As someone who has spent part of his childhood working with bees, 16-year-old Henry Miller is used to handling mercurial personalities. He now has a chance to test those skills on national television.
Miller, who operates Henry's Humdingers, will be on the next episode of ABC's "Shark Tank," which airs at 9 p.m. Friday, March 14.
Known for its drama, the popular show features a panel of ultra-rich investors who listen and comment on pitches from business owners seeking an investment in their company. The panelists include Mark Cuban, owner of NBA's Dallas Mavericks, and Lori Grenier, who is known for her work on the QVC television network.
Miller, whose family has a farm on Mosquito Lake Road near Deming, has the kind of product the sharks might want to invest in. A jar of Henry's Humdingers combines raw honey with a variety of spices, creating a blend that can be used in different ways. It could be used as a condiment or as that "special ingredient" that adds a bit of zing to a recipe, Miller said.
"The problem is people don't know what to do with it," he said. "So I thought the people at 'Shark Tank' could help me."
The business got its start when Miller was 11 and he heard from a beekeeper about the colony collapse disorder, in which worker bees abruptly disappear. He asked his parents for a beehive for his birthday to try to make a difference.
The honey began to pile up, so he started selling it to raise money to donate to The Foundation for the Preservation of Honey Bees. He then got the idea to add spices, and things took off from there.
"I thought it was good, but had no idea that it would turn into something like this," said Denise Miller, Henry's mother.
Henry was able to start getting his product into stores, starting at Everybody's Store in Van Zandt.
"It's a very innovative product, and this was a good place to test the product," said Jeff Margolis, owner of Everybody's Store. "He's a very ambitious young man."
The company has four blends with fun names to catch a customer's eye. Grumpy Grampa has red pepper and garlic in the honey; Naughty Nan has a spicy ginger mixture; Phoebe's Fireball has chipotle and cinnamon; and Diabolical Dad features habanero and lime.
The business was popular at trade shows, drawing the interest of stores like Wegmans, a regional supermarket chain in the Northeast. That led to spurts of production. At one point the company, which has a facility in Skagit County, had to make more than 10,000 jars in four days.
"It was crazy, as we (Henry, Denise and Henry's dad, Tom Roberts) put together all these jars," Denise Miller said, adding that they had to hire extra help to get the job done.
Getting on "Shark Tank" was a long process involving plenty of application work and video, Henry Miller said. He was told about 35,000 people apply every season, and each step of the way he was told a lot of people wouldn't make the cut.
"It was crazy that we were able to get on," he said.
While Henry Miller can't say what happened when he made it on the show, he did say he wasn't nervous and that he was in the room with the potential investors for about an hour.
His mother, on the other hand, was more nervous while waiting for Henry to go into the "Shark Tank" room.
"It drove me crazy; he was staying so calm while we were losing our minds," she said with a laugh.
WATCH THE SHOW WITH HENRY
Henry Miller plans to hold a viewing party from 8 to 10 p.m. Friday, March 14, at Extremes Sports Grill & Pizzeria, 4156 Meridian St., Bellingham. The show "Shark Tank" starts at 9 p.m. on ABC.