I’ve had requests from people in Dubai, Indonesia, Australia, China. I have people all over the world requesting how can I get Smoogy to their market. People want the product, but one of the problems that I’m having is that it was just in A&P. So since the show, I’m actually out of my contract, so right now we’re looking at ways to get the product to other markets. I’m in in search of the perfect co-packer who can actually take my homemade recipe and get it as close as possible so it can be mass produced. The product that A&P put out? Let’s just say it was not what I was expecting.
After I won “Supermarket Superstar,” one of the obligations A&P had with me is I was supposed to go through the manufacturing process. I was supposed to see the recipe be taken from homemade to mass production and just see how the facility works, but none of that ever happened. I didn’t find out what my actual product was until I did a New York tour of the A&P stores. I went to a couple of states and actually saw the product, and that’s how I found out. A lot of things that went into the product, I had no knowledge of. So I was a little salty about that. I felt like as the winner of the show and that being my product, I should have known the process.
So what comes next?
I’m the process of severing my relationship with A&P, and I’m on my own looking for a national distributor and a co-packer. That way I can get the actual real Smoogy product to the consumers who’ve emailed and contacted me. Again, it’s still a challenge. It’s a big challenge, but if you want to succeed, going through these obstacles and challenges is a part of it. So now I’m in the battle of it all.
What are some of the challenges?
Definitely working a full-time job and trying to build a successful business and still have a family…some days I don’t know if I’m coming or going. I’m just struggling. I’m looking for funding. I’m trying to get these business loans. People say, “Oh you can go get money here.” Or “You should be easy. You’re black. You’re a minority. You should be able to get it.” Yeah, it don’t work like that. It’s a struggle. People think it’s so easy and so glamorous. “Oh, you were on TV. You should be rich.” Oh, please. I work from 8 to 5. One thing I definitely learned is it’s not about me – it’s about the show. Lesson learned.
Are there misconceptions about winning one of these reality shows?
At the moment the show was over, the misconception that you’ve made it is out there, and it’s so not true. There are still obstacles. There’s still red tape that you have to go through. There’s purple tape, there’s green tape, magenta tape, black tape, white tape. It’s just taped all up, and you have to find the right box cutter or the right path to get through all the tape that’s involved. It’s definitely challenging. It’s not impossible, but the challenges are definitely there.
But you do have a quality product. I know because I sampled one last year when the program aired!
I definitely know I have a good product. The product can definitely stand out on its own. It’s just getting the product to the right mouth. Like Oprah. “Hey Oprah. Call me, girl!”
Where do you see Smoogy going next?
The aspirations for Smoogy are really high. I would really like to see Smoogy at the zoo, the amusement park. If you go to Holiday World, I want you to be able to walk up and get a Smoogy like you’d get anything else. If you go to a Pacers game or a Colts game or any other venue, I want you to be able to get a Smoogy. If you can buy a hot dog at an event, you can buy a Smoogy.
And you have fans who want them, right?
Oh my gosh, I get hundreds of emails daily still. It’s just amazing, the response. It’s an everyday thing. I love it, but I just hate that I’m not able to get it to my people right now. But I thank them for their support and their interest in the product and I just keep telling them, hold on, stay tuned. It’s coming.