Swimming with Sharks
An NBA franchise owner, a luxury apparel mogul, the queen of QVC and a software company owner sit in front of you, waiting in anticipation for your self-proclaimed brilliant idea. What do you do? Fight or flight; sink or swim; panic or thrive? On the surface, the “Shark Tank” panel is incredibly intimidating, but underwater they’re a group of investors that have made an entire television series out of their individual inclination to spend money.
“Shark Tank” made its debut in 2009 and consists of a panel of successful entrepreneurs giving their budding counterparts a chance to present products and ideas that they feel are worth of investment. Sure, you have to have a really great product, and of course you have to really know your business, and when you combine the two with an opportunity to obtain a partner (or two) who can expand growth and provide the financial backing, you’ve got the perfect storm.
We caught up with a handful of companies that emerged on “Shark Tank.” Deal notwithstanding; these companies have dealt with trials and tribulations to get where they are. This is how they’re handling business beyond the tank.
Eric Bandholz, founder
In a nutshell: In 2012, Bandholz began to unite beardsmen around the country with online media platforms following the West Coast Beard & Mustache Championships, and soon developed tools to arm bearded men with growing and maintaining their face’s precious assets. The company offers a variety of beard care products that range from beard oils and washes to mustache waxes and grooming kits. With a story as unique as it is interesting, Bandholz wanted the opportunity to partner with a successful entrepreneur. Getting the company’s story shared on a national level was the kicker.
About the “Shark Tank” experience:
EB: It was a very emotional experience. The Sharks themselves are very fun-loving, energetic and passionate people. For them to invest in so many budding businesses is a gift to society and I am lucky to have spent a portion of my life interacting with them. This TV show is like none other and it can take our business to the next level and ultimately help me provide support for my family. We couldn’t pass up the chance to bring on one of the Sharks as an investor. While 17 million men in America wear facial hair, the Sharks do not — with the exception of Daymond John’s well-sculpted goatee. I still think I could have done a better job explaining what it means to be a beardsman and what this movement is about — perhaps that would have gotten a Shark to bite. But they didn’t, and that’s the facts. The good news is that we have done a great job building our business and are profitable and growing. We are continuing to launch new products all the time and we work hard to make our customer’s experience the best.
Lindsey Laurain, founder
In a nutshell: Female-owned ezpz develops all-in-one silicone serving ware for infants and toddlers and was founded by mother-entrepreneur Lindsey Laurain in Parker, Colorado. While it had two offers with contingencies, Laurain did not accept a deal from either of the interested sharks. The exposure alone has been beneficial for ezpz, however. “Outside of a nice bump in sales, we have had a tremendous response from independent retailers, occupational therapists and feeding specialists,” said Laurain. “All of ezpz products are a collaboration between Laurain and Ms. Dawn, ezpz’s full-time speech and language pathologist with a specialty in feeding challenges and development. This helps us ensure that neurotypical children, as well as kids with special needs, can use our products.”
What the Sharks didn’t know:
LL: “Shark Tank” was an extremely valuable, albeit difficult, experience for me. After spending time with the sharks I feel that I am in a better position for future conversations with potential investors, acquirers (and) partners. Unfortunately, the sharks were very focused on our valuation and we didn’t get a chance to talk much about the products. The most important product benefits are the all-in-one placemat and plate/bowl, which captures kids’ messes, placement suctions to the table, high-quality silicone that is BPA, PVC and phthalate-free, and (that they’re) dishwasher-, microwave- and oven-safe.
Rebecca Rescate, co-founder
In a nutshell: After bringing home their triplet daughters from the hospital, co-founder Chris and his wife Dana were desperate for sleep whenever they could get it. Chris created the first HoodiePillow so that his wife could catch up on sleep while the triplets napped, but quickly realized that so many more people than just sleep-deprived parents needed the HoodiePillow. Since making a deal with Robert Herjavec, HoodiePillow business has been able to carve out a sustainable niche in the marketplace.
Preparing to enter the “Shark Tank” and its results:
RR: I was fortunate to be on Shark Tank previously in Season 2 for my other company, CitiKitty. From having previously filmed the show and having already been in business for over seven years, my business partner and I were prepared to answer any question relating to our product and business model. It was helpful to see the Sharks’ strong and positive reaction to our new product (and it) quickly became our bestseller after “Shark Tank.” We have recently launched a great kids line, HoodiePillow Pals, and the HoodiePillow Beach Towel. These fun and innovative products are just getting a foothold in the marketplace and taking off. It’s exciting to be part of a brand with so much untapped potential.
The Booby Pack
Christina Conrad, founder
In a nutshell: The Boobypack is a fanny pack for your rack. It’s a sports bra with sweat-resistant pockets on either side that can hold valuables — think passport, ID, keys and phone — whether working out, traveling or fist-pumping at a music festival.
On the “Shark Tank” experience:
CC: (It) was intense but so positive. I had prepared for a few months, watching every previous episode with my laptop in my lap so that I could type up each question they asked and write my own answers. Still, I was incredibly nervous before taping and had to put about an inch of concealer on my face and neck so that the Sharks wouldn’t notice my blushing (and) nervous hives. I felt so elated when I got a deal with Barbara (Corcoran) that I started to sob as soon as we left the taping area. Fairly dramatic I know, but my nerves were wound fairly tight. I wanted them to see the versatility of (the Booby Pack). It’s not just a rave bra or a sports bra, it’s something that provides real utility. I’ve had so many people come up with uses for it that I hadn’t imagined. For instance, I’ve gotten a lot of emails form diabetics who say it’s a perfect place to keep their insulin pumps.
Wicked Good Cupcakes
Tracey Noonan, co-founder and CEO
In a nutshell: Stemming from a way for some quality mother-daughter bonding time, Wicked Good Cupcakes are fresh baked gourmet treats that are packaged in mason jars and shipped nationwide. It began in 2010 as a hobby, and its growing reputation was catapulted by hard work, a store opening in 2011, and an appearance on “Shark Tank” in 2013. Making sure the team knew their numbers and business value backward and forward, Tracey Noonan and Dani Vilagie stepped in front of the panel, not knowing what to expect. The rest, they say, is history.
The deal with the Shark:
TN: The deal we offered Kevin (O’Leary) was 20 percent equity for $75,000. He really surprised us when he took no equity, but instead opted for a 45-cent-a-jar royalty instead. This has worked great for him and us. Since filming the show our business has grown by leaps and bounds. We have yet to hit our baseline sales. The five days following our airing we did $250,000 in sales. You can have the best product in the world, but if you can’t execute then what good is that? Businesses need to be able to provide a customer with the best possible product as well as the best customer service. Without customers, you have no business.