I. Applying for Shark Tank - Our Journey Begins
THE DECISION TO APPLY
You may be surprised to know that for years I actively avoided even entertaining the idea of going on Shark Tank, despite almost everyone I knew suggesting we should give it a shot. I didn’t think Beard Head needed any additional investment, and I didn’t really want to give up an ownership percentage of the company. Beard Head was already growing steadily every year, and there was still a lot of “low-hanging fruit” left for us to capture before I felt it was necessary to look for outside investment to help with growth.
So what made me finally decide to apply for Shark Tank?
To be honest, it was only after seeing how successful another brand, Tipsy Elves, became after appearing on the show. I used to see Tipsy Elves all the time at trade shows, and would often chat with one of the Tipsy Elves founders about business. At the time, Tipsy Elves primarily sold ugly Christmas sweaters—a novelty/niche product somewhat in the same vein as the Beard Head (they’ve since expanded their product offering dramatically). Back then, Beard Head may have actually been a little bigger than Tipsy Elves, revenue-wise. But after appearing on Shark Tank (and successfully getting a deal with Robert Herjavec), Tipsy Elves absolutely blew up, and today is many times bigger than Beard Head! After seeing what a deal with a Shark could bring, I started to second guess my decision to not apply for the show.
What made me finally pull the trigger was seeing yet another brand whose founder I knew appear on the show, Beard Brand’s Eric Bandholz. Beard Brand is a wonderful company that makes facial hair care products (beard oils, waxes, etc…). Inspired by Beard Brand’s recent Shark Tank appearance, and encouraged by the success of Tipsy Elves’ Shark Tank journey, I decided it was finally time to take my own shot and apply for Shark Tank!
HOW WE WERE CHOSEN
Most people are familiar with the “cattle call” process for applying to Shark Tank. Thousands of applicants pitch their Shark Tank ideas to show producers every season at a live open casting call. Tens of thousands more submit online applications. Only a small fraction of those applicants are chosen to move on to the next round, and asked to make a follow-up pitch video. Producers then pick the top applicants from that video group to film their pitches in front of the Sharks, and possibly make it on to the show! But there’s a less known group of applicants that skip the first “cattle call” portion of the process, and get to move on directly to the pitch video round. This group is mostly made up of already established businesses that have several years of tangible sales (i.e. more than just an “idea”). Fortunately for us, Beard Head fell into that category!
So how do established businesses apply to Shark Tank? Well…to tell you the truth, I don’t really know if there’s a formal process. I can tell you how WE did it though. Remember how I mentioned I knew a few founders that had previously been on Shark Tank? Well, I simply sent them an email asking if they knew anyone at Shark Tank that I could reach out to. Luckily, someone did, and an introduction was made! After a few email exchanges with various Shark Tank reps, I received a surprise call directly from a Shark Tank producer!
If you’re curious, here’s a copy of the email introduction that was made on our behalf (names redacted).
Subject: Beard Hats Intro
(name),I wanted to introduce you to my friend, David Stankunas. He’s the founder of Beard Head who makes very awesome beard masks for winter sports, and simply looking fun and awesome. He’s also located in California. I hope y’all can connect.
As you can see, the intro email was very simple and straightforward, but that’s all it took to get the wheels in motion! Will this method work for you? Would it even work for us if we had tried on a different day, or at a different time? I don’t know! So if you’re trying to get on the show, I wouldn’t necessarily take this as a sure-fire approach to do it. I’m just sharing how it happened to work out for us!
I always believed just getting noticed through all the tens of thousands of potential companies applying to be on Shark Tank was going to be the toughest part of the process. After we got a call from a Shark Tank producer, and our foot was officially in the door, I became a lot more confident we would eventually make it on the show!
THE APPLICATION PROCESS AND PITCH VIDEO
While I was feeling more confident Beard Head would be chosen to appear on Shark Tank, there was still a lot of hard work ahead to complete the application process. An extensive questionnaire/application needed to be filled out, detailing Beard Head’s history, financials, projections, growth plans, distribution channels, tax returns, intellectual property…pretty much anything business-related you could possibly imagine needed to be gathered and provided. I would compare it to preparing all the materials necessary for trying to sell your business.
The next part of the application process was the video audition. If you recall, as an established business, we basically got fast-tracked to this round of the application process. But from here on out, we were on the same playing field as everyone else. We were tasked to put together a couple-minute video pitch for the show’s producers. If they liked what they saw, we would get to pitch directly to producers live in Los Angeles, and then the Sharks in front of TV cameras…essentially making it on the show! Needless to say, the video audition was incredibly important!
I spent the next few weeks putting together our video. I wanted to make the video somewhat light-hearted and a little goofy…since that’s what our brand is, after all…but still professional enough to show I was a competent business person that would take the pitch seriously. Importantly, I also wanted to make sure the video had something memorable. I don’t know how many hundreds (if not thousands) of videos the producers had to review, so I wanted to be sure the Beard Head video would have at least one moment that would stick out and make an impression! For example, check the video below around 5:55 (or just watch the whole thing).
*Yikes…looking back on that video, I’m a bit embarrassed about the audio quality! I definitely could have trimmed everything down a bit too. It feels REALLY long!
Not long after I submitted the video along with the completed application and supporting documents, I got a call saying the producers loved us, and we were going to be flown to Los Angeles to appear on the show (or in our case, we would just drive down to the studio lot since we already live in LA)! As you can imagine, I was incredibly excited that we actually made it to the show! But that excitement was almost immediately tempered by the thought of the immense amount of work and preparation that needed to be done before pitching the Sharks. Fortunately, we weren’t scheduled to film at the studio for several months, so there was plenty of time to prepare.