Agricultural economics student cuts a deal in the 'Shark Tank'

September 30, 2009 Jennifer Stewart

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - When Sawyer Sparks, a senior in the Purdue University College of Agriculture, walked onto the set of ABC's hit show, "Shark Tank," he had no idea he'd be walking away with three new business partners and a $300,000 investment in his company.

Sparks, the creator of Soy-Yer Dough, a gluten-free modeling compound, was one of the entrepreneurs selected this season to pitch his product and business plan to five self-made millionaires and potential investors, also known as the "sharks."

"I came into the show with two sharks I thought would love my product—Barbara Corcoran and Kevin Harrington," said Sparks, who studies agricultural economics. "However, I learned very quickly that they were not interested. I was able to work with the other three sharks, Kevin O'Leary, Robert Herjavec and Daymond John, to sell a 51 percent share of Soy-Yer Dough for $300,000."

While Sparks walked into the show confident in his product, he never dreamed he'd end up being a business partner to three of the five sharks.

"I think my face said it all when Daymond and Robert decided to join Kevin as my business partners," Sparks said. "I couldn't have asked for a better partner in any one of them, but with all three of them backing my business, Soy-Yer Dough is sure to succeed."

With the $300,000 in investment money, Sparks is buying a licensing deal that will create jobs in his hometown, Bloomfield, Ind.

"The whole reason I wanted to participate in 'Shark Tank' was to get enough funding to create jobs in my community. That excites me more than being on a television show," he said. "Creating jobs has been a goal of mine for a long time. I want to be able to boost the economy during these hard times."

Sparks and his newfound business partners are now in the process of signing a deed to a manufacturing facility in Greene County, where Soy-Yer Dough can be mass-produced. Once the process is complete, Sparks will hire 10-15 full-time employees.

Soy-Yer Dough was created as a part of Sparks' participation in Purdue's Burton-Morgan Entrepreneurship Program. The modeling compound already is available to the public to purchase at $2 a unit at

"Shark Tank" airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. EST on the ABC Television Network. For more information on "Shark Tank," visit

Writer: Jennifer Stewart, 765-494-6682,

Source: Sawyer Sparks, 812-384-5350,,

Ag Communications: (765) 494-8415;
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