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Pie guy pays it forward with cookie kid

Jessica Ashford

Mr. Tod’s Pie Factory is a retail and manufacturing company specializing in all things desserts, most notably its signature scrumptious pies. You might remember Tod Wilson, CEO and Founder, as the first profile to stand before a panel of five investors for ABC’s hit program “Shark Tank.” Wilson shared his heartfelt journey of once living out of his car to picking back up and propelling the business to even greater heights. “After Shark Tank, business was booming, just the exposure alone," says Wilson. Today Mr. Tod’s Pie Factory is a million dollar business with two retail locations, a Mercedes mobile bakery and a thriving online store.

Wilson's financial success has not come from the Shark Tank investment. He explains, “I think the biggest misconception is that people saw me taking the deal, but I didn’t. I couldn’t imagine giving up 40% of my business. Mr. Tod’s Pies is all I have.”

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The early origins of Mr. Tod’s Pie Factory started when Wilson was a child. “I would grab a hold of my mother’s leg and we would bake. I stuck with it and it became a serious profession when I was in college," he says. A star football player in college, Wilson would follow his real passion. Wilson explains, “I had the great opportunity to join a relative in the bakery business as a freshman in college. I spent four summers in college baking and learning the professional side of the baking business.”

After college, Wilson continued in the baking business for 10 years before deciding it was time to start his own company. “I decided to go off on my own as a distributor for my godfather and that’s when it got into my blood that I didn’t want to work for someone else and I wanted to build my own legacy," he says.

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With his mother's help and guidance, Wilson eventually perfected the signature Mr. Tod’s sweet potato pie recipe. “I went back to my mother who is an awesome baker and she basically took me under her wing to make an even better sweet potato pie. She would show me little secrets like to use better butter and other tricks to turn the pie into that classic taste.”

Armed with a winning sweet potato pie recipe, Wilson grew his client list to more than 400 vendors within the first year of business. “I started out pretty big. I had a 10,000 square foot facility, four delivery vans and we made a million dollars that same year. But like most entrepreneurs, I didn’t have enough capital to keep it going," says Wilson. Within a year and a half, his business was bankrupt. "I lost everything," he says.

To rebuild, Wilson waited tables and made pies at night.

It would take Wilson five years of growth and perseverance to make it to the national stage, on "Shark Tank." “I found out about this show who were looking for companies in need of investment capital – so I applied and now the rest is history," he says. Mr. Tod’s Pie Factory is a million-dollar business looking to expand to new locations by 2015.

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“Business is booming and I continue to meet other successful entrepreneurs along the way," Wilson says. Entrepreneurs like Cory Nieves, the 9-year-old CEO and founder of Mr. Cory’s Cookies, a business specializing in 100% natural cookies.

“Mr. Cory’s entrepreneurial skills are not on par with a 9-year-old. He is on a whole different category, so that is one of the things that attracted me to him is his level of maturity. He is probably a child prodigy as entrepreneurialism goes,” Wilson says.

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And Mr. Cory has had a great level of success with clients ranging from JP Morgan Chase, Mercedes Benz, and several local businesses. Mr. Cory’s largest order has been for 1,000 cookies. He says, “It was a lot of cookies, but the client was very happy. That makes me happy.”

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Video produced by Jessica Ashford. Production by Michael Manas, Richard Rella, Josh Kesner, Chandler Kaufman, Gary Millus, Robert King, Matt DiLandro and Maryann Vanderventor. Edited by Sean Elms. Audio Edited by J.J. Brown. Graphics by Todd Tanner and Adam Saul For Yahoo Studios. Executive Producers: Russ Torres and Peter Gorenstein.

Special Thanks to Closet for Her, Shoe Inn, One River Art School and Lisa Howard.