“Why didn’t I come up with that?” How many times have you watched an episode of Shark Tank and pondered that question, while some guy in updated camouflage or a girl with a cat toilet pitches the practical applications of their products? It’s happened to many fans of the show, no doubt, given the fact 500+ business ideas have been showcased in the tank over five seasons. But if it makes you feel better, more than 50 per cent of those “great” ideas that are OK’d on air don’t end up sealing deals for investments off-camera. Not that it matters to the 8 million viewers tuning in every week to watch what happens in front of the cameras for the 0.4 % of applicants that actually make it through the audition rounds for a spot on air.
While sometimes the business tycoons in the comfy chairs (aka: the Sharks) take the bait, often times they will rip a newbie entrepreneur to bits, shredding ineffective sales pitches, marketing plans or crummy products to bloody lifeless pulps. Too graphic? Well, it can get ugly in the Shark Tank. So it’s a spectacular feat for those that come out of the tank with all the limbs of their business intact, to shake hands with business gurus like Barbara Corcoran, Daymond John or Mark Cuban. The clever few who’ve landed the coveted golden handshake see rewards that don’t just come in the form of invaluable business partnerships after the show. The Primetime exposure can lead to $1 million in sales within 48-hours of viewing. Now that’s one heck of a return on investment! Below is a list of ten of the most successful pitches to date.
10. Kisstixx – $500,000
This sexy lip balm sold the chemistry factor after encouraging a demo smooch between Corcoran and Mr. Wonderful (aka: Kevin O’Leary) . It was enough to solidify a deal with Mark Cuban, who seems to have a decent sense of humour. Owners Dallas Robinson and Mike Buonomo got a deal of $200,000 for Cuban’s 40 per cent stake in the company.
The creators came up with the flavoured duo stick lip-balm after their time in University saw them honing their make-out skills. Immediately following their appearance on the show, the company saw a traffic increase of 3,000% to their website, selling an instant 5,000+ units. In the months since, the business duo has found distribution in over seven countries, while currently receiving some friendly promo assistance from country music star Danielle Peck.
9. AVA the Elephant – $1 million.
Long-time viewers of the show will no doubt remember this adorable pitch by young mom Tiffany Krumins. The product, which helps kids take their medicine in an elephant-friendly way, is noted as one of the first and biggest Shark Tank Success stories.
Tiffany appeared on the show in 2009, and although she didn’t have a patent yet for her medicine dispenser – much to Kevin O’Leary’s disgust – Barbara Corcoran stepped up and made a deal with the feisty entrepreneur of $50,000 for 50 per cent. The deal was worth it, to say the least. AVA the Elephant is currently sold in over 10,000 retail outlets including giant drug store chains CVS and Walgreens, and available in 10 countries. A sudden bout of cancer didn’t slow Krumins down; she’s since overcome the disease and has continued to build the brand of AVA with Corcoran’s help, as well as developing more AVA products.
8. Daisy Cakes – +$1.2 million
Mother-daughter team Kim “Daisy” Nelson and Geraldine Adams brought their deal to the tank in 2011. Nelson, a South Carolina baker with a back-pocket full of old family recipes, had parlayed her skills into a popular mail-order cake business. While she pointed out, on the show, that the male sharks were gobbling up the cake but reticent to make a deal, Barbara saw the irony and stepped up with the offer of $50,000 for 25 per cent.
Since the partnership, Nelson has been highlighted on QVC several times, as well as other daytime shows including “The Nate Berkus Show,” “Anderson Cooper,” and “The Today Show.” With Corcoran’s help, the growth of Daisy Cakes has seen the company move from Nelson’s parents’ kitchen to taking the baking industry by storm.
7. The Painted Pretzel – +$1.5 million
As a way to exemplify the pursuit of happiness to her young son, stay-at-home mom Raven Thomas decided to follow her dream of entrepreneurship and created The Painted Pretzel, a company that sells sweet and salty chocolate covered pretzels. Her product was such an instant success she found it difficult to keep up with the orders and appeared in the tank in 2012.
With $140,000 in orders she needed to fill and merchandise already available in Neiman Marcus, as well as a $2 million deal with Sam’s Club that she had to walk away from, Thomas needed help, fast. She got it from Mark Cuban who was impressed with her business acumen and she accepted his deal of $100,000 for 25 per cent. Sales shot up even higher after airing and in 2014 she expects to reach $1.15 – $1.5 million in revenue. She’s also been able to diversify her portfolio of clients from big-box stores to specializing in corporate gifting with Fortune 500 companies across the country. Her son is no doubt inspired and proud of this gutsy mom!
6. ChordBuddy – $2 million
As a music teacher for over 30 years, Travis Perry knew a thing or two about the challenges kids faced when learning chords on the guitar. In an effort to decrease the numbers of frustrated students quitting before they got the hang of it, he developed ChordBuddy, a simple device that mounts to the guitar and allows the player to work on right hand rhythm patterns until they’ve learned the chords on their own.
