After raising hundreds of thousands on Kickstarter and Indiegogo to bring to life his innovative new kitchen device for slicing, grating and storing bricks of cheese, Canby-area entrepreneur Tate Koenig is aiming for the big time with an appearance on ABC’s Shark Tank this week.
I guess you could say he’s just trying to make America grate again.
Like every great inventor, Koenig was inspired to create the Cheese Chopper to solve a problem he personally faced: enjoying cheese by the “loaf” — without messing with knives or the ends going bad before you finish the block.
The Cheese Chopper solves all of these problems, serving as a storage vessel for big blocks of cheese, along with a manual conveyor belt and three attachments for slicing or grating — all without the fear of cut fingers or messy cleanup.
A Ninety-One School and Canby High grad who went on to study business at Oregon State University, Koenig tells The Canby Current that he began toying with prototypes for the Cheese Chopper three years ago — after a friend of his badly cut her finger while slicing up a brick of cheddar.
“We went looking online because we said, ‘There’s got to be something out there. There’s got to be a better way to cut cheese,” says Koenig, who also goes by the nickname “Mr. Cheese” — after his favorite food as well as his fondness for groan-worthy dad jokes. “But we searched and searched, and there was nothing available. There was nothing out there on the market.”
After 36 prototypes, Koenig finally settled on an effective and marketable design — a product that not only worked the way he wanted to, but was also easy and even fun to use.
In April 2020, he launched his crowdfunding campaign with the hope of raising $15,000 — but the response was cheddar than he would have ever brie-lieved. Both campaigns attracted thousands of backers and raised a combined total of more than $210,000.
It was near the end of the campaign that Koenig got an email from the producers at Shark Tank, who were so impressed by the product (and his trademark “That’s What Cheese Said” shirt) that they invited him out to film even though the audition period for the show’s 12th season had already closed.
Koenig describes the whirlwind experience as fun, exciting — and intense. Because of Covid-19 protocols, he had to test negative for the coronavirus over two weeks — then quarantine for an additional nine days once he arrived.
As for enforcement, apparently, ABC takes Covid seriously enough to make Dr. Fauci look lax.
“They said, ‘No hard feelings, but we’ve got cameras. If you step in the hallway, we just hand you a plane ticket home,'” Koenig recalls with a laugh. “And I’m a pretty active person. I struggle to sit still at all, let alone in a hotel room for nine days. Then, from there, they take you down and throw you right into the Tank. It was very unique, to say the least.”
Since then, Koenig has worked out the kinks of manufacture, mass production and fulfillment related to his Kickstarter and Indiegogo campaigns and is looking forward to the increased exposure that will come after the Shark Tank segment airs.
“People love it,” he says of his customers. “The one complaint we get is, ‘Dude, I’m eating so much more cheese now.'”
Koenig is also working on new creations, including his latest, the Pizza Pack: a Tupperware-like system for storing pizza by the slice — without trying to figure out how to fit the box in your fridge.
To find out if Koenig gets the “cheddar” or has to face the chopping block, watch Shark Tank airs at 8 p.m. Friday on ABC. It will also begin streaming the next day on Hulu and abc.com.
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