For ten seasons, ABC’s Shark Tank has been making dreams come true — and sometimes turning a nugget of an idea into one worth over $100 million.
For Aaron Krause, founder of Shark Tank’s biggest monetary success, Scrub Daddy, that nugget was an accidental discovery of a urethane foam that changed textures depending on water temperature that sent him on his way.
“Before Shark Tank, I was getting really frustrated,” says Krause, 49, whose company is now worth $170 million. “But the day after I did a deal with Lori [Greiner], we went on QVC and we sold $75,000 in Scrub Daddies in seven minutes. I remember gliding off that show. It was the greatest experience of my life and it hasn’t slowed down.”
Liz Martin, 36, founded her company, Tanglepets, out of necessity. “I was annoyed because there was no painless way of brushing kids’ hair,” says the mother of three. She came up with the idea of a tangle-taming brush, but “I had no idea what I was doing,” Martin admits. Not to mention, “we were a check-by-check family,” she says. “I had the idea but we didn’t have any money. And no matter how good your product is, it’s hard to sell something.”
After Shark Tank, Martin, who had $8,000 in sales before making a deal with Greiner, made $12 million in one year.
“As a mom, you want your kids to be financially safe,” she says. “To not have to worry about that anymore and just focus on being a mom is the biggest gift.”
For Rick and Melissa Hinnant, a successful company also means the ability to give back. The couple — who founded accessories and knitwear line Grace & Lace after the tragic death of their infant daughter — run orphanages in India through a partnership with Angel House.
“Pain can fuel you,” says Rick, 44, who made a deal with Barbara Corcoran thus helping their company get to a current worth of $36 million. “We try to be an encouragement to others, and teach people how to take tragedy and turn it into triumph.”
Sisters Donna and Rosy Khalife took their own painful history and used it as motivation to improve children’s lives everywhere.
“We didn’t have a lot of toys or video games that other kids had,” says Donna, 34, who grew up with her three siblings and parents, all refugees from Lebanon, in a one-bedroom apartment in New Bedford, Mass. “But our dad is an artist and we would do activities with him.”
Surprise Ride, their subscription boxes with creative projects for kids, is now worth an estimated $3 million, thanks to Shark Tank and a deal with Kevin O’Leary. Now, “so many people who had a hard upbringing or are immigrants tell us we inspired them,” says Donna. “That warms my heart.”
David Levich, who co-founded novelty sunglasses company Sun-Staches, says going on Shark Tank did more than help launch his company to a worth of $24 million. “Once we got the deal [with Daymond John], and people were believing in us, I started getting this positive reinforcement about my life,” says Levich, 36. “I started taking care of myself and lost about 65 pounds in 18 months. I believe in myself again.”
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College roommates Evan Mendelsohn and Nick Morton had $1 million in sales with their themed clothing company Tipsy Elves when they went on Shark Tank and tripled their sales within a year. Now, the company is worth $100 million. “We really lean on [Shark] Robert Herjavec for advice and critical decisions,” says Mendelsohn, 34. “It’s a cliché, but this is like a dream. The doors that Shark Tank has opened for us are unimaginable.”
Despite a notoriously bad pitch on Shark Tank (“I made an idiot of myself”), Tower Paddle Boards founder Stephan Aarstol made a deal with Mark Cuban — and changed his own life. “Since the show, we’ve taken off like a rocket ship,” says Aarstol, 46, who has also diversified and expanded his beach sports company. “Before the show, I had $35,000 in sales. Now we’re at almost $34 million. Shark Tank threw a hand down and pulled me up. It was like standing on the shoulders of giants.”
Shark Tank airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.