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Why We Decided to Enter the Shark Tank (and Lessons Learned)

Chad Riddersen

Posted on April 24 2012

I know we've been shamelessly plugging our appearance on ABC's Shark Tank this Friday, April 27th, and I should've realized that doing this has been an open invitation to questions galore.  So, this week, I decided to focus my blog posts on Shark Tank-related topics, so here goes . . .

Lollacup standing in line at the Shark Tank
Season 3 Open Casting Call

  1. Why did you decide to enter the Shark Tank?  My husband and I have been big fans of the show since Season 1, when Lollacup was just an idea.  The friends who introduced us to the show would joke that we should try out for the show.  Fast-forward 2 years, and we had actually launched Lollacup and were running the business full-speed.  As many small businesses do, we needed more money to help pay for growth.  Why not try and get funding, national TV exposure, and strategic business partners in one shot?  We've had many discussions with people about the pros and cons of going the Shark-Tank-route.  Some have argued that it is pure stupidity to sell a part of a growing business for such little money.  I agree, to some extent, but every business is different.  If there were some magic formula, we would all be millionaires.  We thought about our current business and where we wanted to be in a few years, and if given the opportunity, we chose to try and work with moguls in the business world.
  2. How did you actually get on the show?  We went on the Shark Tank website, and found a link that said, "want to be on the show," followed the instructions, sent the email, and never heard back.  One night, we were perusing the site again, and saw that there was an open casting call the very next morning.  Luckily we live in the Los Angeles-area, so we arranged for childcare, filled out the 30+ page application that night, and got in line at 7 am the next morning.  We didn't get seen till 2 pm that day, but that was the 30-second pitch that got the ball rolling for us.
  3. Is the show real or is everything scripted?  Others may have had a different experience with reality TV, but for us, everything was very real.  We were assigned 2 producers who helped guide us through the intricate process that is reality TV, but aside from some changes to the wording of our pitch, nothing was scripted.  I do have to say that what we may see on TV this Friday may be different from what we remember happening, only because an hour and a half of taping/negotiations is edited down to a few minutes.

Lessons learned and some unsolicited business advice from Lollacup:

  1. Business strategy and the decisions we make on a day-to-day basis are a crucial component of entrepreneurship, and to be frank, my husband has a solid background in business, so that's where we have a leg up.  The contribution I bring to the table is this - I like to think like I did when I was a high school chemistry teacher and used "backwards planning" to lesson plan.  The premise is you determine your end goal, and plan all the steps to achieve that specific goal.  Many teachers like to plan around themes.  For example, just because it is the month of October, everything lesson revolves around pumpkins.  This kind of thinking, to me, sends the message that the end goal is to teach and learn about pumpkins.  Wouldn't it be better to determine what you want students to learn, and plan lessons that move toward that goal?  I like to use this method and thinking in business too.  For example, when we first launched the product, the biggest question was, how were we going to compete with the dozen+ sippy cups on the market owned by companies like Gerber, Playtex, and the like?  Our initial goal was to build buzz and brand awareness, so our first steps were to build a unique product, package it so it stands out, and build a beautiful booth so we get noticed at tradeshows.
  2. If you have a specific goal you want to achieve, make it your obsession.  Although we didn't start a business with the end goal of being on Shark Tank, getting in front of the "sharks" was just one short-term goal we did have, and we literally became obsessed.  We checked the same website over and over, watched the show incessantly to glean business tips from the sharks and other entreprenuers, and did whatever we could to increase our odds of getting casted on the show - honed our elevator pitch, made sure we were on top of every last detail of our business, and just tried to be candid about it all.
  3. The third lesson learned is to be overly prepared and move quickly.  We stayed up all night before the open casting call, filling out the 30-page application.  We saw so many others filling it out on the sidewalk that morning and not being able to complete it, because it actually required a lot of information that they didn't have on hand with them.  Also, to increase our odds of getting selected for the show, we answered all Shark-Tank-related emails within minutes.

Wow!  That was a mouthful.  I can't believe that after all this, I still have more to say on the matter.  Stay tuned for more . . .In the meantime, stay focused on your goals!

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31 comments

  • Melissa: July 02, 2015

    Sooo proud of you Hanna. I’ll be watching and praying for you Friday night!

  • Brian Ree: July 02, 2015

    Sooo Awesome! Go Lollaland!!! and Lollacup!

  • Amanda: July 02, 2015

    We are so excited to watch you on Friday! Even just being on the show will give your product more exposure, and I’m sure millions of Moms all over will see the brilliance of your sippy cup. We have spent so much money on useless sippy cups that are so difficult to get liquid out of, even I turn blue in the face trying. Money down the drain. With lollacup, I can happily watch my son drink everytime he’s thirsty, and I end up refilling his cup at least 2 times a day, unlike the others on the market, which stay full because he can’t get anything out of them. :p Good luck!!

