Spooning With The Sharks
The Sharks spend this week hugging it out with anyone who comes asking for money, and we try and make sense of this brave new world.
A week after a Shark Tank feeds us a parade of dullards and contemptible tech bros, the show pulls a 180 on us in this installment, with a steady stream of Nice Guys. Everyone's pleasant. Not one of the products is particularly objectionable. Oh, sure, there are sob stories (human tears! my one weakness!) and kid-trepeneurs (moppets! my other weakness!), but there's nothing to really get the heart pumping with righteous indignation like there is when a charlatan is trying to convince us that any preschool worth its salt really needs to be Instagramming your kids.
And as someone who's built quite a thriving side gig on ginning up righteous indignation over Shark Tank, let me just say: knock this crap off, Shark Tank. I've got a family to feed.
Still, I'm willing to play along for one week anyhow. Let's rank tonight's participants by niceness, from the appallingly okay to the detestably delightful.
4. Yourself Expression
Shelby Gogulski is fifteen years old and her brother Gordy is ten, and they have already built a business that's on track to bring in $365,000 this year, just in case you wanted to feel bad about that half-finished project gathering dust on your work bench. The Gogulskis sell bracelets and necklaces and other jewelry and accessories where you can snap in different designs. Those designs are sold separately, of course, since Mama Gogulski apparently put her children to bed by reading stories about the razor/razor blades retail model.
The problem here, besides these young people shaming us, is that Yourself Expression is an inventory management nightmare, what with the seemingly endless array of baubles and bangles these two kids are selling. The Gogulskis are hoping to get $50,000 and a Shark who can help them gain entrée into the lucrative world of souvenir licensing, but none of the Sharks seems particularly jazzed about this business as an investment. There's a lot of head-patting, with the patronization kept down to a minimum, but that doesn't stop Shelby from having a good cry when it's apparent that a deal will not be forthcoming. Robert Herjavec tries to make some joke about Kevin O'Leary driving children to cry, but his heart's not in it, and frankly neither is mine.
3. Dollop Gourmet
For those of us willing to unhinge our jaw and suppress any gag reflex to down a neverending stream of frosting even though we know damn well that each spoonful brings us closer to the grave, Heather Saffer has a tantalizing proposition: why not eat frosting that's less bad for you? Her Dollop Gourmet frosting promises to be gluten-free, vegan, and 100% natural with no GMO ingredients.
Now, I was once at a social function where my wife tried vegan baked goods, and the sight of her face contorting into fury as she tried to choke down a mouthful of sadness will always be etched into my brain. But that's not the experience of the Sharks working their way through Heather's samples -- they seem quite taken with the product. That's probably why Heather -- who you may recognize from previous appearances on shows like Cupcake Wars -- is expecting something along the lines of $200,000 in sales this year.
While a few Sharks drop right out -- Robert is not that interested in frosting, and Mark Cuban fears he will eat into his own profits -- Kevin sees an opportunity to expand the Wicked Cupcakes business he's always gassing on about. He's wiling to put up the $75,000 Heather wants, but only if he gets a third of the business so that his Wicked Cupcakes partners can wet their beaks. Barbara Corcoran will put up that same amount, but for 30% of the company, even after Lori Greiner bails on Barbara's probably-should-have-asked-Lori-first joint bid.
"Who would you rather be in business with, Kevin or Barbara?" Robert asks Heather. And I think we all know the answer to that question, especially after Barbara is willing to cut her ask to 25% of the business. Poor Kevin -- can't even strike a deal even when everyone's acting all amicable.
When Mai Lieu starts getting teary-eyed during the biographical segment that airs before she even sets foot on the Shark Tank set, I know we're in for some waterworks. And indeed, she begins to get a little misty when talking to the Sharks about the sacrifices her parents made (prompting some "Communism -- it's the worst" reminisces from Robert). But you know, the thing she's selling -- a haircutting guide called the Creaclip that lets you self-cut your hair at home without looking like someone took hedge clippers to your scalp -- seems like a decent product. (Some $550,000 in sales can't be wrong.) In fact, I spotted my wife jotting down Creaproducts' contact info during this segment. Now who' crying?
Anyway, if you thought "This seems like the sort of thing that would sell well on QVC," you have correctly identified tonight's winning bidder. Lori is willing to give Mai $200,000, but she wants a quarter of the business rather than the paltry 10% Mai was hoping to give up. Lori eventually lowers her stake to 22.5%, and we've got a deal, which must be a disappointment to you Kevin O'Leary fans who thought he had a vested interest in hair-care products.
Randy Putland, Reuben Guymer, and Bernie Miller wander in from the John From Cincinnati set to sell the Sharks on their curved board product, which lets you approximate the kind of moves you'd do on a skateboard or surfboard, but on any surface. I spent my college years in the greater San Diego area, and the only way these guys could give off more of a 619 vibe is if they brought fish tacos for everyone.
Anyhow, the Spooner is selling incredibly well -- so much so that the three amigos actually backed away from a deal with a big box retailer because they feared they would be unable to cover the cost to meet that demand. That's enough to convince the Sharks that these guys are serious about making a deal, even after several lectures about how taking on investors means you no longer get to follow your own hippie-trippy muse and, say, were you planning on expensing those fish tacos?
Barbara wants to give the Spooner cats the $400,000 they want for the 16% equity they're comfortable surrending, but only if another Shark comes in on the deal. Kevin proposes a loan so complex and onerous that it gives Barbara time to find a willing partner in Mark. Before Lori can spit out a deal, Mark throws down the take-it-or-leave-it ultimatum and "Everything You Asked For Plus Two Sharks" turns out to be enough to convince Randy and his cohorts that Barbara and Mark are the partners for them. Lori would squawk about this, but that'd be out of line with the whole nice theme of this episode.