Kanga Coolers, from Shark Tank to Mr. Beast with lots of hard work and a little luck

Kanga Cooler impresses the Sharks

Kanga Coolers came to fame when featured on Shark Tank season 10 (2019) and they’ve recently risen in notoriety after a featured ad on Mr. Beast’s YouTube channel. Their signature product is the Kase Mate which wraps around a cold case of your favorite beverage but they’ve diversified their products with different sizes and a bookbag cooler. With a team of over 40, this college dream has turned itself into a multi-million dollar company with lots of hard work, great mentorship, and a little bit of luck.

What’s the real story?

What you saw on Shark Tank, for the most part, is the “real story” behind Kanga Coolers. Logan LaMance had a wild idea for a class project, recruiting partners who would eventually become the founding members of Kanga Coolers. Among them, Ryan Frazier stayed on board, while Austin Maxwell and Teddy Giard, of backflip fame, hopped in later. (Get it? Hop…)

Their flagship product, the Kase Mate, was conceived during this project – a koozie-style cooler wrap for your favorite drinks. What started as a college experiment soon turned into a full-fledged business. It wasn’t all smooth sailing.

How did this concept of a cardboard wraparound cooler get off the ground? Logan got right to work developing strong relationships to find manufacturing partners and did a test run of the product here in Greenville, SC. They sourced their materials from a supplier in Alabama and produced the first coolers at Carolina Manufacturing in Greenville, the only bandanna manufacturer in the US and the official producer of Willie Nelson’s bandannas. And, that my friends, is how Kanga Coolers and Willie Nelson are connected – someone send Willy a cooler and merch!

Kanga put out 200 custom-sewn coolers at Clemson and they sold out quickly. They also won a Pitch Smackdown competition for students through the Spiro Institute (now Clemson Launchpad) winning $8,000. They thought they were rich! Each founder, to date, has only invested $833 of their own money so 8k helped but they noticed quickly that it wasn’t much when starting a product company. After some additional investment, Kanga Coolers decided to launch a 60-day Kickstarter campaign in 2018. On day 30 of the campaign, Logan went to a class talk at Clemson featuring a Shark Tank alum, Daisy Cakes. Logan spoke to the owner after class and mentioned his dream to be on Shark Tank. She told him “You’ll never feel like you’re ready. Just go for it.” The guys skipped a final exam to go (don’t tell Mom), auditioning the day their Kickstarter campaign closed. 

In 2018, Logan, Teddy, and Ryan filmed an episode that aired in April 2019, marking a big moment for their startup journey. Despite some hiccups in cooler production, they miraculously got everything ready just in time—a stroke of luck that seemed to be a theme in their story.

Logan remembers the hustle during the time after the show aired—shipping boxes from his parent’s garage, loading Uhaul trucks with help from neighbors, and making sure deliveries reached the post office on time. The journey had its ups and downs, but Kanga’s ability to roll with the punches and adapt shines through.

From Covid to Shopify to…Mr. Beast?

After Shark Tank, Kanga got a lot of attention, but it came and went quickly. They were into selling promotional items to companies like Anheuser Busch, but when Covid hit in 2020, that market dried up. Facing the need to adapt, they shifted their focus to e-commerce, diving into Facebook ads and digital marketing, a previously untapped market. Kanga had to figure out a whole new customer acquisition strategy. Logan remembers having to pivot, “How do we show our product to potential customers in a way that will resonate and create an impulse buy online? Who are our customers; why do they want to purchase? It was a lot of trial and error, YouTube, podcasts, and duplicating what stuck.”

kanga coolers, mr. beast youtube
Logan LaMance & Austin Maxwell

Part of this focus on e-commerce led Kanga to Shopify, an e-commerce platform for their website. Shopify and is one of Mr Beast’s sponsors. Who is Mr. Beast? Only the most viewed YouTube channel in the world with 216 million followers. Shopify decided to feature one of its clients through a social media contest. And get this, all you had to do was comment to enter. One single comment. Austin saw the post, was quick to comment with a short elevator pitch, and they were selected. Now, that is a lucky break and some incredible ROI. They got a shout-out during the “$10,000 Every Day You Survive in a Grocery Store” video on the Mr. Beast YouTube channel and had over 80 million views in just a few days. See Kanga’s reaction to the press. (Check out Clemson’s take on the news.)

This ad was the single biggest moment of exposure in the company’s history, about 10x the exposure of Shark Tank. But, this time they had experience and warning to make sure they were ready for an influx of orders. “It was the craziest week we’ve had,” reported LaMance. Being featured on not just Shark Tank but Mr. Beast will open the door for much bigger opportunities in the future for the Kanga team.

LaMance’s advice to future and early founders is something he takes seriously, “Seize the opportunity when it’s there. Put your name out there even when it seems impossible. Always take advantage, always apply, and approach like you have a good shot.” 

Logan recalls their early challenge was finding their product fit in the market; figuring out demand and pricing. Covid was clearly another challenge they were able to tackle with nimbleness, determination, and a willingness to pivot. These days the company is figuring out how to scale their infrastructure, consistently improving systems and processes to run at a “big business rate with small business resources.” One thing Kanga has been great at is not letting fear get in their way. They aren’t afraid to quickly scale to capture opportunity even if they don’t have it figured out. 

Logan and his cofounders believe you have to lead from the front. They show up early and stay late. As founders, they are the last line of defense and they understand the importance of that position, not just for team culture but because it’s a logical business choice. They have worked every job in the business and step in when needed, trying to strike a healthy balance between doing all things and delegating. “The biggest thing that helped me was having an unshakable faith that it would all work. All I had to do was find the path. Success was a foregone conclusion in my head and I work from that. Do whatever it takes to walk that path.” – Logan LaMance

Rockstar mentors through VMS

Logan relies on his VMS (Venture Mentor Services) “rockstar” team of mentors. Having mentors early on at Clemson proved to him the benefit of these relationships. Experienced mentors can give advice, and helped them bridge the gap from college to real life. “It has been one of the biggest drivers of growth to push and provide guidance and coaching. I don’t feel like I’m on an island. The tactical advice has been incredibly helpful – having a team that is trying to help has been huge.”

Kanga Coolers has 17,000 square feet of office & warehouse space in the Merovan Center off Woodruff Road in Greenville. You can stay in touch with all they’re doing through their website, social media, and even by text.