Business is not an exact science. Sometimes, even those who are considered experts can miss the mark when it comes to what will work and what won’t. This is even true with the seasoned entrepreneurial panel on ABC’s Shark Tank.
The sharks on the show have an impressive business track record on and off of the show. But, there have been several times when the sharks allowed a million-dollar deal (and one billion-dollar idea) to walk out the door.
Let’s look at 10 different businesses that pitched on Shark Tank, went home without a deal, but still found ways to turn their businesses into successful companies.
Jamie Siminoff had big dreams for his invention and hoped the sharks would share his vision. When his company appeared on Shark Tank back in 2013, it was pitched under the name of “Doorbot”. The idea of the world’s first-ever WiFi video doorbell definitely intrigued the sharks. However, not enough for any of them to go ahead and make the deal.
While a deal might not have been technically made on the show, the episode did catch the eye of another investor, Richard Branson. He made contact with the owner and with some rebranding and other updates in strategy the Ring brand was created. Not only did the owner get to return to the show as a guest shark, but he also ended up selling the company to Amazon in 2018 for an estimated $1 billion. Making the acquisition of Ring Amazon’s second-largest acquisition.
This Shark Tank missed opportunity is known as the biggest in the history of the show. But, there were no hard feelings. Jamie Siminoff would later return to be a guest shark on the show.
The Lip Bar
Sometimes it’s the wild ideas that make investors excited. And sometimes they might feel they are “too out there” and want to play it safe. In the case of The Lip Bar, it was the latter. But that didn’t prove to be the wisest decision.
Melissa Butler brought her vegan lipsticks to the sharks with show-stopping bright colors. Not only did all of the sharks brush off her brand, but some even went as far as to make it into a joke. Obviously, she left without making a deal.
Melissa’s persistence paid off and she would get the last laugh. With a cold-pitch email through LinkedIn, she was able to reach out to a buyer at Target. Now, her products are sold in over 100 different Target stores. She even had her products used by celebrities. In 2022, the company had an estimated net worth of around $7 million.
Co-founders Joel Clark and Cameron entered the shark tank looking for $500,000 for 10% of their company called Kodiak Cakes. Kodiak Cakes is a natural food brand that makes whole grain, protein-rich breakfast options. The idea behind the product was to offer the great taste of pancakes but made with better ingredients to offer nutritional benefits. The Sharks all liked the taste and nutritional benefits of these pancake mixes. However, none of them agreed with the company’s valuation.
The founders were able to receive two offers. Kevin O’Leary and Barbara Corcoran offered $500,000 for 50% equity, while Herjavec, on the other hand, asked for only 30% equity. Kodiak Cake’s founders declined the offers. However, they did get a little validation when Marc Cuban said “you guys are smart” and Lori echoed the thought by saying “I do too”.
During the deal, O’Leary adamantly stated that he believed the business was only going to be worth $2 million. However, the company now boasts annual sales of $160 million. They’ve expanded their lineup of products and now offer microwavable flapjack cups, graham crackers, oats, and granola bars.
Copa Di Vino
James Martin not only appeared on SharkTank once, but he came back for a second visit. Many of the sharks liked his business the first time around. But, were turned off by his ego and personality during negotiations. This is a good example that you can have a great business or product, but you also have to know how to appeal to investors in order to land a deal.
James would go on to the market and successfully brand his 7 different, patented, single-serving wines with usable lids. He would ultimately sell the company to the Splash Beverage Group in December 2020 for around $5.98 million.
Husband and wife duo Steve Sashen and Lena Phoenix might not have received a deal on the show for their minimalist shoes, but they definitely got the exposure they needed to grow their brand.
In 7 days following the airing of their episode, they did 20% of the previous year’s volume in orders! With a variety of investors reaching out to them, they ended up partnering with TZP Group, a private equity firm, and continue to grow their business. The most recent numbers had their company with over $23 million in annual sales.
The Bouqs Co
One of the more fun success stories is The Bouqs Co. Owner John Tabis wanted to find a way to get quality flowers to people’s doorsteps that were high-quality, and sustainably grown. The main thing that the sharks were getting hung up on was the fact that it could take 5-6 days to get the flowers delivered after placing an order since most men don’t remember special occasions that far ahead of time!
He may not have received an official deal from the show, but received a lot of great publicity, including getting one of the sharks to come to him for his wedding flowers a few years after his episode aired. Robert Herjavec ended up investing in the company at that time and they are now growing into a globally successful brand.
The company now generates over $27 million in annual revenue. The deal is also regarded as one of the most successful shark tank deals ever. Even though the actual deal didn’t happen on the show.
CEO Mark Bernstein came to the sharks with a product that was designed to help curb your cravings and stop you from constantly overeating with a simple lozenge/tablet. The sharks were interested in the product but just didn’t feel that there was enough information to offer a deal.
That didn’t seem to stop Bernstein as he sold over $400,000 work of products within days of the show airing. The company went on to gross over $1,000,000 in annual sales.
Hammer and Nails
A unique, yet needed idea, came from Michael Elliott when he brought to the sharks an idea for a nail salon for men. He felt many guys wanted to get these simple services done but didn’t want to walk into an overly girly salon to do it. While the sharks did like the idea, they felt there was already a market out there and decided not to offer a deal.
Michael kept pushing his idea and now has over 41 franchises in 9 different states and was able to have some investors reach out to him after appearing on the show. With all of the different branches, the company has over $25 million in annual revenue.
Entrepreneur Mark Aramli appeared on Shark Tank in 2015 pitching his mattress accessory product called BedJet. BedJet is a fast-cooling fan system for under-the-bed sheets. At first, it seemed like the sharks liked the idea of the product. However, the pitch went downhill when they started asking about the economics. Aramli revealed that the product had little to no sales yet as it was mostly still in the prototype phase. Things got worse when Aramli lost Greiner’s interest after it appeared that he was ignoring her question.
Ultimately, the sharks declared that the product was doomed to fail. However, Aramli would use his life savings, credit cards, and a mortgaged house to pursue his dream. Within 2 years, BedJet had an estimated company valuation of $9 million The company now sees about $5 million in annual sales.
Jake Epstein and Joe Lemay appeared on Shark Tank at the very end of Season 8 looking for $400,000 for 10% equity. They described their product as the “notebook from the future.” Rocketbook is an erasable and reusable notebook. The notebook can be reused up to five times. On top of that, users can use it to send notes to other people over the internet and to cloud storage.
By the time they appeared on the show, the two entrepreneurs were able to generate $2 million in sales. Although a few of the sharks were impressed by the notebook Jake and Joe left the show without an investment.
The sharks missed out on a great opportunity. In 2020 BIC acquired 100% of Rocketbook for $40 million.
The moral of these stories is that you can’t take a rejection as a final answer. You know your company better than anyone. If you believe in your vision, make the right decisions, and continue to improve it, who knows what can happen?