In a world where clicks, likes and shares translate into capital, being on one of ABC's most popular shows, "Shark Tank," is a rare and profitable opportunity for any entrepreneur. But it also means being prepared for heavy website traffic and incoming phone calls, as well as making sure you deliver the message you want America to hear.
Many YEC members know this experience well. Brittney Hodak and Kim Kaupe, co-founders of ZinePak; John Tabis, CEO of The Bouqs Company; Charles Michael Yim, CEO of Breathometer; Patrick Ambron, CEO of BrandYourself; Nick Friedman and Omar Soliman, co-founders of College Hunks Hauling Junk; Ryan Frankel, CEO of VerbalizeIt; Alexander Mendeluk, Founder of theDisruptive and SpiritHoods, Fabian Kaempfer, CEO of Chocomize; and Stephanie Parker, Owner of Sleeping Baby Inc. have all swam with the sharks.
Some struck up a deal, some turned the investors down and others walked away without. And they all learned a thing or two about their company and pitching under pressure. How did YEC members prepare, what did they learn, and what, if anything, would they do differently?
Friedman and Soliman responded to an ad in Inc. magazine asking for entrepreneurs to pitch business ideas for a new show in 2009. They were featured on the first episode of "Shark Tank's" first season. "We actually didn't even know what the show was going to entail," says Friedman about pitching their new business idea, College Foxes Packing Boxes, rather than their better known company. "They offered us an investment but they wanted a percentage of our existing business" -- of which the Hunks weren't willing to part.
The episode featuring ZinePak co-founders Kaupe and Hodak aired in April of 2015. "Brittany and I had to block off 25 potential tape days in our calendar to be on call and ready to fly to LA within five days." says Kaupe in Forbes. "We were going to be staying at a hotel we didn’t choose, around people we didn’t know. We had no planned schedule and very little information about what to expect." They made sure to do their research, and it paid off. Kaupe and Hodak walked away with $725,000 from Robert Herjavec and Laurie Greiner for 17.5 percent equity in their company. "I'd watched every episode, read literally hundreds of articles, both by the sharks and former contestants, and read biographies by each of the sharks. I also knew ZinePak's numbers cold," says Hodak in Inc.
Hodak and Kaupe weren't alone. Ambron says that researching each shark, knowing the numbers of his business cold and preparing for every question imaginable helped him succeed under pressure. "Based on my research I knew Robert would be the best fit and that allowed me to cater the conversation to him more, which led to an offer. I thought of everything someone would ask or say if they were trying to make the business look bad and prepared a response. I was way harsher with myself than any of the sharks ended up being." Ambron turned down $2 million for 25 percent from Herjavec. He only wishes that he had more time to convince Herjavec to increase his price so he could have struck a deal while staying fair to his investors at the time.
Tabis left the tank without funding, but that didn't stop his business from blooming. "The traffic it drove was pretty significant," he said. Not to mention that the episode aired right before mother's day, one of the most important holidays for any flower business. The episode led to The Bouqs Company's best month by 200 percent over their previous best month. "You get an influx of inbound interest from potential partners, public relations, and things like that. We had blog posts written about our appearance, affiliate marketers reach out and co-marketing opportunities come to us," says Tabis.
"No matter how prepared you think you are, you will never be prepared enough," says Parker, who walked away with $200,000 from Daymond John in the show's sixth season. "The best thing to do is make sure you beef up customer service capabilities, fulfillment and web hosting. When you go into the tank, don't overvalue your business. Overvaluing your company can result in the focus being on valuation instead of your product or service. That was the best advice we got from the producers and it allowed us to make the most of the best exposure our company had ever seen."
Whether or not they struck a deal, YEC members agree that being on "Shark Tank" was worth the uncertainty of the unknown. With a solid business model, confidence and a lot of research, an entrepreneur can succeed no matter the episode's outcome. You know what they say about the camera adding ten pounds? It can also contribute to major stage fright if you're not well researched. As Parker puts it, "The "Shark Tank Effect" will rock your world!"
Photo courtesy of Ryan Frankel/VerbalizeIt.