On the ABC show Shark Tank, entrepreneurs ask investors ("Sharks," including Barbara Corcoran and Mark Cuban) to use their real money to fund their enterprises. The fact that the entrepreneur benefits is an aside; the purpose is to showcase how partnerships are struck while highlighting some truly unique small businesses.
As so with any real investment (because that's what it is), there are duds and there are wild success stories. Here are some of the most incredible success stories to come out of the show so far. While this is akin to stumbling across an angel investor, there are lessons to be learned. How to talk to investors, how to pitch, and what kinds of ideas are worthwhile can all be gleaned from the show.
Travis Perry from Alabama pitched a product that helps kids (or any newbie) learn guitar chords. Appearing with country star John Rich didn't hurt, but it was really the ingenuity and true user friendliness that made ChordBuddy a success. He partnered with Robert Herjavec for $175,000 for 20 percent stake in the company. Today, it's sold in more than 200 retail spots, has a line of acoustic guitars, and rakes in about $2 million per year.
Ava the Elephant
Mom Tiffany Krumins got creative when she struggled to get her children to take medicine. A cute medicine dropper caught the eye of shark Barbara Corcoran, even though at the time it was "just" an idea. Krumins got $50,000 for 55 percent company stake, and sales shot up 500 percent in one year to $500,000. Now, the product is sold in more than 10,000 stores and 10 countries, bringing in about $1 million each year.
The Painted Pretzel
Gourmet fare can sink or swim, but the Painted Pretzel blew all the sharks out of the water. Mark Cuban partnered up with at-home chef Raven Thomas, who had already secured partnerships with Whole Foods and Bloomingdale's. For $100,000, Cuban got 25 percent of the company and upped sales 366 percent in two years. Today, these gourmet pretzels are in hundreds of retail locations and the company just signed on with Landmark Theaters.
Cat owners are a special breed, and the dream of many is to train their cats to use the toilet just like a human does. This means no litterbox, no smell and no fuss. Rebecca Rescate from Pennsylvania created a device that really works to toilet train cats. Multiple sharks wanted to bite, but she partnered with Kevin Harrington for $100,000 for 20 percent. Now, the product brings in $1 million per year and has even been featured on Late Night with David Letterman.
However, this is just one way to team up with an investor. Asking family and friends and checking out bank loans are also feasible options. Building a following with a blog or social media campaign is also a smart move. For entrepreneurs who have an idea that's a veritable goldmine, it can pay off to jump right into the deep end.