How does a Christmas sweater company get on Shark Tank anyway?

We saw an advertisement for Shark Tank auditions and realized the timing couldn't have been better; we had been talking about applying just a few weeks before. We went through the normal application process of 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. However, in early June we were accepted! What an amazing experience was ahead of us...

The pitch and preparation

After being given our film date, we started preparing for the show. First step was to 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/business to the Sharks and propose an investment offer. We assumed that the same Sharks from Season 4 would be there.

We tailored our pitch to the sharks we were most interested in: Mark Cuban (with his internet experience and ability to expand the online brand presence), Daymond John (with his retail and branding experience), and Robert Herjavec (because of his internet experience and presence in Canada, another big market for us).

In addition to the core pitch, we had a lot of other tasks to complete quickly. We printed lookbooks, rushed our newest design samples form the factory, and even designed our own set (complete with a 7ft Christmas tree and fake snow).

The cookie and final prep

After packing my car (to the brim) and drove up to Los Angeles from San Diego (Nick flew in from San Francisco), I stopped by Panda Express for a quick meal. You can image my surprise when my fortune cookie read: "An Investment Opportunity Will Profit You."

With that good fortune in mind and only a few days to finish prep we got to work: building IKEA furniture, hanging ornaments, and of course - practicing the pitch.

We made flash cards to review our financials and the gritty details about our business that we knew the Sharks would grill us on. There's a big difference between knowing roughly what your revenues/profits are versus knowing exactly your COGS, gross profit, net profit, conversion rate, and customer acquisition costs. We had lots of numbers to memorize and very little time to do it.

Five of our friends (soon to be models) arrived to the hotel room Friday night to practice a few "cat-walk’ run throughs. 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 Christmas sweaters).

Film day!

On the morning of film day, we were all shuttled to the Shark Tank studio and were given our own dressing room. 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.

In the Tank

Once we were in the tank, it was go time. The 2-3 minute introductory business pitch was the most nerve-racking part. We had practiced it so much we could rehearse it in our sleep. The five Sharks watched us with blank faces. After the pitch, the Sharks questioned us and learned the nitty gritty of the business - how we started, what our background is, how we find new customers, etc. Robert Herjavec particularly liked that Evan had quit his law job to focus full-time on Tipsy Elves.

When we mentioned interest in expanding into wholesale, Mark Cuban and Daymond John warned that they should stick to their core competency, which is scaling e-commerce sales through their website. After three of the Sharks went "out," Kevin and Robert both gave the pair offers. Robert offered $100,000 for 10% of the company. Evan and Nick quickly discussed on camera, and they accepted Robert's offer. They hugged it out with Robert and the rest is history. Robert is now an integral part of the Tipsy Elves team and has provided valuable exposure, strategic advice, and mentorship.