A Peachtree City couple on Friday night’s ABC reality show “Shark Tank” not only survived but thrived in those often nasty waters. The savvy entrepreneurs convinced real estate mogul Barbara Corcoran to invest $50,000 in their business: a Ride-On Carry-On chair attachment to luggage so families can move their kids around the airport without the need for a cumbersome stroller.
Darryl Lenz, an American Airlines flight attendant for 28 years who came up with the idea 15 years ago, pitched the idea last fall before five “sharks,” including Alpharetta’s Jeff Foxworthy. Her husband Randy, using a doll in place of an actual child, showed how cumbersome it can be to juggle children and luggage through a terminal. It’s usable for kids from 8 months to five years old.
The company had sold 20,000 over the years but wanted to get into retail. This past year, they had 2,000 for $39.95, mostly through catalog sales. “Kids love the ride,” Darryl said. “Parents love the convenience.”
“You have a lawn chair strapped to a piece of luggage,” said an unimpressed Robert Heriavec.
“I love a woman named Darryl because my wife’s name is Gregg ,” Foxworthy joked, then asked a question about safety and liability. Darryl said it has had no safety issues.
They impressed the sharks with the fact they were profitable and had made back their initial $150,000 investment. And they liked the margins.
The Lenzs asked for $50,000 for a 25% stake in the company. They’d use the money for product awareness and website optimization. (Then again, the free marketing from 10 minutes of airtime on “Shark Tank” is potentially worth at least $1 million in and of itself!)
“You know you might be a redneck when your kids are strapped to your luggage, going through the airport” Randy cracked, getting a laugh from Foxworthy.
“That isn’t even you might be. You are!” Foxworthy said. Though he liked the idea, it wasn’t up his alley. Heriavec also pulled out, thinking it needs to be licensed to a luggage company.
Corcoran actually took the initial Lenz offer of $50,000 for 25 percent stake, probably a first in the history of the show that there was virtually no bargaining involved. She doesn’t think it should be sold to a luggage company, something espoused by Kevin O’Leary, former president of The Learning Company and one of the toughest sharks on the panel. (He dubbed retail a “slaughterfest.”)
After Corcoran’s offer, Heriavec sarcastically noted, “I love the negotiation where you offer exactly what they’re looking for!”
“It’s worth it,” she noted. “I can see this selling like hotcakes.”
O’Leary came up with an alternative plan where he will take 20 percent of sales in perpetuity for $50,000. His work? He’d license the concept after they find the luggage companies. He then proceeded to call himself “Uncle Kevin” and “Mr. Wonderful.” Corcoran said any half-decent attorney could do his work: “Don’t be wowed by his fancy words. Look at this guy and think, ‘Do you want to do business with him?’ ”
“I think Barbara is giving you a great deal and he’s giving you a sucker deal,” advised Daymond John, founder of FUBU.
It ended up as a no brainer. The Lenzs took Corcoran’s offer.
In an interview today, about 18 hours after the show aired, Darryl said she had been spending the day sifting through hundreds of orders she has received thanks to the exposure.In preparation, the couple had 2,000 Ride-on Carry-ons ready to go in inventory.
“There was so much anticipation and excitement leading up to the show,” she said. “We’re just coming down from the fog. Oh my God! I have some work to do!”
She said the 12 minutes or so they spent on air had been condensed from an actual 45 minutes. “It’s amazing how seamless they make it,” he said. “It was kind of funny, quirky and cute.”
Darryl wasn’t surprised it was the one woman on the panel who opted to invest. “Men don’t get it,” she said.
Though they couldn’t say until now, Corcoran has been working with them for the past few months. “She’s phenomonal, upbeat, easy to work with,” Darryl said. “She likes smaller companies like ours. She likes working with women and women’s products.”
Later in the episode, Foxworthy teamed up with Heriavec to invest in a Hill Billy brand name. (Clearly, many of the products were geared with Foxworthy in mind.)
By Rodney Ho, firstname.lastname@example.org, AJCRadioTV blog