Several people have asked me to write this post. The story of how I was selected to present my fashion line to Daymond John at a Shark Tank Pitch Contest is a fun one to tell...
I’d been hearing advice to go get on Shark Tank over the two years I’ve been in business. This was a short-term goal, but I was letting fear and uncertainty hold me back from auditioning. I’m a huge fan of this TV show, where entrepreneurs attempt to make deals with well-connected investors in order to enhance and expand their companies. Daymond would be a perfect partner for me and for Turnovers, I thought. His experience and influential power in the fashion industry would help to accelerate my company. On the flip side though, the sharks can be brutal and I was afraid my business would underwhelm these millionaire and billionaire moguls. I planned to wait 5 years or so before trying out, but an opportunity fell into my lap.
It all started on Facebook.
A notification from a really cool gal is where it started. I’m grateful to my friend Nicole for showing me the brochure she found at the Golden Nugget casino in Atlantic City. The information was limited, and the deadline was 3 days away, but Daymond John was coming to my county for a business contest.
“Impress the People’s Shark, Daymond John, and win $10,000 cash from Golden Nugget Atlantic City.” Five finalists would be chosen to present their business or product idea to Daymond.
Monday evening, I was painfully watching the computer screen as my 90 second video was uploading. I’m not the type to do things at the last minute but unfortunately I was pushing the deadline! Thankfully, my contest admission video uploaded to YouTube before the clock struck midnight.
Wednesday afternoon, I was walking back to the preschool parking lot after dropping my son off when my phone rang. A young woman was on the other line, saying I was selected as one of the five finalists! She told me to prepare a 5-minute pitch and meet her on Friday at 6pm.
I made a powerpoint of notes to keep me on track. I steamed out the samples and arranged a display. I taped photos onto a presentation board. I ironed out the leaf green tablecloth that featured my logo. The hours flew by and it was time to go. I dove into something business casual, pulled my hair into a ponytail, grabbed my business plan and drove to Golden Nugget, hoping I would find time to put some makeup on before going on stage!
When I arrived, the event management team and the four other contestants were in the lobby. The other contestants were all men, three of them from New Jersey and one from Philadelphia. We received our instructions for set up and were told that we’d have 2.5 minutes to present, and Daymond would ask us questions directly after our pitch. That was only half the time we thought we'd have. This was the only time I felt stressed out, but I sifted through my notes decided what to focus on.
The team of marketers and managers were AMAZING to support us and prepare us for the contest. It was a windy night for a helicopter trip, and Daymond’s arrival was delayed. I had a terrible headache. It could have been the lights, the excitement, the caffeine addiction, who knows. Once I had established myself and did some networking, I lied down on a couch to rest my eyes. The room filled up with executives and VIPs affiliated with Golden Nugget. Bubba from Bubba Q’s Boneless Ribs was there with family and friends. I remember seeing him on Shark Tank making a deal with Daymond. The private event was invite-only. Curious casino guests wandered over to ask the doorman what was going on inside the lounge.
When Daymond and his entourage arrived, we stood in the hallway and I was second in line. On cue, I walked through the double doors and into a dark room with very bright direct lighting from overhead. The Shark Tank theme song played as I took my place at the table and quickly set up the display. Seated onstage was Daymond John, in his usual ensemble. He was patient and told me to take my time.
Microphone in hand, my headache went away and I felt calm and focused. I breezed through my pitch, talking mostly about my background in the fashion industry and how I came to develop a line of reversible, boy-to-girl baby clothing. I told Daymond about my target customers and business plan and sales. He asked whether people use the reversible feature, and about what I’ve been doing on social media for the company. I did my best to answer.
Daymond recognized something on my resume and realized that I used to design for two of his companies. We had a brief conversation about our mutual contacts and I told him how grateful I am for the things I learned while working in New York City. After a few minutes of discussion, the time clock was set at zero and a man signaled to conclude my speech. I thanked Daymond for being there. I rolled the rack of clothing to the back of the room and waited in the hallway with the other finalists.
We were all pulling for each other and there was a spirit of friendly competition among us.
After some time passed, we were brought into the lounge and lined up on stage. Daymond talked first about my presentation of Turnovers and had very good things to say about my idea. He explained that I’m “saving people time AND money, and that’s what it’s all about.” He went on to say that I’m “someone with real experience in the industry, and knows what she’s doing, not just some person who came up with an idea.”
Two of the other finalists were selected (by a crowd vote, from what I was told) as a tie so they shared the prize money. Even though I didn’t win the "Shark Tank" Pitch Contest, I felt like a winner because of the response I received from Daymond. He understood the purpose of my line and he saw the value in the concept.
Directly after we left the stage, Daymond walked over to me and shook my hand and said I did extremely well. He went on to introduce me the special lady in his life, who I happened to share a lot in common with. Daymond told me that he keeps his private life offline, so I'm going to call her Lady Shark for the purpose of this post.
Lady Shark is the sweetest and she enthusiastically tells me how much she likes my apparel line.
There was a meet and greet after the competition and I was blessed to have time to get to know them better. Lady Shark and I spoke at length about everyday life and also about business. Daymond said “if I have the time- because I’m very busy- but I want to help you.” I quickly told him my immediate manufacturing need. He gave me contact info and told me to email his assistant the details. Daymond’s team at Shark Branding can help with sourcing, manufacturing, licensing, branding and more.
I sent them home with a few pieces from the line.
Since that night, I’ve been in frequent contact with Lady Shark and with Daymond's assistants. We’re in the process of sourcing and exploring new countries. The next step will be setting up a phone call with Daymond. My desire is to partner with Daymond to get Turnovers produced in higher quantities and mass distributed. He could be my fashion godfather. (Lady Shark approves of the title)
I am so blessed to have been selected to connect with these beautiful people. I am thankful to Nicole for thinking of me that day and encouraging me to apply for the contest. Most of all, I feel optimistic and look forward to seeing what the future holds for my company. Hard work is all that I know, and being able to finally see the results is so rewarding!