Heidi and Cory Santiago put their life's savings into their first business, so when a partner stole their money, they were devastated. Eleven years ago, the husband and wife team launched Wee-Minder, a watch designed to help potty-train children. They partnered with a middleman overseas, but when the economic crisis of 2008 hit, the middleman disappeared, taking their inventory and their cash with him.
On Sunday, the Santiagos appeared on the season premiere of Shark Tank to pitch their new business, Spokane, Washington-based business Bear Minimum. The company's flagship product is a lightweight, collapsible camping stove called Bear Bowl designed for hikers and backpackers. The cooking pots are made from food grade, flame-resistant material and are about the size of a wallet. The company bills the product as the "world's first pocket cook pot."
What impressed the Sharks the most was the Santiagos' drive and passion for entrepreneurship. Instead of declaring bankruptcy after losing their first business to a crook, the pair took on a number of jobs--Heidi worked as a theater performer--and eventually recommitted themselves to launching a new company. Today, Cory works on Bear Minimum during the day and drives for Lyft at night, while Heidi works five part-time jobs, including teaching English to students online and giving music lessons.
"People stand here and they will make it seem like everything was so easy and we go, 'What the hell are you here for?'" Daymond John said during the episode. "Now we know why you're here--because you went through everything and you still have a passion."
The Santiagos were seeking a $100,000 investment in exchange for 20 percent of their company. They didn't have any revenue to report, but they did have a proof of concept and a Kickstarter campaign that raised $40,000 on just a $1,000 target. The money will go toward funding Bear Minimum's first production order.
The Santiagos walked out of the Tank with a deal from guest Shark Jamie Siminoff, who agreed to invest $100,000 in exchange for 25 percent of the company. Siminoff knows what it's like to bounce back after suffering a business setback, as five years ago, the Sharks declined to invest in his wifi-enabled video doorbell company, Ring. Earlier this year, Siminoff sold the company to Amazon for more than $1 billion.
"The best university you can go to is failure," he said.