Whenever I tell someone that I’m working on developing an invention of mine they immediately tell me I should go on the Shark Tank. If you’re not familiar with the ABC reality show, entrepreneurs go in front of a board of venture capitalists and make the case for why they should invest in the start up company. If the investors like the idea they’ll invest their own money in the company, if they don’t they’ll rip it to shreds. I started watching full episodes on ABC.com and I’m hooked. Here are some lessons I’ve learned:
1. Be shameless. You need to be able to walk into a store and make that manager carry your product. You need to go up to strangers and convince them that their lives are incomplete without your product. You need to be willing to make a fool of yourself to stand out and be memorable. Embarrassment is not failure, anonymity is failure.
2. You are an important part of the product. Some of the best bidding wars happened when the investors didn’t particularly like the product, they just saw such a huge drive in that person that they wanted to be involved in whatever they do. You need to be likable and relatable.
3. You can’t help others until you’re successful. This is the hardest lesson to swallow. There was an entrepreneur who was trying to revive his small town with a manufacturing company. He was making a great product but at a loss because the cost of labor was so high. The sharks wanted to be partners with him, but they wanted to manufacture the product in China. The man said absolutely not- it went against his beliefs.
I sympathized with the guy because when I first had the idea for BeddyBye I had grand plans of reviving manufacturing in NYC, and hiring new parents as consultants, and providing state of the art free day care and the list goes on. Daymond John, CEO of Fubu, is one of the sharks and he asked the entrepreneur how long he could continue making the product at a loss, and the man said a few more weeks. At that point he would be broke, and couldn’t help himself let alone his town. Daymond stated that if the product was made for less money he could then hire sales reps, website developers, customer service, office managers, and so on. He would be able to help a lot more people if his focus was on success rather than martyrdom. Damond said “first you have to make it, then master it, and then you can matter.” You’ll be able to do a lot more good once you have some money behind your beliefs. Just look at George Soros.
4. The best ideas are the simplest. These are the ideas that make you say, “I can’t believe that doesn’t exist already.” That’s what I said when I first came up with BeddyBye, and I was shocked when I couldn’t find anything like it online. Look around your house and see if anything would be completely different with a slight modification. One woman got $50k for her product that was basically a towel with a slit in the middle to cover kids when they’re changing at the beach or pool. Another guy got $100k for a water bottle that unscrews at the bottom and top so you can clean the bottom. I know I’ve thrown out bottles that get gunk stuck on the bottom. So simple!
So how has this Shark Tank marathon helped my small enterprise? While I’m waiting for the last bit of bureaucracy to go through on my LLC, I’m going to focus on being a good salesman. I had another small business idea rolling around in my head. The start up costs are lot a less, and success will really depend on how well I push it. This will be great reinforcement of lessons 1 and 2, since I can be shy and intimidated easily. I will post more about it soon!
You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face…You must do the thing you think you cannot do.
– Eleanor Roosevelt