Around six months ago, I connected with Julie Busha of Slawsa through Twitter. She read my blog and felt that I was quite experienced and could bring value to people in her business community. She then sent me samples of her product and invited me to join a community on Facebook, a private group of over 13,000 people called the Shark Tank Entrepreneurs.
About three months ago, I started participating in the community. I connected with and helped a lot of entrepreneurs who were either just starting out with their businesses or were looking for tips on how to improve them.
While helping out these entrepreneurs, I noticed that there were some really successful entrepreneurs in the group as well. I took time to interview six of them to learn from the successes that came from their failed Shark Tank deal. This is what they had to share.
1. Kendra Kroll of PortaPocket had a very positive 30-minute interview for season three.
Although she wasn’t chosen that time around, she was encouraged to come back and try out for season four. Instead of picking her product, the show took on Partie Poche (now defunct) instead.
Even though Kendra wasn’t on the show, she found a creative way to leverage the airtime of Partie Poche. She jumped into the social media fray when its segment aired and gained traction for her business. Partie Poche’s website wasn’t able to handle the influx of traffic when its episode aired, so she was able to collect a bunch of its sales.
Kendra learned that you need to get to the auditions as early as possible. When she got to hers, the Shark Tank representative was already exhausted, and, Kendra believes, may not have even heard anything she said. Also, your website needs to be ready to handle a huge influx of traffic, or a better prepared competitor may be the happy recipient of the orders from what would have been your interested customers.
2. Kellie DeFries of Crystal Ninja tried out for the show three times.
She had very sparkly feedback from producers at each open-call audition, but was never put on the show. Regardless, she didn’t let that stop her from continuing to build a crystallized empire. Today she has sold well over 30,000 Crystal Katana tools along with a growing product line to help all crafters, artists, and nail techs around the world with the difficult problem of picking up and placing small Swarovski crystals and other embellishments onto items. She has received interest from two big box stores, but is researching the offers of each contract with a fiscally responsible approach.
Kellie learned that even though she hasn’t made it onto the show, she can still be successful. She credits this to her strong do-or-die work ethic, incredible customer service, gleaming attitude, and flourishing gain on social media. Her customer base has grown into multiple industries and Crystal Ninja’s numbers have tripled. Improving the way so many people approach this tedious task, her tool line is saving the day. Kellie shows no signs of slowing down on the creation of her sparkly dynasty.
3. Dr. Roland Berthiaume, inventor of Lo-Bak TRAX, also tried out three times, but never got any traction.
He had everything on the line and dumped his life savings into a device to handle back pain. He even took out equity on his house just to make ends meet. Eventually, he lost that, too. He thought he was going to go out of business and was at the end of his rope.
But he had hope. He knew that his device was going to help many people, so he had to continue investing in the business. By the turn of fate, Lori Greiner saw one of his tweets with Mark Burginer in which he was talking about back pain. It interested her because her dad was having horrible back pain, yet nothing was helping his symptoms.
Lori took a chance, bought two of the devices, and gave one to her dad and the other to a massage therapist. They loved it so much that in July 2014, she reached out to him and helped him get onto QVC. She also helped source out better prices with her manufacturer connections, and he is about to air for the third time on QVC, expecting another sell out.
Roland learned that no matter how detailed your business plan may be, or how great you think your product is, it’s going to take at least twice as much money and three times more time than you think to make it to market. Always plan your personal finances to sustain that.
He also learned that you should never give up. In 2014, his business partner was thinking of cutting ties with him and asked what he would do. Roland said that he will continue to pursue this business until he doesn’t have any air left in his lungs, because he knew he was going to make it. He didn’t know when or how, but deep in his bones, he knew he would. His partner stayed.
4. Julie Busha of Slawsa aired on the ninth episode of the fifth season.
She pitched her Slawsa condiment to Mark Cuban, Daymond John, Kevin O’Leary, Lori Greiner, and Robert Herjavec. She didn’t receive a single offer despite having retailer confidence and support in thousands of stores, including several of the nation’s largest grocery retailers. But that didn’t stop her. While the edit focused more on her inspiring story of fiscal responsibility and less on Slawsa’s flavor, versatility, and health attributes, she is expected to finish coast-to-coast distribution by the end of the year. To top it off, Julie was just named as Progressive Grocer’s 2015 “Top Women in Grocery,” an honor that she’ll receive in November.
Julie learned that, even though she has a very positive opinion of the show, nothing is guaranteed. She expected to receive an offer. Nonetheless, it was disappointing enough for her to take it personally in the beginning. Regardless, she decided to never let anyone else’s inability to see her value determine her worth. Now she is battling ahead and keeping her sleeves rolled up.
5. Mark Burginger of Qubits Toy received a contingent offer from Daymond John for $90,000 on the season finale of the first season.
Daymond John stated he would take 51 percent ownership of the company, but only if he was able to sell Qubits Toy for millions of dollars to one of the top four toy corporations. The Sharks are amazing, but they don’t have the power to do everything that comes their way. Daymond tried his best, but still wasn’t able to make the sale.
That didn’t stop Mark, though. He sold a valuable URL to a computer corporation, did a few Kickstarters and Indiegogo campaigns, completely rebuilt his toy design in America, and then he moved most of his business to Amazon. Not only did he break sales records, but he was awarded a $150,000 small-business award from Chase Bank.
Mark learned that hard work and steady persistence will get you to the goal. A registered architect, Mark feels success, like concrete, makes a better foundation if you let it harden with time instead of money.
6. Shelly Ehler of Showno Towels was on the fourth episode of the third season. She was the only contestant in Shark Tank history to have received a check on the spot.
She partnered with Lori Greiner for a year and worked together on the project, but things just didn’t go the way she expected them to, or the way they were presented on TV. They dismantled their partnership and went their separate ways. Shelly is still running Showno but is gradually moving her way into becoming a motivational speaker. She is also writing a book on the lessons she learned from her experience.
Shelly learned to not attach herself to an outcome. Just because something doesn’t look the way you want it to, it doesn’t mean it’s wrong. There are endless possibilities, but when you judge your outcome as wrong, you become stuck. When you show appreciation and thankfulness for whatever comes your way, you continue to flow in the direction of your dreams. When you are grateful, something bigger and better will come along.
Regardless, that’s just how life is. We expect things to go certain ways, but that usually leads to disappointment. Obstacles will always come from all directions; it is our job to overcome them just like these Shark Tank entrepreneurs have done for themselves.
What are some obstacles you have faced with your business and how were you able to take your business to the next phase? I’d love to hear more. Please comment below.
Originally posted on Inc.
Leonard Kim is Managing Partner at InfluenceTree. At InfluenceTree, Leonard and his team teach you how to build your (personal or business) brand, get featured in publications and growth hack your social media following.
Photo credit: ABC.