"Shark Tank"/ABC Hoppy Paws founder Trina Barkouras. Some 45,000 entrepreneurs from across the US auditioned for the sixth season of ABC's hit show "Shark Tank." Most of those who make it into the tank have been developing their businesses over several years, since the investors look for companies that they can accelerate rather than build from the ground up.
But not only did Trina Barkouras, founder of holiday-novelty company Hoppy Paws, get a chance to pitch the sharks a mere six weeks after launching her company, her hustle was so impressive that she made a deal with Barbara Corcoran.
"Trina, look, you are not allowed to call yourself Trina anymore. I have rechristened you The Beast," Mark Cuban told her during her pitch. "I wish my salespeople were as focused and as driven and as excited about their vision."
Twenty years ago, Barkouras got the idea to make a stamp shaped like giant rabbit footprints, which would lead to her children's Easter baskets and make the Easter Bunny tradition more fun. Her kids are grown now, but she thinks it's time to share the practice with families everywhere. Hoppy Paws has kits for Easter, Christmas (reindeer hooves), Halloween (glow-in-the-dark cat paws), and other celebrations.
She went to an open audition for "Shark Tank" in San Diego with a rough idea of what Hoppy Paws would be. The producers called her back shortly afterward to appear on the show, which meant that she needed to turn that idea into reality quickly.
In 90 days, Barkouras invested $105,000 of her own money into Hoppy Paws, developing the product design, the packaging, an initial batch of kits, and a tradeshow display.
And to top it off, she quit a lucrative career as an interior designer to pursue her new business full-time, a detail that blew the sharks away.
When investor Lori Greiner asked Barkouras what her biggest seller is, she said, "My bestseller? What you're holding in your hand came off the press yesterday." She hadn't finished her package until 5 p.m. the day before.
"You can't imagine how many people we all meet around the country who say, 'I wanna get on 'Shark Tank' one day,'" Robert Herjavec said. "And I say to them, 'Why don't you apply?' And you know what they say? 'Oh, I'm not ready. I'm gonna give myself a couple of years.' ... You didn't even have anything 90 days ago, and — bang! — here you are with a business."
Screenshot, Vimeo/Hoppy Paws The tracks are made from a biodegradable material and can be removed with a vacuum.
Herjavec said he's in awe of Barkouras, but he wasn't convinced that in the absence of proof of sales, the product could actually take off. He pulled out of a deal. Greiner agreed and did the same.
Kevin O'Leary, referring to Barkouras' reindeer-antler headband and fighting spirit, said he wanted a woman with horns in his portfolio, but that giving the company a $500,000 valuation was impossible to him. He said he would join up with any other sharks who wanted to participate and give $5,000 toward 50% of the company. Herjavec wanted in, but Cuban and Greiner found the deal unfair.
Corcoran then jumped in with her own offer: $100,000 for a 50% stake in the company. She's not looking to be a traditional investor, Corcoran explained, but rather a full-blown partner. "I'd like to be on equal footing, and I'd like to tell you why: It's because I'd like to work just as hard as you," she said.
Corcoran said that moving forward, she would limit the kits to the Christmas, Easter, and Tooth Fairy-themed ones, and also get Barkouras a line of credit.
Barkouras wanted to go 51%/49% so that she'd retain the majority of the company. Corcoran agreed, as long as Barkouras thinks of five other company ideas and goes 50/50 with her on every future product. "You're a little machine of ideas ... and all those ideas are our ideas going forward," Corcoran said. They made a deal.
O'Leary predicted from the outset that Corcoran, who tends to gravitate toward big personalities on the show, would make a deal. She ended up with more than an investment in a startup — she formed a partnership with an entrepreneur who has an incredible amount of determination, focus, and creativity.
Barkouras told the investors that she credits her drive to the fact that she's been on her own for most of her life. She said that after her mom emancipated her at age 16, she took $300 and moved to California, where she eventually began a lucrative career. "I've been successful at everything I do," she said.
You can watch the full episode at Hulu Plus.
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