Buttering Up The Sharks On Shark Tank
A businessman nearly learns the hard way that four Sharks in the hand are worth one in the bush, as enthusiastic offers rapidly turn into bitter recriminations on the very best kind of Shark Tank.
I think we are all agreed that one of the least agreeable things about Shark Tank is when a Shark -- often times the first one to speak -- makes an offer and then demands that the poor guy or gal looking to secure the maximum amount of capital accept the offer immediately before even the hint of a counteroffer can be put forth by someone else. It is lousy manners and not even good TV and makes whatever Shark who tries that stunt look like a haughty putz. "You dare entertain other offers?" the haughty putz may as well be saying. "Why, I'll use my fortune to RUIN YOU!"
The counterpoint to that Shark faux pas is the Shark Tank contestant who is fielding perfectly fine offers and yet stands there hemming and hawing because...well, why? Is he waiting for all the Sharks to die of old age? Is he hoping that one of them will scream, "Fine, take all my money"? Is he under the assumption that he's going to get paid off by the hour?
So that's annoying, too, but on the bright side, it can often lead to that moment when the Sharks start revoking their perfectly fine offers en masse, and it looks like our hemming and hawing entrepreneur is going to walk out of there with nothing. Remember how we were talking about the least agreeable things with Shark Tank? This is the greatest thing about Shark Tank. And we nearly had such a miracle tonight.
Let's mark this momentous occasion, then, by ranking tonight's pitches by who comes closest to talking themselves out of a good deal.
4. Angels And Tomboys
Mallory and Madison Boyd are adorable little moppets, and the moment they walk in to the Tank with their mom Viara, you know there is no way that they are leaving with a penny less than the $55,000 they want for their body spray and lotion business aimed at tweens. I mean, at one point in their pitch, the two kids start dancing, for heaven's sake. The only note I jotted down at that point was "Just cut them a check already."
Oh, Shark Tank tries to tease this out, because Angels And Tomboys, while profitable, is only modestly so, and how do you get the word out about the company and oh, the wind and the rain. But you and I are much too sophisticated to fall for these tricks, even as Robert Herjavec, Kevin O'Leary, and Lori Greiner give it the ol' "Thanks but no thanks, you ridiculously precocious younglings." When Daymond John starts to speak, you know he's going to talk himself into a deal, and indeed he does, bringing in Mark Cuban to help with all the marketing this company is going to need. Mark and Daymond grab a third of their business for their $55,000, and the Boyds get to spray the tween-aged girls of the world with products named Frozen Hot Chocolate and Watermelon Funk and Lemonade Donut, and suddenly it doesn't seem so cute anymore, does it? "Try on this Nabokov Nectarine! It's refreshingly prurient!"
3. Atlantic Candy Company
Jared Whetstone is a third-generation chocolatier, and he and his pops think they're sitting on a Wonka-esque gold mine. The elder Whetstone has figured out a way to create chocolate that has little toy prizes hidden inside without running afoul of the FDA and its Big Government insistence that chocolates not double as choking hazards. The Atlantic Candy Company's contract to make these treats for another firm recently expired, and now Jared's family finds itself uniquely positioned to start cranking out toy-filled chocolates before anyone else can.
There is just one small catch: their exclusive patent for doing this runs out in two years, meaning that they needed to cut a deal with the Sharks, like, yesterday.
The Sharks are understandably unenthused about trying to make a go of it in the candy game, especially with an ever-shrinking window of opportunity, especially since the company's expertise has been in manufacturing, not retail. If Willy Wonka could have gotten rid of nasty children at the rate the Sharks drop out, Charlie would have owned the Chocolate Factory by the end of the first reel.
Monica Ferguson and Becca Brown -- do not ask me to tell you which one is which -- have created a little snap-on for stiletto heels that increases the surface area of the heel's base. That, in turn, reduces some of the pressure, so that you don't wind up sinking into the sod, as so many fashionable ladies have done before you. And it really works, as demonstrated not only by Lori, but by Robert, Daymond, and Kevin, who all take turns walking around in high heels. Mark demurs, the big sourpuss.
Monica and Becca have tallied more than $1 million in sales, and their valuation -- $500,000 for 10% -- is steep though not nutty. So what's the problem? Well, despite those sales, they're breaking even at this point, partially because they've been paying themselves salaries, which is sort of a Shark Tank no-no. Lori -- who you'd think would embrace this sort of thing -- is actually the first to drop out, reasoning that it's not something people need all that badly. Just as ominously, Mark and Daymond drop out too, since they fear they'll never make their investment back.
Oh, but Robert has faith in Solemates, and is willing to put up the $500,000 to help scale the business. He wants 25%, though, which is far more equity than Monica and Becca want to part with. While Kevin counters with one of his hare-brained venture debt deals, Monica and Becca let on that they'd be willing to cut a deal if it only meant parting with 20% of the company. For want of 5% equity, half a million dollars is nearly lost, but Robert acquiesces, and after a bit too much cross-talk for my taste, a deal gets cut.
Doug Foreman has a very strong product: an aerosol device that produces real butter spray so that you can hose down baked goods and popcorn and adventurous lovers in buttery goodness. You insert the stick of butter into the canister Last Tango In Paris-style, and a motion sensor detects when you lift up the canister so that it starts melting the butter into delicious spray. Yes, the device is pricey, and yes, Doug only wants to give up 5% of the business in exchange for $500,000, but this is as promising a product as you will see on Shark Tank.
And the Sharks agree. Daymond wants 17.5% for his $500,000 and tries an aborted "don't entertain any other offers" stunt, before Kevin undercuts him with a 15% proposal, which Daymond promptly matches. Lori offers $600,000 for 20% and murders the English language in the process. ("You're the trifecta," she says. "Clever, unique, and let's just say tres magnifique." No, Lori -- let's never say that.) Robert's in with $500,000 for 10%. So what does Doug think of all these offers?
"Stand here like a statue" is what Doug thinks. Because Doug wants to do a deal with Mark Cuban, and Mark is playing his cards very close to his vest. After a whole lot of prodding ends only with Doug casting meaningful looks at Mark, both Daymond and Robert pull their deals. Mark takes this opportunity to say that he's not interested after all, and now Doug is left with just two Sharks competing for his company instead of four.
Oh, but it gets better. Doug -- whose affections have clearly shifted from Mark to Lori -- asks if she might consider matching Kevin's 15% offer. Why not just take Kevin's, then, Robert wonders aloud, unless you have no intention of cutting a deal with Kevin. Which seems to be the case, as Lori undercuts Kevin by offering $500,000 for 14%, since numbers are now meaningless, and for God's sake, Doug, just take the deal already. He finally does, sparing us from having to come up with a metaphor about a solid substance that melts when someone turns up the heat.