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From Shark Tank to Food Truck.

Featured Article

Reinventing the Bagel Wheel

The Story of Bantam Bagels

Living this close to NYC, everyone has an opinion about where to get the best, most authentic bagel. I like mine with a shmear of vegetable cream cheese, my best friend likes hers scooped out and toasted. Whatever our personal preference is, we can spot a quality bagel from the very first bite. That same authenticity, mixed with a generous amount of enthusiasm, describes Elyse and Nick Oleksak.

The Oleksaks are the founders of Bantam Bagels, a doughnut-hole sized bagel filled with cream cheese that you can find at their shop in NYC, Starbucks and your local grocery store’s freezer section. When you ask them how they came up with the idea, they’ll tell you “it was all a dream”. 

Nick and Elyse met at Columbia where they were both competitive student athletes. After graduating they both took jobs on Wall Street. They began watching Shark Tank together as a Friday night relaxation ritual. Like many couples, they dreamed of making their own pitch to the sharks one day. 

Nick came up with ideas and Elyse did the research to see if it existed already. Some ideas were taken, others required Elyse to tell her husband he was insane. One night Nick had a dream about a bite sized bagel. When he woke up he immediately told Elyse about the idea. She thought it was so crazy that it just might work! After extensive research they realized nothing like it existed. So they got to work.

Neither had a background in baking or starting a business so they Googled “how to make a bagel”. They experimented with different recipes daily, letting it proof overnight in the laundry room of their building. 

Nick woke up early to boil and bake the bagels, leaving them for Elyse to taste. Finally, after countless attempts and tastings with friends and family, they landed on the perfect recipe. In Elyse’s words, “When you’re an entrepreneur and you find your idea, there is no rhyme or reason. You just believe in it with everything you have.” With the recipe in hand, they filed their provisional patents, put together a business plan and found the perfect Bleecker Street location to open up a NYC shop. During this time of hustle, Elyse also learned she was pregnant with the couple’s first child.

The discerning NYC crowd loved their shop and a few weeks later they got a call from QVC asking if they could produce 30,000 bagels to package and sell on air. The couple’s philosophy since day one has been, “Say yes and make it happen.” Even though they had never fulfilled an order of this magnitude, they accepted. Once the initial excitement faded, panic set in. 

Elyse and Nick shut down their shop and began baking full time in order to meet the QVC order. Just when they thought they had completed the order and achieved the impossible, they realized they had not added the required nutrition facts to the packages of bagels, now frozen and waiting to be shipped.

The Oleksaks donned full body snowsuits and stepped into the freezer. They had to repackage 30,000 bagels. They made their deadline by the skin of their teeth and went live on QVC. They sold out within five minutes. 

The bagels were a huge hit with the public and the media. The New York Daily news named them one of the top three bagels in NY. They were featured on The Chew, the Today Show and they even landed on Oprah’s Favorite Thing’s list. 

Not long after this success the couple got the chance they had been waiting for: a spot on Shark Tank. “A lot of people go on Shark Tank but they don’t make the most of it. We knew this was our shot. We went in knowing who we wanted to get a deal with and developed our business in preparation for that deal.”  

While running a business and six months pregnant, the couple worked hard to prepare. “We studied harder than we have ever studied for anything else in our lives.”  All of their preparation paid off and they struck a deal with their favorite shark, Lori Greiner.

Once they got the Shark Tank deal, Nick and Elyse prepared their website and inventory for when their show would air on ABC. Despite their efforts, the demand for Bantam Bagels was so high that it crashed their website and orders couldn’t be placed. Again, quitting never occurred to them and they decided the most important thing for them was engaging with their prospective customers. They reached out to everyone who had tried to make an order, bringing people back to the site with honesty and enthusiasm. When the site went back online the orders rolled in.

The morning after the show aired one of their employees called them into the shop.“You need to get down here immediately. There is a line down 6th avenue.” The response from the public was amazing and the couple stayed busy keeping up with the overwhelming demand. 

The Shark Tank deal made Bantam Bagels a household name. With Lori Greiner’s help they were able to partner with Starbucks and national grocery chains. The Oleksaks are now the proud parents of two boys and reside in Westport. They eat bagels every morning.

  • In front of their NYC Bleecker Street bagel shop.
  • From Shark Tank to Food Truck.
  • With "shark" and business partner, Lori Greiner after wrapping up a deal with Starbucks.
  • Bantam Bagels Grocery Frozen Mini Stuffed Bagels.