Perry appeared in the tank in 2012, and quickly won over Robert Herjavec, who offered $175,000 for 20 per cent. Revenue doubled over the next year and as of 2013 was nearing the $1.5 million mark. Herjavec also made an appearance after the show to help promote the ChordBuddy on the Canada Shopping Channel, while a QVC appearance is in the works. Currently the product sells in 200 retail outlets, and Perry has since developed a line of acoustic guitars as well. The company has also signed their own spokesperson, country star John Rich, from the duo Big & Rich.
5. Pork Barrel BBQ – +$4.1 million
The sharks were skeptical when founders Heath Hall and Brett Thompson stepped into the tank in 2009 with their BBQ sauce and tempted the sharks with the announcement that they had 10,000 units ready to go. Kevin Harrington asked the obvious question, “What if they don’t sell?” And Barbara Corcoran took a bite out of the businessmen with a quip that Hall would suit a pig costume. But it wasn’t long before Corcoran was changing her tune, and she saw the potential for big business, eventually offering them $50,000 for 50 per cent.
Immediately after airing on the show, Costco called to inquire about stocking the company’s products, while NASCAR teams approached the business about partnership opportunities, and Country singer George Strait requested that the company sponsor his upcoming concert tour. While their first year’s revenue by the time the show aired was a measly $5000, the sauce has been bringing home the bacon since, with roughly $4 million in annual sales. In 2011, the company launched a self-titled restaurant in Alexandria, Va. and presented at the 2012 World Business Forum. They’ve since added five other products, including an all-purpose spice rub, and today their products can be found in more than 3,500 stores in U.S., Europe and Canada. And, naturally, the company has won a number of barbecue competitions, including the 2012 Sam’s Club National BBQ Tour.
4. Tower Paddle Boards – $5 million
The pitch that looked like it was drowning ended up swimming past most of the competition. Appearing on the show in 2012, Stephan Aarstol froze during his pitch. But he pushed through his jitters and made his business sound enticing enough to lure Mark Cuban in at $150,000 for 30 per cent.
Since the show aired the company went from $100,000 in lifetime sales to just under a million in a few months, with sales of $1.5 million in 2011, on track for triple that in 2014. As of today, Tower Paddle Boards are now available in 40+ countries. Aarstol is an example for all future entrepreneurs to the show: even if you get in trouble in the tank you can still keep the sharks at bay – in the best way – with a little determination and refusal to be defeated. Not to be attempted in an actual shark tank, obviously.
3. Readerest – $8 million
One of the more memorable and enigmatic pitchers to the show, Rick Hopper tripped his way onto the set to demonstrate his product Readerest (formerly SpecSecure). The magnetic eyeglass holder was a simple and ingenious solution to an age-old problem. While Kevin O’Leary saw only “a piece of metal with two magnets,” Lori Greiner saw dollar signs and secured a deal with Hopper at $150,000 for 65 per cent.
Prior to appearing on the show, Hopper’s product revenue was somewhere around the $65,000 mark. Revenue as of 2012 was a cool $3 million with $8 million plus in the last two years. Readerest currently employs 14 in a 6,000 sq/ft building and the product is sold in over 6,000 stores, while Hopper recently sat down for deal opportunities with Wal-Mart, Ace Hardware and Walgreens. The great sales success can also be owed to the popularity of Greiner’s QVC show. Hopper couldn’t be more thrilled; as an entrepreneur and inventor since the age of 13, his experiments to find a way to hold his reading glasses on his shirt have since proven the most lucrative. Kevin O’Leary must be kicking himself, at least a little bit, for his lack of imagination on this one.
2. Plate Topper – $10 million
A doctor with an interest in food storage seemed an unlikely opener for this pitch from Michael Tseng in 2014. The storage device, known as PlateTopper, is a plastic, storage container-meets-suction device that keeps itself fastened to a plate and makes storing leftovers more convenient. Tseng, an engineer by hobby, was working on the invention for years before entering the tank. He piqued the interest of a number of sharks, who started a bidding war for the product and set a record for the length of time he spent on set – two hours – through the brow-mopping tension of negotiations.
Amazingly, when it was all said and done, Tseng walked away without a deal. That hasn’t hurt PlateTopper’s phenomenal success. He’s been able to stock the shelves in 1000 Walmart locations as well as landing a placement on walmart.com, after winning their American-Idol style contest called “Get On The Shelf”. Despite no deal being solidified with Lori Greiner during the due diligence process after the show, he continues to sell regularly, and successfully, on QVC.
1. Scrub Daddy – $18 million
And who could forget another one of those “Why didn’t I think of that?” moments on the show with inventor Aaron Krause’s bright happy-faced pitch for his product, Scrub Daddy. The cleaning product changes firmness depending on the temperature of the water to tackle any cleaning task you can think of around the house. It’s superb versatility and infomercial-type pitch from Krause was a clincher for Lori Greiner who fought off Kevin O’Leary and Daymond John with a negotiated offer of $200,000 for 20 per cent. Since airing on the show in 2012, the product has rocketed from $100,000 in sales to $18 million. It’s been featured on QVC a number of times, selling out in every instance, the first appearance taking less than six minutes to do so. It is currently in 1000s of retail outlets across the country, and Krause is now working with Greiner on new product lines including scrub blocks.