Too many, yes, Shark Tank is just to intimidating. Some entrepreneurs have confessed fears of appearing on the show, sharks do bit you know. Take for example Deese and Coughlan, co-founders of the public relations firm Melrose PR. They had recently created the prototype for Pursecase, a small clutch purse that holds an iPhone and essentials such as credit cards. The idea started as something Coughlan wanted for herself.
They had no interest in booking a spot on the show. They knew someone who had done it, and it didn’t turn out well. Check out the sound bites from pal, Gina Hall over the Upstart Business Journal.
“I didn’t want to do it,” Deese tells me. “I’d seen them rip so many people apart.”
For the uninitiated, the reality competition “Shark Tank” puts entrepreneurs in front of savvy business investors (the sharks) for an opportunity to jump-start their business. The investors will ask questions of the entrepreneurs, and if they like what they see, they’ll compete to offer up investments for a slice of the pie. The “sharks” include multimillionaires and billionaires such as NBA Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, ” Queen of QVC” Lori Greiner, real estate mogul Barbara Corcoran, tech entrepreneur Robert Herjavec, branding guru Daymond John, and venture capitalist Kevin O’Leary.
Deese and Coughlan were huge fans of the show. But it wasn’t until the pair took a trip to New York with their friend who had already swam with the sharks that they realized the power of reality television.
“We were at the ‘Vogue’ offices when one of the editors recognized our friend,” says Deese. “She asked, ‘Don’t I know you?’ And our friend said she didn’t think they’d met before, she thought she would remember.”
But the editor insisted she had seen their friend before.
“She said ‘Yeah, you were on ‘Shark Tank.’ All of our editors watch that show,'” recalled Deese. “And I was like, ‘Ding, ding, ding — we need to see if we can get on.'”
“We were handing out coffee to people waiting in line for the iPhone 5 back in September of 2012,” recalls Coughlan. “Our PR firm was promoting an app, and we were amazed at how many people were in line. I also bought the new iPhone but wouldn’t take it out of the box until it had a case. At the time there wasn’t much selection, so I ordered one off of eBay.”
When it arrived, Coughlan told Deese not to poke fun at her because she ordered one that had a chain on it, like a purse.
“It was kind of a funny idea that we kind of joked about. We called it a Pursecase,” says Coughlan. “But then we looked into it and we found that the domain name and the social media channels were available.”
At the time, there weren’t a lot of wallet-style cases, and the concept kept coming up in conversation. The pair finally started talking to style bloggers to see if there was a real market for their product.
“We were PR professionals, so we knew we could create buzz,” says Coughlan. “Manufacturing was going to be the hard part.”
The pair first turned to Kickstarter. Having little experience with manufacturing, Deese and Coughlan thought they would throw the concept up on the crowdfunding site in October and have Pursecases to give to friends and family by Christmas.
“We didn’t want to take on investors,” says Deese. “We wanted to do Kickstarter because we needed to see if people wanted it.” It turned that their instincts were right. “Being on the show was totally worth it,” says Coughlan. “The sales numbers were crazy all week.”
The Pursecase has become one of the bestsellers at Kitson, a trendy L.A. chain that caters to celebrities and tourists. Deese and Coughlan were also able to get the product into swag bags at Coachella, which is how starlet Vanessa Hudgens acquired one that she’s been photographed with multiple times.
Swimming with sharks might be scary, but so is pursuing any business venture.