Shark Tank Wages War On Christmas
It's a holiday-themed episode whose pitches diverge more and more from the holidays as the evening wears on, and the Sharks put the 'oh, Christ' back in Christmas.
If you got suckered in by the opening promo to this Shark Tank, you might have expected the show to really deck the halls with literal holly tonight, transforming the Tank into a veritable winter wonderland. And when things kick off with the Florida Woman who tricks gullible children into thinking that Santa Claus is writing them back, it seems like this theme episode is right on track. But then we're treated to a series of pitches that, at best, are only holiday adjacent. "You know, Barbara, nothing says 'holiday season' to me quite like...gloves." Seriously, there's no entrepreneur who's perfected the self-lighting menorah that Shark Tank can trot out?
You want a real theme for this episode? Try $150,000, because that's what each business appearing on Shark Tank asks for in this episode, save for the aforementioned glove dudes who want $300,000. (Though they want half of that -- which is $150,000 -- in the form of a loan. SERENDIPITY, JERKS!)
So instead of ranking tonight's Shark Tank pitches on the amount of ho-ho-ho they put into the holidays -- I won't play your game, Mark Burnett -- let's count down the businesses that did the best job of convincing the Sharks that they were worth $150,000, which coincidentally is the exact value of the gold, frankincense, and myrrh the Wise Men delivered to the baby Jesus after you adjust for inflation. Do not fact-check that.
Before we start, though, we would be remiss if we did not mention the Shark Tank profile on Mark Cuban. Oh sure, we could talk about how it made Ol' Cubes seem like a right dude who has an appreciation for how far he's come in life. But, jerk that I am, I choose to focus on his boast that the Mavericks have never suffered a losing season under his stewardship. Nothing gold can stay, Ponyboy.
Jim Loughran is likely a very nice fellow, and the synthetic ice he makes so that you can snap together a mini-ice rink in your garage or backyard seems like the goods -- Robert Herjavec certainly likes twirling around on it, Brian Boitano-style. But boy, he could not be less convincing at selling the Sharks on his product if he were actually one of his arch-rivals wearing a Jim Loughran mask.
Jim's business has six competitors, he dutifully tells the Sharks, who would like to know where he ranks in that crowd. "I'm in the top six," he replies, which is...honest? "I never try to say I'm better than everybody else," Jim continues to the five people he's asking to hand over $150,000. Shockingly, they aren't really convinced to do so. Both Barbara Corcoran and Mark specifically call out Jim for his lack of energy and aggression, and none of the other Sharks are inclined to disagree. So Jim skates out of there on a patch of synthetic ice without any deal.
3. Sealed By Santa
"I have one of the coolest jobs out there," Sarah Blain tells the Sharks at the start of the pitch. "I work for Santa Claus." You can see several Sharks look nervously off-camera, waiting for the reassuring report of the tranq gun being fired in Sarah's general direction until she explains that what she actually does is run a business where people pay her to send their kids personalized letters from Santa. I'm no expert on such things, but I'm pretty sure answering Santa's mail without his permission lands you at the top of the Naughty list.
Anyhow, Sarah provides kids the full package -- besides the letters, there's phone calls from Santa, reindeer cameos, and a North Pole postmark. And the business of tricking youngsters is quite lucrative; Sarah pulled in $355,000 in sales last year.
Sarah would like to expand to other holidays to make her business less seasonal, a move that divides the Sharks. (Barbara and Mark are very much against it, and drop out.) The bigger issue may be that Sarah doesn't want to part with too much equity beyond the 20 percent she proposes. When Kevin O'Leary offers her $150,000 for a third of the business, for example, she bursts into tears, which is...not an encouraging reaction. If the concern is having enough money to live on, Robert suggests, he'll let her collect a $100,000 annual salary, with the two of them splitting the rest of the profits, with Sarah retaining two-thirds of that windfall. Lori trumps those offers by proposing $75,000 of her $150,000 investment as a line of credit. And Lori will take just 22.2 percent of the business, which is all Sarah needed to hear. She takes Lori's deal, and soon the children of America will be receiving even more personalized letters from Santa. OR SO SARAH WOULD LIKE US TO BELIEVE.
Count me among the apparently small cadre of people who don't really understand the allure of wrapping paper. Partly, this is because anything I wrap looks like it was assembled by monkeys as part of a failed experiment that cost a research university its funding. But mostly it's because I see all that effort that goes into producing a perfectly wrapped package -- that effort is relatively theoretical in my case -- all undone in a matter of seconds as the recipient of your gift lays waste to all your hard work.
The solution, Charlie Williams and Brad Boskovic argue, is to take the gift bags you (I) resort to out of sheer laziness and add a level of customization to them where you can have the smiling mug of you or your love one printed right there on the bag. And they'll even personalize the tissue paper you use to wrap up the gift, too.
Paraphrasing Kevin, what Charlie and Brad have done is take the printing technology used to generate millions of sheets of paper and simplify it so that it's viable to print one-off orders like a personalized gift bag. It's a lucrative idea, too, since Charlie and Brad are on track for $500,000 in sales this year.
Still, a lot of the Sharks aren't interested, basically because the limitations of the business don't make it very investable from their point of view. Kevin disagrees, though he wants a 50-50 partnership for his $150,000 and not the 10 percent stake Charlie and Brad were willing to part with. There are a lot of counter-offers here -- perhaps too many, a reasonable person might argue -- but Kevin and the boys eventually settle on a royalty deal were Kevin puts up $150,000 and gets a nickel and a dime on every tissue paper and bag DigiWrap respectively sells until he's made $450,000. Oh, and Kevin will take a 20 percent stake in the company, too.
That's amenable to Charlie and Brad, who -- to be fair -- don't have a lot of alternatives at this point. And the simple act of wrapping a gift becomes that much more complex.
All I know about Don Wildman from this segment is that he's 84 years old, he made a fortune from Bally's Total Fitness, and he's cut like a steak. All of these would seem to exempt him from begging the Sharks for money, but he's in a partnership with the much younger Jake Sullivan, and they've got these gloves you can unzip to let all five fingers move about freely. It's the sort of thing that comes in handy if you want to use your smartphone or perform a task that involves fine motor control or, as a young lady comes out to demonstrate, twirl fiery batons. I don't know about you, but I twirl far fewer fiery batons than normal when I'm wearing gloves. "Phil, would you like to make fire dance in the night air?" people are always asking me. "I'd love to," I reply, "but damn these Isotoner gloves."
Anyway, Barbara is interested -- both in the product itself and in flirting with Don in a "jeez, Grandma, your sexuality is bumming me out" kind of way. She'll give Don and Jake what they need -- $150,000 in capital, plus $150,000 in the form of a loan -- but he wants a 25 percent stake, not the 20 percent Don and Jake wanted to give up. But she wants 12.5 percent of her own, plus another Shark as a partner to take that remaining 12.5 percent.
None of the other Sharks want to be her partner, though, fearing either competition or just the agony of dealing with big-box retailers. To sweeten the pot, Don uses his considerable charms and even more considerable bank account to propose funneling $300,000 of his own into the business if Barbara offers a $300,000 line of credit of her own for a 25 percent stake. Barbara agrees, and soon, our nation's youth will be able to make definitive one-fingered gestures at you and me with minimal fuss.