Book Synopsis

From co-founder Elyse Oleksak, discover how Bantam Bagels, the company featured on ABC’s Shark Tank, the Today Show, and Oprah’s Favorite Things, was built! A gut-wrenching, relatable, inspirational memoir offering lessons in how to start, market and grow a business in today’s America.

Elyse and her husband and business partner, Nick, seemingly have done it all. Together, they faced the notorious Sharks of ABC’s Shark Tank, sold tens of thousands of bagels on live TV in mere minutes, invented multiple successful lines of frozen breakfast items, and built their company into a recognized national brand.

But they have also faced challenge. In pursuit of their dream, Elyse and Nick spent seven days a week, 24 hours a day, bustling through financial struggles, rejections, pregnancies, births, miscarriages, crisscrossing the country, fighting tooth and nail for the survival of their company. And nearly every time they made a step towards success it was coupled by an equally sized calamity or failure.

Through candor, humor, and raw emotion, Elyse shares her story of pursuing the American Dream. It is the story of the highs, the lows and the sacrifices required to achieve success. Through Elyse’s memoir, you will learn about the vital roles of relationships, hard work, risk, and adaptation when starting a business, and that ultimately failure isn’t the end for an entrepreneur – rather it’s the fuel that keeps the machine churning.

CHAPTER ONE: A Shark Ate My Bagel, How We Built Bantam Bagels

“Hi Sharks, I’m Nick Oleksak and this is my wife and business partner, Elyse.” Nick begins. “We are the owners and creators of Bantam Bagels in New York City, and we’re on a mission to…”

“CHANGE THE WAY YOU BAGEL!” we declare together.

“We are here asking for $275,000 in exchange for an 11% equity stake in our company,” Nick continues.

What feels like mere moments earlier, two alarms blare simultaneously and I wake up next to Nick with the jolt of four espressos. It’s the summer of 2014. 3:00 a.m. in LA but 6:00 a.m. to our New York bodies. Today is shoot-day. Shark Tank shoot-day to be precise. Everything we’ve ever worked for has led to this moment. One make-or-break moment. One more step, one more challenge that will either propel or strangle our dreams. The risk is enormous. The reward, equally daunting. The pressure of what lies ahead sends pulses of anxiety, compressing my chest and lungs. My heart hammers behind my ribcage, echoing audibly in our sensory-free hotel room. One queen bed, a night stand, a TV, two unopened suitcases and two small side tables covered in papers, computers and sticky notes. Tornados of adrenaline twist violently in my rounded belly, knocking my growing baby awake, compelling him to kick back in frustration.

“We are going to be ok,” Nick declares, grabbing both of my shoulders and looking squarely into my eyes. His words are all that I need. A peaceful serenity hits the room and my body stops trying to fight. My heart quiets. We prepare ourselves deliberately and silently, yet somehow still find ourselves scrambling at the last minute to rush out the door.

“Let’s go! Our call time is in 20 minutes!” Nick urges me along. We meet the rest of the pitching entrepreneurs in the hotel lobby, all of us waiting for our shared ride to the studio.

Upon arrival at the ABC lot, Hollywood vibes ooze out of the studio streets and buildings. Signs for “Sharks” point in one direction, “Production” in another, and a third sign with “Entrepreneurs” leads straight ahead.

“Do you think Mark and Lori are all in there?” I whisper way too loudly to Nick, star struck by the prospect of being in the same vicinity of the famous cast member “Sharks” of Shark Tank: Mark Cuban, the Billionaire entrepreneur and owner of the Dallas Mavericks, and Lori Greiner, inventor of hundreds of successful products and the acclaimed “Queen of QVC.”

All of us entrepreneurs disembark and split into individual Hollywood-style trailers.

“So, this is it,” I say to Nick, shutting the trailer door, looking around the beige inside of this glamorous box on wheels.

“I’m so ready,” He chimes in, “Are you ready?”

“I’m SO F-ING READY!” I shout as we hug, fist pump and nod like we’re about to run through the tunnel for the Superbowl.

And then, a knock on the door.

We are slated as the second pitch of the day so are called immediately for makeup, hair, and to mic up. 30 minutes quickly flash by and we find ourselves standing at the end of a long hallway – THE HALLWAY – looking down to the end of the blue, aquarium tunnel where the Sharks themselves are sitting famously perched on boardroom type chairs, notebooks on laps.

Nick and I exhale, we look at each other. I wipe my sweaty palms on the back of my pants. I hike my extra-large pregnant lady elastic waisted pants up as high as they’ll go and carefully fold the only shirt that fits me right now over the band.

Wearing a startled, exasperated expression, a producer comes rushing towards us. “Nick, you can’t wear that! Do you have another shirt? That pattern won’t work on TV!”

