April 01, 2023
When Delaware County natives Peter and Stuart Shapiro pitched their Bleni Blends smoothie vending machines on an episode of ABC's "Shark Tank,"that aired Friday, the brothers wanted to sell 6% of their company for a $250,000 investment.
With the risks and work involved in operating vending machines that prepare on-demand smoothies, no sharks were willing to put up that money for such a low stake in the company.
However, Lori Greiner and Daniel Lubetzky were willing to team up with the Shapiro brothers for a 35% stake in the company.
After a bit of back and forth between the brothers, who initially did not intend to give up that much stake in their company, the Shapiros reached a deal with the sharks. Bleni Blends received a $250,000 investment plus an additional $500,000 line of credit for a 35% company stake in Greiner and Lubetzky.
“Do we want to own 100% of this grape or 10% of this huge watermelon?" Peter said when asked about the decision to take the investment deal. “If they can take us to that huge watermelon stage very quickly, putting a [capped] number on it would be crazy," he added.
Lubetzky, who is the CEO of Kind, said that after spending a summer in Japan as a college student, he was amazed at the amount of automation the country had while also wondering why machines like the one Bleni Blends operates were not prevalent in the U.S.
"Peter and Stuart are the real deal. They're amazing people who are working incredibly hard and have a bright future ahead. I'm looking forward to helping them win," he tweeted after the episode aired.
Founded in 2019, Bleni Blends offers smoothies with strawberries, bananas, mangos, pineapples, spinach, berries, coffee, and chocolate in 16-oz cups in a 12-square-foot blending kiosk for around $5.50. The machines are cashless and accept credit, debit cards, Apple Pay, Google Wallet, and some college campus cards as payment.
Headquartered in Havertown, the company has 17 vending machines in the Greater Philadelphia area, primarily in healthcare facilities. Bleni Blends currently has 55 vending machines in 14 states and one in Canada. The Shapiro brothers want to expand to 100 machines by the end of the year, according to Philadelphia Business Journal.
Bleni Blends is also working with Robo Cafe on a pilot program and had a machine placed in a Walmart store, Stephanie Jerome a spokesperson for Bleni Blends said.
This story has been updated to reflect that Bleni Blends' partnership is with Robo Cafe and not with Walmart.