Aspiring entrepreneurs with good ideas can get a lot out of ABC’s reality pitch show “Shark Tank,” be it cash, publicity, mentorship, or a national stage.
The show also provides a weekly education on how to successfully pitch your business idea to high-profile investors.
Andrew Figgins, a Chicago-based entrepreneur and owner of the fan site InTheSharkTank.com, says the best pitches stick out for several important reasons.
“Some solve a problem that appeals to the masses,” Figgins tells Business Insider. “Others have a story behind the business that helps seal the deal. The Sharks take their chances on entrepreneurs they think have solid plans and the drive to match.”
Figgins combs through five seasons of the show to identify the best “Shark Tank” pitches of all time.
In the first season, Hall and Thompson presented their Pork Barrel BBQ Sauce, which earned them second place at the National BBQ Battle in Washington, D.C. They told the Sharks they were in the process of getting their products distributed in a major grocery store chain and had $US30,000 hard copy orders in hand.
They hoped $US50,000 for a 10% stake would be the secret sauce.
Corcoran invested for half of the company and joked that the entrepreneurs should dress like pigs to push the products in grocery stores. When they landed a deal with Costco, they happily complied. There's now a Pork Barrel BBQ Restaurant, and the sauces line the shelves of more than 300 supermarkets.
Even before his first-season 'Shark Tank' pitch, Alan Kaufman's dome-like umbrella, called Nubrella, was a hit on the Internet. He'd sold over 3,000 units and had orders from 47 countries.
The hands-free Nubrella straps to the body, can sustain 35mph winds, and protects users from the wind chill. He asked for $US200,000 for a 25% stake.
The two Sharks thought the product was cool and unique. They agreed to the investment for a 51% stake, so they'd have control of the company.
Later, John was able to set up a meeting with Sharper Image, so Kaufman could present his product to the company. Ultimately, Sharper Image agreed to carry Nubrella.
When living in a small apartment in New York City with her husband, Rescate decided to create a cat potty-training device that would teach her kitty how to use the actual toilet.
The product, CitiKitty, has a series of trays filled with cat litter that are inserted underneath the toilet seat. Each following tray has less litter in it, and over time, the litter -- and tray -- disappear. At the end of the training, the cat is able to use the toilet without help.
She had proof of concept: Rescate told the Sharks in season two that she'd sold 40,000 units on her website and had $225,000 in sales the year before her pitch.
Harrington loves products that solve problems and have mass market appeal. They negotiated the deal to a 20% stake. After its appearance on 'Shark Tank,' CitiKitty -- which sells for $US24.98 -- brought in $US350,000 in one month.
Rescate returned to 'Shark Tank' in season three to pitch her new business, HoodiePillow, a specialised pillow for travellers.
The entrepreneurs instantly sold the Sharks in season three on Talbott Teas, a line of designer whole-leaf teas that made Oprah Winfrey's annual list of her 'Favourite Things.' They had been on QVC and were already doing over $US500,000 in annual sales, with a healthy profit margin and the ability to pay themselves. They asked for $250,000 for a 20% stake.
The entrepreneurs got the cash in exchange for 35% of their business. In 2012, Jamba Juice bought Talbott Teas, and while they have not disclosed the details of the deal, they say they are now millionaires.
PITCH: Rick Hopper kept losing his glasses, so he created a device that would keep them on at all times.
In season three, Hopper dramatized a trip and fall when he entered the tank, somewhat reminiscent of the famous Willy Wonka scene. The theatrics smartly demonstrated his innovation, ReadeREST, a simple magnetic eye glass holder that secures your glasses, so you don't lose or break them.
He quickly grabbed the attention of Lori Greiner, who counts glasses sales among her largest successes on QVC. Hopper asked for $US150,000 for a 15% stake.
Greiner was keen to make a deal, but for a much larger equity stake than Hopper anticipated -- 65% of his company. Still, fansite owner Figgins says it was smart to take it and that it may be one of the best deals ever made on the show. He recently confirmed with Greiner that since 'Shark Tank,' ReadeREST has had $US7.5 million in sales in less than two years.
PITCH: Student entrepreneurs Dallas Robinson and Mike Buonomo created lip balms that spark a chemical reaction when couples kiss.
Robinson and Buonomo's segment on 'Shark Tank' in season three is one of the most memorable pitches from the show. To demonstrate their Kisstixx lip balms, which come in two compatible flavours that create a chemical reaction of flavour and scent when a couple kisses, they convince Corcoran and O'Leary to smooch in their kissing booth.
They had showmanship and substance. Robinson and Buonomo had decided to turn their lip balm class project at Utah Valley University into a real business, and had about $US80,000 in sales in one year and Walgreens on the hook as a potential buyer. They asked the Sharks for $200,000 for a 20% stake.
