The “Shark Tank” investors were charmed by baby-faced Benjamin Stern, the 16-year-old founder and CEO of bottle-less bath products company Nohbo, whose pitch involved washing his grandmother’s hair.
But after the high school junior from Florida explained how he cold called invention headhunters at companies like Clorox and then set forth to secure patents after hearing interest, the Sharks respected him as a bona fide entrepreneur.
Mark Cuban said he saw himself in Stern, calling Stern “Mini Me,” and made a deal with him for $100,000 in exchange for 25% of the company.
Stern and Cuban closed the deal since filming the pitch last summer, and Stern said his business has been kicked up a level since his segment premiered in a Season 7 episode two weeks ago. Stern told Business Insider that Cuban and his team have already revamped Nohbo’s website and secured it with a manufacturing deal, as well as given him plenty of valuable guidance. Stern shared several key lessons they have already taught him.
You have to walk before you run.
When he was 14, Stern watched a documentary about the plastic bottling industry and realised that may of the plastic gone un-recycled came from people’s bathrooms, where they’re more likely to toss an empty bottle into the trash. He decided to find a way to take the idea behind detergent pods and apply them to shampoo, body wash, and shaving cream. He and a chemist developed a prototype that looked like a Lindt chocolate ball, a dissoluble ball held in a biodegradable wrapper.
Stern has always wanted Nohbo to be a revolutionary product, one that could end up in hotels and licensed to major toiletry manufacturers. Cuban was drawn to Stern’s passion but taught him to minimise risk and keep his ambitions grounded.
“They have taught me I shouldn’t start something without knowing and preparing for the absolute worst outcome that could happen, even if we expect the best,” Stern said.
You don’t need to wait for the perfect time to seek a deal.
While Cuban taught Stern to stay grounded, he’s also given him the assurance that reaching out to potential licensing partners this early in the company’s life “is never a bad thing,” and that he was right to follow his instinct when he called Clorox a couple years ago to gauge its interest in his product.
Cuban wants Stern to hedge his bets, but not to lose his aggressive confidence.
You need to foster excitement over your brand.
Stern has already exceeded the $10,000 goal for his Indiegogo campaign for the launch of Nohbo and has been fielding investment offers. But Cuban and his team told Stern the “Shark Tank” buzz won’t last forever.
Stern said that he realised that “keeping up the excitement is an inevitable and ongoing challenge.” He’s determined to build relationships with customers and clients, making the most of the momentum he’s got.
You need to surround yourself with people better than you.
“I want to run Nohbo in a way that allows flexibility and secures a sense of loyalty for all of our workers,” Stern said.
“As a CEO, I’m adjusting to working with people all the time, and jumping into an area which I know little about,” he said. In his journey as a founder-CEO, he’s already recognised that Cuban and his team have helped him avoid mistakes he would have made on his own. He wants to bolster his team even further, and not let his ego get in the way.
“I know how many bad turns I have avoided by surrounding myself with geniuses in the business field, so if I can get them on board to back us completely, that would be amazing, and would progress Nohbo more than anything I could possibly do,” Stern said.
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