Have you ever wondered what it’s like to pitch your product on Shark Tank? If so, you’re in luck. This week, we’re going behind the scenes to talk to two of our clients about their experiences pitching to the Sharks.
We spoke to Desiree Stolar, co-founder of Unshrinkit, a solution designed to revitalize all those shrunken sweaters you would’ve thrown out years ago. We also spoke to co-founder Erika Welsh of Wild Friends Foods, makers of all sorts of varieties and flavors of delicious all-natural nut butters. From the sound of it, it was an exhilarating, scary but totally worthwhile experience for both Unshrinkit and Wild Friends Foods. Read on!
Q: What made you decide to take the leap for Shark Tank?
Desiree Stolar: We knew it was good for us. The show is a phenomenal platform to introduce your brand – especially if it is a brand new product category which requires some back story and visual aids. UnshrinkIt fit the bill.
Erika Welsh: We applied for Shark Tank on a whim after my dad mentioned to Keeley and I that there was a new show on ABC where entrepreneurs could present their ideas and potentially get an investment. We thought it sounded like a fun opportunity, so without any expectations of getting a response, we applied! At this time, Keeley was 18 and I was 19 year old, we were sophomores in college, roommates and our peanut butter “business” was very much in it’s infancy.
We decided to apply because we figured we had nothing to lose. We thought of what we were doing as a fun project that we would’ve been just as excited about regardless of if we made it onto the show.
Desiree pitches with business partner Nate Barbera
What was the process like to get on the show?
Desiree: We submitted a brief email explaining our product and introducing ourselves. That was it! It’s a really simple process. Plus, it didn’t hurt that we had attended a shark tank casting call a year earlier, so we were known by the producers in advance.
Once we found out we were in, we spent many hours every week for about three months preparing to be on the show. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity and we wanted to make the most of it.
Erika: We submitted an application in the spring of 2011 and got a call back from the producers a few months later in the summer of 2011.
What happened after that is quite funny in hindsight. Even though the producers wanted us to come on the show, we said no, twice! We were intimidated by the legal documents they sent us and felt like it wouldn’t be worth the time and energy.
Eventually we came around and decided to go through with it. We are so glad we did!
Erika Welsh and Keeley Tillotson on the show
Q: What made you accept the shark’s offer?
Desiree: In the end, we accepted Mark Cuban’s offer because he hit our desired range in equity given and overall valuation. More notably, he also shared our mindset for scrappiness, strong intellectual property, and dedicated founders.
Erika: When we went on the show, we were teenagers, full-time college students and very inexperienced entrepreneurs. The fact that a business woman and investor as experienced as Barbara Corcoran, would take a chance on us, was equal parts flattering, exciting and hard to resist.
Q: What was your favorite part of the experience?
Desiree: Our favorite part was definitely pitching the sharks. Since we had practiced so much, we were READY for it. The experience was rewarding, fast-paced, and thrilling.
Erika: Even though I had never been more intimidated in my life, being in the boardroom pitching our new peanut butter company to the Sharks was the best part. It was our first experience educating and selling investors on our company and I remember feeling like that time we spent in front of the Sharks was a wake up call for both of us. A wake up call that this project we had started only months before was gaining momentum and we couldn’t stop it, even if we wanted to. We were giddy with excitement about the future of Wild Friends.
Q: How did you see your sales or site visits change following the airing of the episode?
Desiree: We have had strong sustained sales since we aired. One airing beget another publicity offer, which beget another. In addition, it opened up different retail channels for us, including Bed, Bath & Beyond and local hardware stores across the country.
Erika: We had been counseled before the show aired to backup up our website, and we were so glad we did! On the day the show aired and the 2 days after, we had about 1.5 million unique visitors and about $60,000 in online sales.
Q: Do you get recognized by people when you are out and about?
Desiree: I have and it is both exciting AND unnerving. I am mostly identified in the Boston area as we had a tremendous amount of coverage there related to Harvard Business School, the Grommet, and Mass Challenge.
Erika: We don’t tend to get recognized when we are out and about in our “street clothes,” but we always do when we are at trade shows or sampling events. We often referred to as “the Shark Tank girls.” It’s pretty incredible how many people remember us from the show!
Q: What was your main take-away from being on the show?
Desiree: On Shark Tank, preparation is the difference between being eaten and escaping unscathed.
Erika: Our main takeaway from being on Shark Tank was that we couldn’t be both full-time college students and entrepreneurs. On the show, we stood our ground and argued that we could do both–that we could maintain our lives as students while getting our business off the ground. The Sharks disagreed vehemently and on the plane ride home, we decided we would leave school. Best decision we ever made!
Q: This is just for WFF, which saw a name change after the show. What caused this?
Erika: When we went on Shark Tank, our company was called Wild Squirrel. Soon after, we ran into some legal issues that forced us to change our name. But we love our name Wild Friends even more!
Q: Would you recommend the experience to other manufacturers? Why/why not?
Desiree: Yes, if you are right for the show and know you’ve got an ability to prep diligently for the show. You’ve got to have a product with mass appeal, which also includes strong growth potential and a compelling story.
Erika: I would recommend applying for Shark Tank if you approach it with an open mind. If you think that getting on Shark Tank is the be-all end-all, that you will not be successful without it, then don’t apply. Apply with the mindset that regardless of if you get accepted, your business will still be successful.