How Does a Christmas Sweater Company Get on Shark Tank?
We saw an advertisement for Shark Tank auditions and realized the timing couldn't have been better because we are avid fans of the show and had been talking about applying just a few weeks before. We had to go through the normal application process, including preparing a short video (where we danced around like idiots in our Tipsy Elves sweaters). Knowing that the producers receive over 30,000 applications a year, we knew it was a bit of a long shot. We were told in early June that we were accepted to be on the show, and it was time to start prepping. What an amazing experience was ahead of us!
Writing Our Pitch
We were given our film date, meaning it was time to start preparing for the show. The first thing we had to do was write our three minute pitch and practice it over and over again with our Shark Tank team. The pitch is your opportunity to introduce yourself to the Sharks, tell them about your business, and propose an investment offer to them. We weren't told which Sharks would be present during our film day so we assumed that the same Sharks from Season 4 (Mark Cuban, Daymond John, Barbara Corcoran, Kevin O'Leary, Robert Herjavec and Lori Greiner) would be there. We were also told that we could bring five "models" along for a "cat walk" segment during our pitch. We instantly had a few close friends in mind and invited them to join us in early July.
Prepping for Film Day
While the pitch is the most important prep item, we had a lot of other "to-do's" before the show and very little time to do them. We were in charge of designing our set so we decided to create a Christmas scene, complete with a 7ft Christmas tree, branded ornaments and wrapping paper, fake snow, and a bright red shelving unit. We also printed lookbooks and other materials to hand out for the show, and we rushed our supplier for samples of our newest designs so we would have these in time for the filming.
We also had to tailor our pitch and presentation to the sharks. While all the sharks would be extremely beneficial to have on the team, we were especially interested in Mark Cuban (because of his internet experience and ability to expand the online presence of his companies), Daymond John (because of his retail and branding experience), and Robert Herjavec (because of his internet experience and presence in Canada, another big market for us). We kept this in mind when tailoring our pitch. Our producers were great in guiding us through this process and helping us put together the perfect pitch for the show.
The Days Before and the Fortune Cookie
Our Shark Tank film day was on a Saturday and we arrived to Los Angeles Wednesday night. I packed up my car (to the brim) and drove up from San Diego and Nick flew in from San Francisco.
I (Evan) arrived before Nick and had a nice extravagant 3-entree dinner at Panda Express by myself before he arrived. I opened my fortune cookie and to my surprise, the fortune inside said "An Investment Opportunity Will Profit You." I'm not a big fortune, palm-reader type guy, but I thought this was pretty coincidental to get this fortune just a few days before filming for Shark Tank Season 5. In a few days, we would know if the fortune would ring true!
We also made flash cards to review our financials. It was the first time we used flash cards since college. While the pitch was the primary focus of our preparation, we knew we would be getting grilled by the sharks as soon as we finished our pitch, and we needed to be prepared to answer very detailed questions about our business. While we knew our numbers well, there's a big difference between knowing roughly what your revenues and profits are versus knowing exactly what your COGS, gross profit, net profit, conversion rate, and customer acquisition costs are. We had lots of stuff to memorize and little time to do it.
The hotel we were staying at was full of contestants for various shows. We were mostly in our 'Tipsy Elves bubble' and didn't interact a ton with the other hotel guests, but you would hear people talk about 'Jeopardy' or their 'The Voice' audition during breakfast and would see people practicing their Shark Tanks pitches in the common areas. We were already excited, but being surrounded by other contestants and witnessing everyone preparing for their big film debuts made things even more exciting (and nerve-racking) for us!
The Practice Pitch and Pre-Film Days
We arrived in LA early because Nick and I needed time to assemble our set and practice our pitch together. I assembled a red IKEA shelving unit (I've built so much IKEA furniture I could work on their assembly team) and Nick built our Christmas tree and hung ornaments. While we were constructing stuff, we kept running through our pitch to make sure we had it down cold. We did a few run-throughs together and we were feeling pretty good about our pitch and preparation, so we decided to take Friday off and play a round of golf to get our minds off of 'Shark Tank' for a few hours.
Five of our friends arrived to the hotel room Friday night and we did a few final run-throughs with them. They weren't able to make it to our practice session so it was up to us to go through the routine with them and tell them where to walk, what to do, and where to stand during film day. It was comforting to have some of our best friends at the hotel with us, and we were grateful they were willing to show their faces on live television in front of 7 million viewers while wearing funny Christmas sweaters. After our prep, Nick and I headed back to the hotel room and tried to get some sleep before the big day!
On the morning of film day, we were all shuttled to the Shark Tank studio and were given our own dressing room… to get dressed (duh!) and hang out before our scheduled film time. We had a few hours to go through hair and makeup (this was a first for us) and do some final run-throughs. While we were nervous, the mood was pretty light and we were having a lot of fun hanging out in the dressing room with our friends. We were given a final opportunity to check out the Tipsy Elves display before our presentation and to see the Shark Tank set for the first time. We had never been on the set of a TV show, and it was really awesome (and a little intimidating) to see so many cameras and bright lights.
We were ushered to the back room while the Sharks got situated. Before we knew it, there was a ten second countdown, the doors opened, and a producer told us to start walking down the hallway. It was go time.