The Pros and Cons of Going on 'Shark Tank'
Swimming With Sharks Pro: “It’s like a million-dollar commercial.” Con: “You won’t always agree with the Sharks.” Pro: “You get to be a quasi-celebrity.” Con: "Keeping up with the fast pace of growth is difficult."Pro: “The Sharks are great PR reps.” Con: “Giving up a big piece of the pie is hard."Pro: "It legitimizes whatever you're doing."
It’s the ultimate dream for many start-ups: Pitch your business on ABC's “Shark Tank,” win over Mark Cuban, and compel 8 million viewers to go out and purchase your product.
But going on "Shark Tank" isn't easy. Although the publicity is great, it can actually hurt businesses that aren't prepared.
Inc. spoke with a handful of funded companies about the ups and downs of life after the show.
Tracy Noonan, founder of Wicked Good Cupcakes: "If you want to jumpstart your business, 'Shark Tank is definitely the way to go. It exposed us to a huge market that we wouldn’t have been exposed to otherwise. It’s a million-dollar commercial, that’s for sure."
Aaron Krause, inventor and CEO of Scrub Daddy sponges: "You’re being exposed to 7 to 10 million people in the U.S., and there are reruns all the time. Plus, if you do well, they’ll give you a follow-up episode, where they talk about your deal and how you’ve been doing. After the show, Walmart came to us--we didn’t go to Walmart. I couldn’t even get into supermarkets before.
Fleetwood Hicks, founder of Villy Customs, a bike shop: "Sometimes the Sharks make suggestions you may not agree with. Even though you get to give input, if it’s something you don’t agree with or like, it can be extra work to convince them otherwise."
Krause of Scrub Daddy: "The credibility that you get from ‘Shark Tank’ is incredible. It’s brand recognition. People associate us with it, and you get to be a quasi-celebrity."
Mike Hartwick, CEO and founder of Surfset Fitness: "As far as building a brand, the culmination was going on ‘Shark Tank.’ It just propels your brand so fast."
Hartwick of Surfset Fitness: "The exposure is good and bad. When that many people see your product, it invites a lot of business you’re probably not set up to deliver on. It took us six months to handle the regular demand that we have now. Asking people to wait for products that aren’t quite ready is difficult, too."
Dallas Robinson, co-founder of Kisstixx Lip Balm: The exposure was fast and immediate. The website was full of orders. We started getting international sales inquiries. We didn’t have the bandwidth to deal with 13 or 14 countries’ regulations.
Noonan of Wicked Good Cupcakes: Our business has grown 500 percent since we aired. Having to scale up and be ready and not knowing at what point we were going to level off at was hard. We had to deal with customer service not being ready and not having enough staff. We had to change our website so it was more responsive.
Hicks of Villy Customs: "The Sharks have good crews behind them that listen to what you’re saying and make suggestions. Sixty percent of the business we get today is from the show."
Noonan of Wicked Good Cupcakes: "We have Kevin O’Leary behind us, and he’s been great PR. He mentions us everywhere. We also have his entire team helping us out: interns, graphic design, and marketing people. It’s a tremendous amount of help."
Hicks of Villy Customs: "I realized I’d need to give up quite a bit to get the $1.5 million in funding from Mark Cuban and Barbara Corcoran. For what we wanted to do, $50,000 wasn’t going to help our company. But giving them a big piece of the pie is certainly hard to do.”
Krause: "We gave up 20 percent in equity for $200,000. It's like buying a house."
Hicks: "It instantly legitimizes whatever it is you're doing. No matter where you go or what you do, you can use that as your trump card. Pretty much everybody knows the Sharks are not going to go into something unless it's an amazing idea."
Hartwick of Surfset Fitness: "Being on the show forever associates us with pop culture. We got a ton of media after going on the show. We've done Katie Couric, TMZ, and some other shows. It's something people talk about."