What’s It Like to Swim in the Shark Tank?

ABC’s Shark Tank has become one of the most prominent shows on television. It’s popularized the world of startups and venture capital pitching since first making a splash in living rooms across America in 2009. The program showcases entrepreneurs who pitch their businesses—from early-stage ventures to fully-functional companies—to five notable, wealthy investors, AKA the sharks.

The show offers entrepreneurs from around the U.S. the chance to validate their companies in front of a national audience on primetime television, walk away with brand exposure, secure a lucrative partnership with a famous, accomplished investor—or all the above.

The popularity of the show has resulted in several Shark Tank-style pitch competitions popping up around Ohio at universities, libraries, and startup centers like “Shark Tub” at MCBI and Pitch&Pour at Launchpad Incubator. Dozens of Ohio companies, including Third Wave Water, Peaceful Fruits, Under the Weather and Grypshon have appeared on the show.

We spoke with two founders about their experience on the hit show to see what it was like in the shark-infested waters, what the encounter taught them about their company, and whether or not they’d do it all over again.

What made you want to go on the show in the first place?

“We knew the show would provide great marketing exposure, but we also wanted the chance to pitch our business to the sharks,” said Charles Nick, co-founder & President of Third Wave Water in Cedarville, Ohio. The company appeared on the show in October 2017. “They are not only experienced investors but have a lot of great experience taking early-stage companies to the next big stage quickly.”

Fellow entrepreneur Evan Delahanty agreed. He said the decision to give it a shot was really a no-brainer.

“Shark Tank is something that a lot of people told us we should shoot for,” said Evan Delahanty, founder & CEO of Peaceful Fruits in Peninsula, Ohio, which appeared on the show in February 2017. “To me, it seemed like a unique opportunity to promote our brand of course, but to also highlight the entire idea of social enterprise – business with a purpose!”

Looking back, would you do it again?

“I’m so glad we decided to go on Shark Tank and absolutely humbled that they chose to feature us on their “American Heroes” episode,” said Delahanty, who spent time in the Peace Corps before launching Peaceful Fruits. “The response from consumers across the country to both our snacks and our story was just overwhelming. We’re hard at work to scale and grow this thing!”

“Unequivocally the answer is yes,” said Nick. “The chance to meet such great business minds while receiving such fantastic marketing makes it worth every ounce of effort to get onto the show.”

What are your recommendations to companies thinking about applying to be on the show?

“The thing to remember is that Shark Tank is reality TV. You are pitching to the Sharks for investment, but you are also pitching to America,” said Delahanty. “And before you ever get there, you have to pitch to the producers who decide who makes it that far. As with any pitch, you have to know your audience. Shark Tank is tough because each of those audiences wants something different. If you can craft the right message, it can be an incredible experience!”

Charles Nick said that while making it through the process can be difficult, qualifying makes it that much sweeter.

“If you think your business is a good fit for any of the sharks, primarily a consumer-driven product and you have a great story to tell, apply today. Getting through the interview process can be challenging given the competition, but it’s supposed to be,” said Nick. “The producers need to do their best to qualify great candidates. Make sure you share every fun and crazy detail about your background and experience with the business and get creative with how you pitch your product.”

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