Is Shark Tank a Consideration for Your New Business?
We’ve had a number of SCORE LA clients ask about Shark Tank in recent years. In this post, Keith Marz, an owner of Marz Sprays (marzsprays.com), shares his experience of being featured on Shark Tank.
Before you read this interview, Marz strongly suggested that if you are serious about applying for Shark Tank, don’t solely rely on his example. Instead watch and study more companies featured on Shark Tank, read articles related to the topic, and most importantly, read the Shark Tank application carefully.
What made you apply for the Shark Tank?
Keith: Well, there were a couple reasons. We wanted to partner with one of the Sharks on Shark Tank for a marketing strategy, and we also wanted exposure for our product.
Can you walk us through from applying for the program to getting your business featured on TV?
Keith: You first start with sending an application (see Resources). Entire process takes about 4-6 months. Your application is scrutinized by producers, Shark Tank, Mark Burnett, ABC, attorneys and marketing people, and you go through multiple interviews. At any given year, about 30,000 companies apply for the program. Out of those, about 100 companies are aired. There is always a chance that even if you are selected to present your company to the Sharks, you may never get aired on TV, so there is a lot of luck and uncertainty involved.
The key thing you should remember is that they are in the entertainment business. Your product/service has to be something that the public may be interested in, interesting enough to be featured on Friday night.
Once you’re on with the Sharks, the entire presentation takes about 40-60 minutes (from there they edit down to 10 minutes) so you really have an opportunity to have in-depth conversation with sharks about your business. During the application process producers will ask tons of questions in helping you prepare, and while making a presentation to the Sharks, they will ask a variety of great questions, so you need to be prepared. They really make you think more about your business and analyze your business in different ways.
What are the benefits you are getting from being featured from Shark Tank?
Keith: A rerun of the show is always helping us with marketing. It’s been a few years since we filmed, but we still get new customers through reruns of the show. Another major benefit is our relationship with Lori Greiner, the shark with whom our relationship has continued.
What was the most challenging part of your Shark Tank experience?
Keith: Going through the application process isn’t easy, but it makes you focus on your business and you will find great value in the journey. There is always a chance you may not get selected. You have to be totally honest with them. They will find out if you’re misleading them.
Based on your experience, what kind of businesses and in what stage of business might be a good fit for Shark Tank?
Keith: Business with product or service that the general public would be interested in buying. Specifically, the best time to apply is when your business is beyond proof of concept, has been selling it for a while and is in need of growth capital to expand your business.
Go there with a reason. Go there when you can’t keep us with sales or product. In terms of dollar figure, don’t even bother applying if you need like $10,000, but seriously consider applying if you need like $200K. Your deal has to be appealing to investors, meaning when there is little downside and potential upside.
Would you give some advice for entrepreneurs who are interested in applying for Shark Tank?
Keith: Basically you need to compellingly address the problem and the solution to the Sharks. Let me take our business as an example. We manufacture oral sprays that are valuable for people that don’t like or cannot swallow pills. Our products are liquid and have terrific bioavailability which means they are more easily absorbed than most pills. And with most pills you have no idea whether they will be absorbed or not leaving open the possibility that if they don’t disintegrate, they CANNOT be absorbed, leaving no reason to have spent the money. So when I talk about something being different or helping the public, there are thousands of pills on shelves or online, but a critical reason for taking any dietary supplement is to benefit from the ingredients.
Knowing that there are approximately 100 million people who can’t or have trouble swallowing pills and that people are anxious to absorb the underlying nutrients in dietary supplements we created a liquid product to increase absorption and relieve people from having to swallow pills….so we have a problem and solution.
During the presentation, tell the Sharks why the public has come to buy your product, help them visualize the problem you are solving. Make sure you are ready to answer “What do I need this product for?” question. Sometimes people don’t intuitively understand the problem you are describing.
Lastly, you need to have compelling reasons why the Sharks need YOU. It is common for them to ask why they wouldn’t just take their own money and start a company doing what you do, so you need to point out the value of what you do, and hopefully, there is something proprietary making it worth their while.
Marz added this overall comment: Never avoid trying to apply to Shark Tank because you fear rejection or the process is intimidating. Every producer and person associated with the show was more than cordial, understanding and beyond helpful. If you avoid applying you will always wonder…what if???? There are so many successes that have occurred due to the show, and subsequent to it, that you do not want to leave the possibility of a huge success on the table… make the effort since you will benefit regardless of the outcome.
by Jason Kim, SCORE Business Counselor