Some 45,000 entrepreneurs from across the US auditioned for the sixth season of ABC’s hit show “Shark Tank.” Most of those who make it into the tank have been developing their businesses over several years, since the investors look for companies that they can accelerate rather than build from the ground up.
But Trina Barkouras, founder of holiday novelty company Hoppy Paws, not only got a chance to pitch the Sharks a mere six weeks after launching her company, her hustle was so impressive that she made a deal with Barbara Corcoran.
“Trina, look, you are not allowed to call yourself Trina anymore. I have rechristened you The Beast,” Mark Cuban tells her during her pitch. “I wish my salespeople were as focused and as driven and as excited about their vision.”
Twenty years ago, Barkouras got the idea to make a stamp shaped like giant rabbit footprints, which would lead to her children’s Easter baskets to make the Easter Bunny tradition more fun. Her kids are grown now, but she thinks it’s time to share the practice with families everywhere. Hoppy Paws has kits for Easter, Christmas (reindeer hooves), Halloween (glow-in-the-dark cat paws), and other celebrations.
She went to an open audition for “Shark Tank” in San Diego with a rough idea of what Hoppy Paws would be. The producers called her back shortly afterward to appear on the show, which meant that she needed to turn that idea into reality fast.
In 90 days, Barkouras invested $US105,000 of her own money into Hoppy Paws, developing the product design, the packaging, an initial batch of kits, and a tradeshow display.
And to top it off, she quit a lucrative career as an interior designer to pursue her new business full-time, a detail that blows the Sharks away.
When investor Lori Greiner asks Barkouras what her biggest seller is, she says: “My best-seller? What you’re holding in your hand came off the press yesterday.” The package wasn’t finished until 5 p.m. the day before.
“You can’t imagine how many people we all meet around the country who say, ‘I wanna get on ‘Shark Tank’ one day,'” Robert Herjavec says. “And I say to them, ‘Why don’t you apply?’ And you know what they say? ‘Oh, I’m not ready. I’m gonna give myself a couple of years.’ … You didn’t even have anything 90 days ago, and — Bang! — here you are with a business.”
Herjavec says he’s in awe of Barkouras, but he’s not convinced that, in the absence of proof of sales, the product could actually take off. He pulls out of a deal. Greiner agrees and does the same.
Kevin O’Leary, referring to Barkouras’ reindeer antler headband and fighting spirit, says he wants a woman with horns in his portfolio but that giving the company a $US500,000 valuation is impossible to him. He says he’ll join up with any other Sharks who want to participate and give $US5,000 toward 50% of the company. Herjavec wants in, but Cuban and Greiner find the deal unfair.
Corcoran then jumps in with her own offer: She’ll put up $US100,000 for a 50% stake in the company. She’s not looking to be a traditional investor, but rather a full-blown partner in the deal. “I’d like to be on equal footing, and I’d like to tell you why: It’s because I’d like to work just as hard as you,” she says.
Corcoran says that moving forward, she would limit the kits to the Christmas, Easter, and Tooth Fairy-themed ones and also get Barkouras a line of credit.
Barkouras wants to go 51%/49% so that she’ll retain the majority of the company. Corcoran agrees, as long as Barkouras thinks of five other company ideas and goes 50/50 with her on every future product. “You’re a little machine of ideas… and all those ideas are our ideas going forward.” They make a deal.
O’Leary predicted from the outset that Corcoran, who tends to gravitate toward big personalities on the show, would make a deal. She ended up with more than an investment in a startup, a partnership with an entrepreneur with an incredible amount of determination, focus, and creativity.
Barkouras tells the investors that she credits her drive to the fact that she’s been on her own for most of her life. She says that after her mum emancipated her at age 16, she took $US300 and moved to California, where she eventually began a lucrative career. “I’ve been successful at everything I do,” she says.
You can watch the full episode at Hulu Plus.
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