What it’s Like to Be on Shark Tank

It’s been 24 hours since our [Lollacup] pitch aired on Shark Tank last night, and my heart and mind have not stopped racing.  So much to do and share.  How we went from a simple idea for a new straw sippy cup to landing Mark Cuban and Robert Herjavec as business partners is baffling.

I guess I’ll begin by sharing how Mark and I tuned in last night.  The most responsible thing to do would have been to watch the Shark Tank episode at home, with phone in-hand and computers fired up to attend to any issues that may arise.  BUT we thought about all the people who were in involved in bringing this straw-sippy-cup-project to fruition, and we just had to get everyone together and relish in the moment.  How often does one have an idea, take it to market, get on national TV, and land a business deal with Mark Cuban and Robert Herjavec?  You only live once, so we just had to go the viewing-party-route.  I promise we will respond to your voicemails and emails soon.

Between family, the friends we see regularly, and people who’ve directly worked on lollacup, we had about 75 people we needed to host.  Our home/office was not an option with those numbers, so Mark and I had to get creative in thinking about how to plan a Shark Tank Viewing Party on a budget.  Mark suggested watching it at our old high school, where we met and started dating.  I thought it was a long-shot, but we asked the administration, and the school was gracious enough to let us use the lunch area for dinner and drinks and the auditorium to watch the show.  It was so nostalgic and special to be on campus for this event.  Some of our teachers even joined us!

Thank you Phil Webb and Fleetwood-Fibre for the "card." We have the BEST vendors.

Guests began to trickle in around 7 pm, and they all tried their best to stay off of social media so as not to know the outcome.  We were last into the “tank,” so by 8:40 p.m. everyone was pumped for our appearance – our bellies were full and we had all had a few glasses of wine.

Finally, around 7:45 p.m. the commercial break ended and our friends were cheering [loudly] as we were introduced as “next into the Shark Tank.”  I don’t know about you, but every time I hear my own voice on a recording, I cringe.  Can you imagine how I felt watching my every mannerism on national TV?

During the taping, Mark and I stood in front of those sharks for well over an hour, and what you saw on Friday was edited down to less than 15 minutes.  I must say that the show did a great job with the editing . . . everything you saw was a concise representation of how we remember it all going down.  Aside from childbirth, it was the most intense and stressful hour+ of my life.  I am so proud we survived and so happy Mark and I did it together.

So to tell you “what it’s like to be on Shark Tank” – SIMPLY AMAZING!  For the most part, we have had people go out of their way to send kind words and well-wishes our way via Facebook, Twitter, email, blogs, and even phone calls.  This whole experience is such a huge motivator.  We know how expensive parenting is: the cost of diapers alone is astounding.  Thank you all for supporting Lollacup as we grow.

Here are some of my favorite tweets from the sharks:

Robert HerjavecRobert Herjavec ‏ @robertherjavec #sharktank – i LOVE this guy – ” I only want to play with winners ” – LOVE IT

#sharktank – wow – it took these two amazing pitchers to get me to work with @mcuban

Mark CubanMark Cuban ‏ @mcuban I really liked them. I’m not usually that nice to robert. I felt bad for him ;-).

 will robert and Mark finally work together!! #sharktank
Lori GreinerLori Greiner ‏ @LoriGreiner Love these two!! Their passion in #SharkTank is undeniable.

Why We Decided to Enter the Shark Tank (and Lessons Learned)

I know we’ve been shamelessly plugging our appearance on ABC’s Shark Tank this Friday, April 27th, and I should’ve realized that doing this has been an open invitation to questions galore.  So, this week, I decided to focus my blog posts on Shark Tank-related topics, so here goes . . .