  • Liz Stone: July 02, 2015

    I just watched you on the shark tank and immediately got online to see where I could buy your cup…even before I knew for sure that you got the funding!…this is such a great idea and wish it had been around 5 yrs ago when my youngest son was a toddler…but I am thrilled to know about it now because I will be buying it for my grandson who is now 4 1/2 months old to have when he starts using a cup…I am so excited to get it and wish you guys the best of luck!

  • kristen hoy: July 02, 2015

    Me and my husband just watched yall on Shark Tank … Awsome idea, we love the product we have a little girl 9 months old… yall really did a wonderful job and two guys with their experience and connections is worth 40 percent other than one guy for 30 percent ….. goodluck and you got a customer here in Atlanta Ga… goooo lollacup

  • bernie: July 02, 2015

    Just say you on Shark Tank and I instantly knew this is a great product and I will definately be buying one for our son. Having the straw stay in place is ingenious.

  • Pea: July 02, 2015

    I just watched the show! I hope you continue to make the product in the U.S.A if not I would be disappointed. I only shop U.S.A products and this would be a huge loss. I’d pay $30 for a good made in the U.S.A product.

  • ana: July 02, 2015

    Thank you for sharing with us, we are so excited for you guys!

  • caroline tran: July 02, 2015

    I’m SO proud of you two and SO fortunate to have been able to watch you grow!

  • theyifamily: July 02, 2015

    it’s going to be an exciting night! :)

  • eugene choi: July 02, 2015

    can’t wait to see the episode! i’ve been a huge fan of Shark Tank since season 1 too!

  • miafaery: July 02, 2015

    I watch this show all the time and I never do this…I went right to Google, found your website and ordered a cup…liked you on Facebook and just subscribed to your blog. I swear I’m not a stalker! I think the cup is genius! I was a nanny for 15 years and have tried every cup available. Excited MY 14 month old daughter will use a Lollacup! You guys are super inspirational and I loved how you handled yourselves on the show! Best of luck to you!

  • Kimberly Schniegenberg: July 02, 2015

    Just saw you guys on Shark Tank…immediately, I looked up your website and HAD to have one, or ALL of them! GREAT IDEA!! And, nice job on the show.

    We live in the San Francisco Bay Area – you really should try to get your product into Right Start, and Day One (my husband has done business with the founder) – they are huge up here!

  • Nicole Zacharias: July 02, 2015

    Just saw the show and got introduced to your product: LOVE IT!!!!!!!
    I ordered 3!

  • Amy Gould: July 02, 2015

    I saw you on the show and was amazed at the product you have created. I am a mom to a toddler and am super exited to receive the lollacups that I have ordered. I love that fact that you stuck to what you believe in as far as USA made. For that alone I am willing to pay more not to mention that the product seems great. Great ideas keep it up and will definitely order more.

  • Natalie: July 02, 2015

    just watched you guys on the shark, im super impressed with that idea, not to mention how cute the designes are! i would really like to see you guys expand to different areas such as sea world/ or theme parks in general. brilliant idea!!!

  • meganhelton: July 02, 2015

    you did a great job, such a great job that here i am on the website….:) im the kind of mom that cant wait to see this product at TJMaxx. I cant afford to buy an 18 dollar sippy cup but when i see it for a different price, i cant wait for the weighted straw!!! i have a 9 month old that loves straws….great job tonight!

  • Heidi: July 02, 2015

    I was so impressed to see that you weren’t willing to bend on the “Made in the USA”. I am a mom of 3 who about a year ago told my local BUY BUY BABY that my dream would be to see a wall of just “Made in the USA” products. I was saying this because I could not specifically find a sippy cup in their store that was “Made in the USA”. I don’t think Kevin really gets it – but for a mom we are willing to do anything to protect our children. Just as I trust my vegetables that I choose from a local farm because I can actually see where they came from – I want the products from the US so that I know they are actually following guildelines that are required within the US. I am so excited to hear of this sippy cup. The only other USA sippy cup I found was a Gerber in Target – which they no longer offer! I can’t wait for my daughter to try them. I will gladly pay the $18! Please offer more USA products!

  • Janine: July 02, 2015

    I saw you guys on Shark Tank tonight. I have been looking for a sippy cup EXACTLY like this for my toddler! I ordered one tonight. GREAT IDEA! Congrats on your success!

  • Sally: July 02, 2015

    Just watched the show and then got on your site and ordered 2 cups!! I can’t wait to get them in the mail! Congrats on making it on the show snd for coming up with what looks like a fantastic product!
    ~Sally (mother of 2)

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