PITCH: Mark and Hanna Lim created a straw sippie cup for their daughter when they couldn't find one themselves.
When the Lims' pediatrician told them sippie cups can damage babies' teeth, they tried to find a straw cup for their nine-month-old daughter. But they couldn't find one that worked, so created their own safe, high-quality cup. Lollacup, their valve-free weighted straw cup, allows infants and toddlers to drink from it even when tilted.
The Lims said they had a design patent and $US30,000 in sales in only four months. In the third season, they asked the Sharks for $100,000 for a 15% stake.
The Sharks were impressed, and the Lims proved flexible in negotiations. They took Cuban and Herjavec's offer of $US100,000 for a 40% stake in the company. Post 'Shark Tank,' Lollacup sales skyrocketed to $US300,000, and the couple had to move their sippie cup operations from their home into a facility.
PITCH: Student entrepreneurs Erika Welsh and Keeley Tillotson pitched their delicious Wild Nut Butter.
While living together as students at the University of Oregon, Welsh and Tillotson created flavours of homemade butter when they ran out of peanut butter on a winter day. They came up with flavours like Chocolate Coconut, Honey Pretzel, Cinnamon Raisin, Chocolate Sunflower Seed, and Vanilla Espresso.
Before the 'Shark Tank' episode aired in season three, they were even featured in Oprah Winfrey's magazine 'O,' and Winfrey announced that Pretzel Pizazz was her favourite nut butter flavour. The duo also reached their Kickstarter goal to raise $US10,000. They asked the Sharks for $50,000 for a 10% stake.
The duo landed a $US50,000 offer from Corcoran for a 40% stake. However, after the show, the deal fell through and the entrepreneurs changed the company name from 'Wild Squirrel Nut Butter' to 'Wild Friends Nut Butter' on account of a legal issue. The pitch was still a wild success. The company has enjoyed double-digit sales, and the pair was named on Glamour magazine's list of the Top 10 College Women of 2012.
Wild Friends Nut Butter products are sold through its website as well as independent retailers in the Pacific Northwest.
PITCH: Phil Dumas created technology that allows homeowners to unlock their doors with their mobile phones.
In the third season, Dumas introduced his keyless entry system, UniKey Technologies, which allows homeowners to ditch their housekeys and control their deadbolt locks with an app available for download on a smartphone.
As long as your phone is in range, you can lock and unlock the deadbolt. If your phone is not in range, the deadbolt can still be locked -- just not unlocked. This is useful when you have visitors who leave your house after you.
What's more, by having the key on your phone, you can send and receive keys to and from other users on a one-time, extended, and permanent basis. For example, if you have a cleaning service that comes at certain times during specific days, you can allow them access to your home only during those hours.
Dumas said he was working on a licensing structure with Black & Decker and wanted to get the product to market at $US149 to $US199. He asked the Sharks for $500,000 for a 33% equity stake.
The Sharks got into a bidding war and then negotiations with Dumas, who persuaded O'Leary and Cuban to go in for $US500,000 in exchange for 40% of the company, valuing it at $US1.25 million. They also got two seats on his board of directors. After 'Shark Tank,' UniKey made a major deal with Kwikset, the largest residential lock maker in the U.S. Dumas' deadbolt will be released on Oct. 31 and is sold on Amazon.
PITCH: Nate Holzapfel presented his mission to create a belt with no holes and help entrepreneurs in developing countries.
In the fourth season, Holzapfel impressed the Sharks with both his humour and serious goal to reinvent belts. 'Keeping my pants on is a full-time job,' he joked. His belts without holes tighten by acting like a 'giant zip tie,' he said during his segment on 'Shark Tank.' At the time, Holzapfel had been in business for just three months and had already made $US39,000.
But there's another reason why his Mission Belt Co. exists. For every belt that's sold, $US1 is donated to Kiva Lender Fund, which provides microloans to entrepreneurs mostly in developing countries. He asked for $50,000 for a 20% stake.
John liked the concept and Holzapfel's sales pitch. He agreed to invest in exchange for 37.5% of the company. It paid off. As of June 2013, the Mission Belt Co. has raked in more than $US1 million in sales, according to The Salt Lake Tribune.
BONUS: Charles Michael Yim persuaded all five Sharks to invest $US1 million together in his breathalyzer technology.
In the fifth season, Yim galvanised all five Sharks around Breathometer, a startup that makes a breathalyzer that plugs into your smartphone. He already had $US1 million in venture backing, had done $US100,000 in sales the previous month, and fluently answered the Sharks' questions. He initially asked for $250,000 from the Sharks for a 10% equity stake in his business. He ended up with Cuban, O'Leary, John, Greiner, and Herjavec in his corner and a $US1 million investment for 30% of his company.
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