More Like Drunk Tank
The wine flows free and furiously on one segment of Shark Tank, and that's all the excuse we need to delve into the curious relationship of Barbara Corcoran and Kevin O'Leary.
I don't go around scouring the internet for Shark Tank fan fiction -- because, dear God, my eyes -- but I assume it exists, and it's a booming industry. And if I were to lay down money on which coupling commands the biggest following amongst Shark 'shippers -- the kids still call it that, right? -- it would be the Kevin O'Leary/Barbara Corcoran pairing. The next most popular Shark Tank fan fiction couples? My guess would be Robert and Lori, Mark and Chris Sacca, and Mark and himself, with his doppelgänger named Clark Muban, or something like that.
Anyhow, if everything I've just said is true, then this episode is fuel for the dream journals that you Kevin/Barbara (KevBra? CorLeary?) types are storing in your safety deposit boxes for safe-keeping. Kevin and Barbara getting looped on jug wine and smooching over appetite suppressants? WHO GAVE YOU PERMISSION TO TRANSCRIBE MY HALLUCINATIONS, MARK BURNETT? I mean, just look at these two lovebirds.
So rather than concern ourselves with valuations and counter-offers, let's rank tonight's pitches on how they advance the storyline on this blossoming and doubtlessly-fictitious-for-legal-purposes romance. Commerce is in the air...and so is love.
4. The Sleep Styler
There's no hint of Kevin and Barbara's smoldering desires, but that's only because Tara Brown really gives them no chance to make goo-goo eyes at each other, jumping at the first offer she gets on her hair-care business. Tara has created a pack of rollers you stick in your hair at night to do the styling work as you sleep. The idea is that, the next morning, you're spending just five minutes getting your hair into shape instead of the hour it takes the average woman.
(Side note: the average woman spends an hour getting her hair ready every day? How has our economy not crumbled under the weight of all that product?)
At any rate, Tara would like $75,000 for 20% of her company. She could probably demand even more if she threw in the terrifying time-bending energy that allows her to pursue a side business, raise a family, and run an optometry practice all without turning into a haggard, gibbering madwoman. Dear lord, those hair curlers really must save you a lot of time in the mornings.
Lori Greiner is the first to make a bid, asking for 30% of the company. And if Lori has her way, she will be the last to make a bid: she wants an answer right now. Kevin tries to float an offer of his own, but Lori shouts him down by pointing out that he's bald as an egg -- no fanfic fodder there, you guys -- leaving Tara to counter with 25% for Lori's $75,000. That's a done deal, and if everything were conducted on Shark Tank with this ruthless efficiency, each episode would last about twelve minutes.
You look at a billboard and see a mere advertisement. Brothers Aric and Alec Avedissian look at that same billboard and see material for wallets, backpacks and surfboard bags. And there's a certain logic to that: the material used for billboards are durable, waterproof, and disposed of every four to six weeks. Why not reuse the material for assorted bags, especially since it can be had at nominal cost? The answer to this seemingly rhetorical question is that the bags are not all that attractive, at least to this writer's admittedly subjective eye, but who can account for taste these days?
As far as the Sharks are concerned, the problem is not that some dopey writer isn't all that smitten with the look of Rareform's bags, but rather the fact that the company is doing impressive sales ($1.1 million over three years) and has minimal material costs, and yet isn't turning a profit. (That's changing, though, as the company is shifting production to Mexico -- a strategic decision bound to play well in our current political climate.) Also, the Avedissian boys have given up a lot of equity to other investors, making their $3 million valuation a big ask for the Sharks.
It's too big for Barbara, Mark, and Robert Herjavec, who all bail pretty quickly. Lori joins them, because she sees the fact that no two bags look alike as a sales killer rather than a differentiator. That leaves only Kevin, who wants to do one of his equity deals, where he loans the brothers the $30,000 they want at 8% interest to be paid off in three years; at that time, he'll get 10% equity.
It's not a bad offer so far as these things go: Kevin's deal gives the Avedissians the cash they claim they need, though several Sharks chirp that the interest Kevin's charging is on the steep side. After a futile effort to talk Kevin into lowering the interest rate to 6%, the two brothers take the deal, much to Barbara's chagrin. "You're going to have to look at that face every day," she sneers.
Truly, there is a thin line between love and hate.
2. Blendtique Wine Company
This segment teaches us that if you throw a little alcohol into the Sharks, they become a hell of a lot more fun to hang out with. What Blendtique does is send you a kit with four different varietals plus a flask, and you're supposed to use those to mix your very own blends. "I can't tell you how much I'm into this pitch," Barbara says, moments before she drinks wine from the very tube meant to extract precise amounts of wine to concoct a blend. Meanwhile, Kevin's describing his wine as the "nectar from the nipple of Aphrodite," and if that's not the title of some fan-penned bodice-ripper before the weekend is out, I just don't know you people anymore.
Anyhow, Barbara and Kevin are charged with mixing their own wines using the Blendtique kit, and sure enough, Barbara the Noob beats Kevin the Avowed Wine Snob in a blind taste test. It really seems like a lot of fun.
Or it would be, for the Sharks, if Blendtique's Billy Dim weren't so dang unfocused. Rather than be satisfied with the sales of $99 kits, Billy's talking about driving the business toward classes and other events. That lack of focus scares off Mark and Robert, who bail on a deal. Barbara and Kevin, united by the sweet, sweet taste of wine, are more put off by the cost of ordering a case of wine based on the blend one concocts: it's $300, or $25 a bottle, which is a little steep for the general consumer.
Lori, however, would like to make a deal, particularly after Billy assures her that he can bring prices down. She's willing to bid $250,000 for 30%, or triple the equity Billy wanted to give up. It soon becomes clear that there's only so much equity Billy's partners are willing to yield, so Lori -- who, we must point out, seems like she's feeling the effects of all these wine samples -- amends her deal to an debt equity offer. She'll loan Billy that $250,000 at 8% interest in exchange for 10% equity. That is fine by Billy, who, if he does nothing else in this life, has at least given us the gift of tipsy Sharks caught on camera.
Full credit to Mark Bernstein. Unlike so many other Shark Tank pitchers promising unsubstantiated wellness claims for their assorted pills and portions, Bernstein actually provides research to substantiate what it is MealEnders say they do on the label. Namely, these are lozenges you pop into your mouth after a meal that are meant to suppress your appetite so that you don't overeat.
To hear the Sharks tell it, you will not want to overeat after trying a MealEnder lozenge because the taste will put you off food for the foreseeable future. MealEnders promises a cooling and tingling sensation as the lozenge dissolves in your math; "tingling" is just a fancy word for "burning," as far as Robert is concerned, and Lori notes a "funky taste" in her mouth. "I can't think of what I want to eat to get rid of that taste," Barbara volunteers, which is not as helpful as she might think.
If there's a problem with MealEnders, it's that despite the $1.4 million in sales the company has racked up over a year and a half, it's only geting re-orders from 21% of customers -- a poor conversion rate, Mark suggests, just before he drops out. Robert isn't a fan of how the company isn't turning a profit on those sales, while Kevin and Lori just can't stand the taste of the product. Barbara is rather fond of the product, but not so much of the cash being poured into the business, so she drops out too, and Mark Bernstein walks away empty-handed.
The most noteworthy part of this segment, though? When Kevin -- his mouth all a-tingle, or possibly burning -- demands a smooch from Barbara, which she gladly provides. Get the folks from Harlequin on the phone: we've got a cover image for their next romance offering.