As an aspiring entrepreneur I enjoy watching Shark Tank more than anything else. I have not seen every single episode but I am amazed and animated whenever I recognize products featured on the show displayed on the shelf in a nearby store (“I SAW THAT ON SHARK TANK” is my typical response).
I don’t often like how hard-headed Kevin, AKA Mr. Wonderful, and sometimes highly insensitive Daymond are. My favorites are the kind-hearted women in the show, as well as the entertaining Mark (who is always against patents that inhibit progress) and Robert who is the most level-headed person in the room and always manages to wrap everything up neatly and rarely fights with the other sharks.
The sharks have been where all the entrepreneurs stepping into the tank want to go. They aren’t just investors, they are entrepreneurs themselves and that is why I learn a lot from listening to their comments, weighing their decisions, and observing their personal morals shine forth.
Here’s a short list of 10 things that Shark Tank has taught me:
#1 Sell: Go out and sell your product. If you haven’t tried selling it or made any sort of money on it, what hope do the sharks have that they will recoup their investment?
If you haven’t sold anything at all, ask yourself if you actually have a viable product that people need or want.
#2 Know your product/ vision inside out: You need to know what you have so well that no one can dispute it was your brainchild. You’re not pitching an idea, you’re pitching a business.
#3 Invest in yourself or nobody else will: This one is key. People walk into the shark tank thinking that an amazing shark partner will make everything magically happen, but one must first experience, learn, fall, climb and remain open to even more insight before stepping into the tank at all. If you’re really an entrepreneur, you know how to do nearly every, if not all aspects of the business (or have a team member who contributes what you can’t).
#4 Be humble, be respectful, be honest, be you: The worst mistake I’ve seen on Shark Tank is people closing their window of opportunity (actually slamming it) by being rude to potential investors. Seriously, if an investor is not interested in your business today, they could always change their mind, but if his/ her mind is made up by some uncalled for comment of yours then there’s no chance for you. Also foster an attitude and personality that others like and respect because just because someone doesn’t want to invest it doesn’t mean that they won’t aid in your success in some way or another.
#5 Have a plan for the investment, don’t go to the Shark Tank seeking team members, there are busy people in there: This one is actually kind of silly. People walk in and ask the sharks to tell them what to do with the money. Sure, the chosen partner should have some say, but having no direction shows a lack of leadership and vision. I don’t think you would invest in an aimless individual, would you?
#6 It actually doesn’t matter who you know: It was quite surprising to see some guest stars on the show from pitching entrepreneurs. Although a cheap move, it is also a smart move, but if you lack in every other aspect of your presentation, a funny Seth MacFarlane isn’t going to pick up the scraps.
#7 Know what you’re worth, but don’t get greedy: It’s one or the other. Many companies are asked why they think they are worth a million dollars and the only reason they can come up with is that they see the market potential but have few or zero sales. Realize that unless your invention is unlike anything else, is protected under a patent, and people are clamoring to buy it, then it probably has too many competitors for the sharks to be interested at all.
#8 If you’re a woman, crying “might” work: Situational maybe. If sharks are close to investing but doubt your commitment, then shedding a few tears might help to bump the female, if not the male, sharks in your favor. (Personally, I don’t agree with “manipulative” crying to get your way, but I have seen real tears of desperation which were relieved by a kind investor in the show)
#9 Build a track record of success, but if you haven’t don’t lie: Try to impress the sharks, but be careful of not mentioning any struggles. The first thing they will wonder is, “if your company is so wonderful, why are you even here?” Sharks aren’t looking for pawns or automated beings that roll in the dough, they are making a real connection with people that they feel will enrich their own experience as investors. An honest partner is a good partner, especially if things turn sour and could be salvageable with some communication.
#10 A perfect pitch could mean a homerun: Work on your presentation. The first thing a shark will ever see is your pitch. If you make them ask all the questions to draw out facts about your business then it’s very likely they are not impressed with you and by association, with your business.
#11 Shark Tank = Sales: Even if you lose some equity to go on the show and don’t even have a shark invest, it could really pay off to have the publicity. If your packaging and marketing are sub-par your televised pitch could move thousands of people to share your product or purchase it!
I have seen the elephant medicine dropper at Safeway and the Freakers (drink cozies) at a small shop. I am currently trying to find Ice Chips in nearby stores, I hope they open up a listing of which stores they are selling at.