Before Nick or I know what’s happening, four people are tugging at Nick’s shirt and mic, a Production Assistant driving a golfcart speeds over and proclaims in a showman’s fervor, “I’ll grab your backup shirt!” Within moments, four producers tug, twist and eventually settle him into a new, approved wardrobe. Ditching the striped button-down we had picked out weeks ago. Nick exhales audibly. I can see his hands tremble as he adjusts the new shirt cuffs.

“Good luck guys – it’s go-time,” a producer says, winks at us and nudges us on our way.

I welcome back the electrifying adrenaline. We clutch each other’s hands and start the walk. I had imagined I would project much hipper than I am, but with a swinging belly and waddling legs, there’s only so much cool I can emit right now. I keep my eyes fixed on the Sharks at the end of the hallway as we pass swimming shark graphics, the famous entry music all-surrounding. Warmth from hundreds of lights hit our skin. Nick’s hand keeps me stable. Suddenly a gigantic, can’t-believe-this-is-actually-real-life smile takes over my face.

We pause on our marks at the end of the hallway, met by silence. Five Sharks stare at us. Mark looks down at his clipboard and whispers our names out loud. Nick and I lock in our gaze back at the Sharks. My face occupied by this clownish smile. I can’t lose the smile! Barbara perches forward in her chair, maintaining eye contact with me. It’s super awkward, I’m aware. But this is too incredible. We are here! My name was just whispered by a SHARK! (They truly have no idea who we are, I marvel). Nick and I release hands. My nerves disappear into the moment.

Nearly 40 of the happiest, uncomfortable, slowest moving seconds pass. Elated to be here. Uncomfortable to be staring in silence at some of the most famous business tycoons in America. Seconds pass in slow motion as I become aware of every whisper of air that flows past my face, each blink, each shift in weight from my left leg to my right. The surrounding bright lights of the set practically serve as blinders, prohibiting us from being able to see anything but each other and the Sharks. Cameras zoom above and to the sides of us before landing in their spots.

A voice from the dark and somewhere outside my tunnel vision, breaks the silence: “OK, we are in position. Quiet on the set. Good to go in 5, 4, 3, 2, – ACTION!”

I wave. Nick begins, we repeat our pitch enthusiastically, I think. My brain is so keyed into the moment, it all pours out of my mouth in a robotic exuberance…

NICK: “Hi Sharks, I’m Nick Oleksak and this is my wife and business partner, Elyse. We are the owners and creators of Bantam Bagels in New York City, and we’re on a mission to…”


NICK: “We are here asking for $275,000 in exchange for 11% equity stake in our company.”

ELYSE: “As Columbia University graduates, we have lived in NYC for over 10 years now, so it’s fair to say that we LOVE a good New York bagel. But those huge doughy high calorie monsters are such a commitment, and we find ourselves fighting the same battle…to bagel or NOT to bagel.”

NICK: “About two years ago I had a dream that woke me up in the middle of the night. It was a vision of something revolutionary: MINI … BAGEL BALLS … FILLED WITH CREAM CHEESE!”

He gets a laugh from the Sharks here. Phew.

ELYSE: “We knew that if we started with an authentic, New York style bagel and finished with high quality unique cream cheeses, that Bantam Bagels would be more than just another flash in the pan food fad. We are now ready to take our one-of-a-kind bagels from coast to coast.”

ELYSE: “So Sharks, we ask you…”

TOGETHER: “Are you ready to change the way you bagel?”

I look up to see genuine smiles and engagement. We hand out samples – the Sharks LOVE them! We confront questions without a pause for breath in between. There is no question we cannot answer. Each moment passes like a strobe light. Nick and I are on pure autopilot. It’s happening and then it’s over and all of a sudden, my mouth is dry, my cheeks hurt from smiling, my back aches and I realize that the Sharks are GIVING US OFFERS!

The discussion is cut off by Kevin O’Leary, better known as Mr. Wonderful, giving us an offer of 51% of our business for the $275,000 we asked for.

“I’ll offer 275,000 for 30%,” Lori chimes in.

YIKES, I think, that’s a lot more than the 11% we had been willing to give up! 

As they’re cutting each other off, Barbara Corcoran, well known real estate mogul, interjects with an offer. She wants 50% equity for the $275,000 investment.

The Sharks lean forward and turn to one another, diving into their famous banter, allowing us a gift: four complete seconds to think. A lifetime in the Shark Tank!

Three offers – is this real?

I look at Barbara and the words somehow tumble out of my mouth: “Would you be interested in 25%?”

“I’ll give you a third,” she quips back.

“I would,” Lori swoops in, “if you decide right now to go with me.”

I hit Nick, a wifely reflex. We don’t even exchange a look; our thoughts are in sync – this is HAPPENING.

The two of us declare in tandem:

“You have a deal.”

what happened to Bantam Bagels?

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