"Shark Tank" investors give the participants harsh reality checks and, sometimes, kill dreams. But the sharks are experienced business people and chose to support these entrepreneurs, who are now immensely successful and truly inspirational.ABC's
Season 1: Mr. Tod's Pie Factory
Tod Wilson stood before the potential investors with only his costumed pie mascot for support. He made an emotional plea for funding and explained how bad business decisions drove him to homelessness in the past. The sharks nearly booted him, but he continued to make his case. He emphatically asked, "Who doesn't like pie?"
After devouring his pies, the sharks could not disagree, but worried about his past fumbles and current demands. Daymond John and Barbara Corcoran finally closed the deal after an especially difficult negotiation.
In a recent update on "Shark Tank," Wilson said his retail business tripled, and he sold thousands of pies on QVC in only five minutes. His product line includes additional desserts, such as cheesecakes and muffins. The Oprah Blog recommended his mini pies as a good way to indulge a sweet tooth without worrying about portion control.
Season 2: Daisy Cakes
South Carolina baker Kim Nelson turned her homespun family recipes into a booming mail-order cake business. Again, the male sharks loved the taste of the cake, but didn't want to fund the business. Corcoran noticed their voracious appetites and decided to support Nelson, who she called the next Paula Deen.
QVC featured Daisy Cakes, and Nelson appeared at the South Beach Wine and Food Festival. She's shared her dessert recipes and tips on a variety of TV shows, including "The Nate Berkus Show."
Most recently, she appeared on "ABC World News" as part of its Made in America series. She sold over 25,000 cakes with Corcoran's help. Thanks to Daisy Cakes' growth, Nelson outgrew the approved kitchen on her parents' property and now outsources to commercial bakeries. She averages $100,000 in sales per month. The company still uses her recipe and methods, but she employs 240 bakers who can produce up to 5,000 cakes per day.
Season 3: I Want to Draw a Cat for You
The third season of "Shark Tank" is still airing and features several powerhouse businesses, such as the Nail Pak 3-in-1 nail polish, ReadeREST magnetic eyeglass holders, and Snap Caps bottle cap jewelry. However, Steve Gadlin, the cat drawing guy, is the biggest success story of Season 3.
He enthusiastically rapped and danced his way through the pitch for his cat drawing business. People actually paid him $9.95, which is mostly profit, for his custom drawings of cats. He wanted to expand his business to include greeting cards and other products.
Kevin O'Leary and Robert Herjavek opted out and the rest of the panel didn't seem to take the product seriously. He could have easily gone home and lived in infamy as the weird cat guy, but his optimism and enthusiasm inspired Mark Cuban to make a deal.
Cuban gleefully made a $25,000 deal and agreed to contribute an occasional cat drawing to the site before dancing with Gadlin. The business is going strong and recently launched a monthly subscription service. Thanks to his "Shark Tank" connections, there is also a retail product line in the works. Apparently, the Internet really loves cats.
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- Barbara Corcoran