When investor Kevin O’Leary takes a sip of BeatBox Beverages‘ neon Blue Razzberry Lemonade on the latest episode of ABC’s hit show “Shark Tank,” he flatly proclaims, “This tastes like sh–.”
But even though he would rather enjoy a fine Merlot than the entrepreneurs’ fruity boxed wine, O’Leary concludes with the rest of the Sharks that BeatBox is on the verge of something big.
The entrepreneurs from Austin, Texas, offer proof of concept as well as proof that they know how to penetrate a limited market, which in their case is the state of Texas. It assures the investors that they would be reliable partners to scale the company on a nationwide level.
And that’s why investor Mark Cuban, who says he actually likes the neon-coloured fruit wines, is so quick to lay down $US1 million for a third of the company, an investment that’s unusually large for the show.
BeatBox cofounders Justin Fenchel, Aimy Steadman, and Brad Schultz enter the tank looking for $US250,000 in exchange for 10% equity in their company.
They tell the investors that they have been self-distributing and using a large packer in Dallas. In the company’s first 14 months they have made $US235,000 in sales. They got BeatBox off the ground with $US55,000 and an additional $US100,000 borrowed from family and friends.
The Sharks are impressed but want to know how the entrepreneurs would spend the money. “Tell me how you’re going to take it from $US235,000 to $US5 million,” investor Robert Herjavec says.
Fenchel, as BeatBox CEO, says the money would mostly be used to hire brand ambassadors to set up BeatBox tastings at liquor stores in markets they have determined to be ideal.
Cuban doesn’t like this strategy. “Your leverage points for any one store aren’t great,” he says, meaning that getting products in even the largest private store doesn’t offer potential for explosive growth. He says they need to instead bring their products to big events with thousands of people.
“We’ve already gotten rid of the biggest risks,” Fenchel tells the Sharks, explaining that the founders have already managed to secure the biggest manufacturer in Texas and find markets. They have proven that the product has an audience and that they know how to arrange profitable deals on their own.
Franzia, the world’s largest producer of boxed wine, has $US1 billion in annual sales, Fenchel says, and he’s found that the easiest customer acquisitions are the people who buy a box of Franzia for a party only because it’s what’s at the store. BeatBox is about offering its customers something unique that they could get excited about.
O’Leary acknowledges that a beverage can go viral, as Bethenny Frankel’s Skinnygirl recently did, when a company focuses on select markets around the country and ignores the rest.
Investor Barbara Corcoran offers the BeatBox team $US400,000 for 20%, a deal which would bring BeatBox’s valuation down to $US2 million from the founders’ valuation of $US2.5 million.
O’Leary then offers $US200,000 for 20% because he thinks the company is worth $US1 million at this point. He also says he’d be a more valuable investor because he’s got a wine company of his own, O’Leary Fine Wines, and knows how to penetrate new markets and secure distributors in key states.
Then Cuban chimes in. “You guys don’t sell wine,” he says. “You sell fun.” The entrepreneurs agree. “You get it,” Steadman says.
Cuban offers $US600,000 for a third of the company, which values it at $US1.8 million. Meanwhile, investor Lori Greiner quietly conspires on a deal with Herjavec over a notebook.
Cuban tells the entrepreneurs they should go with him because he thinks that BeatBox has a shot at going viral, and the only way to do so is to act as fast and big as possible, which he’s ready to do. He tells them they need to make a choice.
Fenchel is grateful but admits, “We didn’t anticipate giving up…”
Cuban interjects, “If you’ve got a counter, just give me it.”
Without hesitation, Fenchel offers, “Would you do $US1 million for a third?”
Cuban glances at his notebook for a few seconds. “Yeah!”
“I’m jealous of the deal!” Corcoran says.
In previous “Shark Tank” episodes, some promising cofounders missed out on deals because they were indecisive. The BeatBox team was prepared for every question and rolled with the punches. Both Steadman and Schultz allowed Fenchel, their CEO, to have the final say on the deal without objecting. They assured the investors that they would be reliable partners.
As the founders walk out of the tank, Cuban yells “Let’s party!” in his best fry voice.
You can watch the full episode at Hulu Plus.