Laura and Michael J. Dweck, the married co-founders of apparel startup Basic Outfitters, were well aware of the "Shark Tank bump" -- the tendency for a small business to explode overnight after appearing on the ABC show -- which is why they sent a cold email to the show's casting team.

They didn't expect an invitation to be on the show (they got one). They didn't expect to walk out of the Tank without a deal (that happened). They didn't even expect their segment to air (it did). And while they got the much-anticipated boost in sales, the Dwecks say the biggest surprise of all was how prepping for the show -- something like cramming for an exam -- has helped their business.

The couple launched Basic Outfitters, which sells high-quality men's fashion staples such as socks and underwear, two years ago. Its flagship "create-a-drawer" service sends 19 items, including socks, underwear, T-shirts, and jogger sweatpants, to customers for $60.

In September 2016, the Dwecks arrived, nervous and excited, to tape Shark Tank. Laura, 28, and Michael, 30, had already decided to seek $125,000 for a 10 percent stake in their company. But once the negotiations started, the co-founders couldn't reach an agreement with the celebrity investors.

Disappointed, the couple left the show without a deal or a business mentor. When they got home, they worried that their segment would be cut or that their company would be cast in a negative light. Both of those concerns were alleviated when their episode aired last January.

The company quickly reaped the benefits of the Tank. Before the show aired, Basic Outfitters, which had just enjoyed a strong holiday season, had sold $500,000 worth of products. Post-Shark Tank, the company's month-over-month sales rose 1,000 percent.

But Laura and Michael now realize that the true value of the experience was in the studying they did ahead of time.

The couple had seen enough Shark Tank to know what to expect; the Sharks would grill the co-founders about their company and expect them to know their numbers. Before taping, the duo watched old episodes of the show, compiled every question -- itemized by which Shark asked what -- and made flash cards. Laura and Michael called their prep "business boot camp."

"It really forced us to dive into every little nitty-gritty detail about our business, understand what we were doing, what the numbers were saying," Laura says. "There were things we weren't normally looking at on a daily basis."

Once they had everything memorized, the pair worked on their delivery. They rehearsed their pitch, recruited family members to play some of the Sharks, and thought of answers to follow-up questions. "It was like the SATs, high school AP [exams], and all my finals in college mixed into one," Michael says. 

Laura and Michael say they walked out of the Tank feeling confident with their answers. What's more, they got an extensive education in their company and received a flood of emails from Shark Tank viewers asking for women's products.

Today, the co-founders are solidifying plans to release a women's version of their create-a-drawer service by the end of 2018. While the Shank Tank experience wasn't what they expected, "it was actually very positive for us," Laura says.

Published on: Nov 28, 2017