For Those About To Pitch Shark Tank, We Salute You
Who's ready for another military veteran-themed episode of Shark Tank? Last one of you to answer with sufficient enthusiasm hates America.
Get ready for Veterans Day in February, as Shark Tank rolls out another theme episode that revolves around businesses created by veterans of the armed forces (or, in one instance, their spouses). Mark Burnett doesn't care what your calendar says: any time's the right time for the Sharks to bask in the reflected glory of our fighting men and women and maybe make a buck or two off them in the process.
While the Sharks go out of their way to thank everyone appearing on tonight's program for their service, that gratitude doesn't always come in the form of a great big check. Let's list tonight's military-veteran participants, starting with the ones whom the Sharks busted down to private and counting our way toward the ones who rose through the ranks.
It's not like Willie Blount and his cousin Tariq Rodgers have a terrible idea for a business. Willie used the electronics skills he picked up in the Marines to whip up gloves that use gesture controls like pinching two fingers together to control things like music playback on a smartphone. It comes in handy for those times when you're riding your motorcycle or skiing down the slopes and can't exactly whip out your smartphone to skip over that goddamn Drake song that keeps popping up on shuffle. Kevin O'Leary wonders why you wouldn't just use something like voice control to do the same thing, which is spoken like a man who's never been reduced to a fifteen-minute shouting match with his iPhone's Siri controls.
No, the problem with Beartek is the overly ambitious valuation Willie and Tariq have put on the company -- $10 million, based on their $500,000-for-5% asking price. If you're thinking, "Man, that is a lot of money to pay for a company that just does gloves and really only as a proof of concept," Robert Herjavec's lawyers would like to talk to you about taking the words right out of his mouth. But not to worry, Willie and Tariq point out: their technology can go beyond the consumer space into military and commercial applications where users need to control things without having to take off their gloves to do it. That's a very good point; the fact that they have yet to line up any of these contracts sort of it undermines it, however, and all of the Sharks drop out.
3. Major Mom
Angela Cody-Rouget seems like an amiable person, especially after you learn that her Air Force career was spent with one finger on the trigger ready to deliver nuclear death from above to our enemies at the President's say-so. Now that she's finished her stint as Death, the Destroyer of Worlds, Angela is using her military training and discipline to make the rest of us stop living like disorganized slobs. She's formed Major Mom, which is not the less heralded spinoff to Gerald McRaney's late '80s sitcom, but rather a home organization business that runs on what Angela calls "military values and tactics." So now I'm imagining R. Lee Ermey from Full Metal Jacket tearing into some hapless bozo for not putting his socks in the right Container Store receptacle.
Telling people how to better organize their piles of useless crap has proven to be a lucrative business for Angela. She's on track for $550,000 in sales this year, and around 60% of that would have been profit if she wasn't funneling it back into expanding the business. What keeps the Sharks from signing on with Major Mom is a less-than-encouraging franchising strategy, which requires a significant outlay of cash by potential franchisees. But not to worry, potential investors: Angela says that all she has to do for you to get a return on your investment is set up 150 franchises at $20,000 each and make sure 90% of those turn out to be wildly successful. Saying that part out loud doesn't have the calming effect on the Sharks Angela probably was hoping for: everyone's out, including Lori Grenier, who made her bones with this sort of thing.
2. R. Riveter
Lisa Bradley and Cameron Cruse are doing something kind of cool with their apparel business. Not only do they use upcycled military materials -- old tents and fatigues, for instance -- they also have spouses of active military assemble the different parts. That's significant because even if the family is uprooted by deployment or transfer, the spouses can keep on working for R. Riveter. It's also driving up the costs of finished product -- a bag sells for $220 -- but based on the $190,000 in year-to-date sales that R. Riveter is pulling in, the company's customer base doesn't seem to mind.
Daymond John drops out because he doesn't really think Lisa and Cameron need a partner to help what seems to a growing business. But Lisa and Cameron would really like a Shark to help them with marketing, and Kevin is more than willing to oblige with a $100,000-for-20% offer that matches everything they were asking for. Robert makes the same offer, doubtlessly reasoning that if it comes down to a beauty contest between him and Kevin, there's no way he loses. Ah, but then Mark Cuban jumps in with a $200,000/10% offer of his own, plus a promise to finance any inventory. "Tell all three of these bobos to take a walk," Daymond urges, but who can resist Mark and his line of credit? Lisa and Cameron do the deal with him.
1. Combat Flip Flops
Former Army Rangers Matthew Griffin and Donald Lee look at the world's trouble spots -- Colombia, Afghanistan, and Laos to name a few -- and think, "What this area needs is a little light manufacturing." So they're producing flip-flops and sarongs and bangles made out of old landmines in these former and current hotspots, with the idea of providing entrepreneurial opportunities to the locals. It's a noble if occasionally costly idea, though Matthew and Donald tallied $134,000 in sales last year and are now turning a profit.
Kevin and Robert think the company has spread itself too thin, and that Matthew and Donald should have focused instead on the flagship flip-flop business. So both of those guys are out. Lori is very tempted to make an offer, but she'd like the other Sharks to join her on a deal. Funny she should mention that: Mark and Daymond were just talking about forming such a partnership to the tune of $200,000 for 25% of the company.
"So we're splitting that three ways?" Lori asks. Oh no, no, no, no, Daymond replies -- that's just for him and Mark, though Lori's welcome to sell some of the Combat Flip Flop products for a percentage if she wants. Before we can revel in Lori's freeze-out, Matthew suggests that he'd very much like Lori to be on board. If that's the case, Mark and Daymond counter, you're going to give us a lot more equity. Which Matthew is happy to do, provided there's more cash coming in exchange. In the end, everyone settles on $300,000 for 30%, and we can all go home happy if not exactly thrilled by a rather pedestrian episode.