Lollacup standing in line at the Shark Tank
Season 3 Open Casting Call

  1. Why did you decide to enter the Shark Tank?  My husband and I have been big fans of the show since Season 1, when Lollacup was just an idea.  The friends who introduced us to the show would joke that we should try out for the show.  Fast-forward 2 years, and we had actually launched Lollacup and were running the business full-speed.  As many small businesses do, we needed more money to help pay for growth.  Why not try and get funding, national TV exposure, and strategic business partners in one shot?  We’ve had many discussions with people about the pros and cons of going the Shark-Tank-route.  Some have argued that it is pure stupidity to sell a part of a growing business for such little money.  I agree, to some extent, but every business is different.  If there were some magic formula, we would all be millionaires.  We thought about our current business and where we wanted to be in a few years, and if given the opportunity, we chose to try and work with moguls in the business world.
  2. How did you actually get on the show?  We went on the Shark Tank website, and found a link that said, “want to be on the show,” followed the instructions, sent the email, and never heard back.  One night, we were perusing the site again, and saw that there was an open casting call the very next morning.  Luckily we live in the Los Angeles-area, so we arranged for childcare, filled out the 30+ page application that night, and got in line at 7 am the next morning.  We didn’t get seen till 2 pm that day, but that was the 30-second pitch that got the ball rolling for us.
  3. Is the show real or is everything scripted?  Others may have had a different experience with reality TV, but for us, everything was very real.  We were assigned 2 producers who helped guide us through the intricate process that is reality TV, but aside from some changes to the wording of our pitch, nothing was scripted.  I do have to say that what we may see on TV this Friday may be different from what we remember happening, only because an hour and a half of taping/negotiations is edited down to a few minutes.

Lessons learned and some unsolicited business advice from Lollacup:

  1. Business strategy and the decisions we make on a day-to-day basis are a crucial component of entrepreneurship, and to be frank, my husband has a solid background in business, so that’s where we have a leg up.  The contribution I bring to the table is this – I like to think like I did when I was a high school chemistry teacher and used “backwards planning” to lesson plan.  The premise is you determine your end goal, and plan all the steps to achieve that specific goal.  Many teachers like to plan around themes.  For example, just because it is the month of October, everything lesson revolves around pumpkins.  This kind of thinking, to me, sends the message that the end goal is to teach and learn about pumpkins.  Wouldn’t it be better to determine what you want students to learn, and plan lessons that move toward that goal?  I like to use this method and thinking in business too.  For example, when we first launched the product, the biggest question was, how were we going to compete with the dozen+ sippy cups on the market owned by companies like Gerber, Playtex, and the like?  Our initial goal was to build buzz and brand awareness, so our first steps were to build a unique product, package it so it stands out, and build a beautiful booth so we get noticed at tradeshows.
  2. If you have a specific goal you want to achieve, make it your obsession.  Although we didn’t start a business with the end goal of being on Shark Tank, getting in front of the “sharks” was just one short-term goal we did have, and we literally became obsessed.  We checked the same website over and over, watched the show incessantly to glean business tips from the sharks and other entreprenuers, and did whatever we could to increase our odds of getting casted on the show – honed our elevator pitch, made sure we were on top of every last detail of our business, and just tried to be candid about it all.
  3. The third lesson learned is to be overly prepared and move quickly.  We stayed up all night before the open casting call, filling out the 30-page application.  We saw so many others filling it out on the sidewalk that morning and not being able to complete it, because it actually required a lot of information that they didn’t have on hand with them.  Also, to increase our odds of getting selected for the show, we answered all Shark-Tank-related emails within minutes.

Wow!  That was a mouthful.  I can’t believe that after all this, I still have more to say on the matter.  Stay tuned for more . . .In the meantime, stay focused on your goals!

It’s Teacher/Staff Appreciation Week at the Preschool!

It’s already Friday, and I haven’t done a thing for teacher/staff appreciation week at my daughters’ preschool.  Last week, I got a memo that this “week of gratitude” was fast approaching.  I knew I had a whole week to come up with something unique, special, and unbelievably thoughtful for the wonderful teachers, but instead I’m scrambling around to pull something together before the week is over.  After I write this hurried blog post, I plan to print cards from my computer and stop by Trader Joe’s before pickup to get flowers and sweets.

My daughter’s preschool makes it very clear that staff appreciation week is not a time for lavish gift-giving.  Actually, they simply ask families to make cards or write notes, and “notes do not have to be long to be meaningful.”  Also, on Monday morning, there were several water-filled vases around the classroom for parents to fill with flowers from their gardens – I thought this was SO simple and clever.  Judging by the flowers sitting in those vases now, some families have amazing gardens.  I, on the other hand, will be purchasing cut flowers.

Although these thoughtful [and free] gestures are nice, sometimes you just want or need to buy a gift.  Many years ago, I, too was a teacher, so when I gift to fellow teachers I’m always considering what I would’ve liked to receive.  I wanted to share a short list of gifts that don’t break the bank, but teachers seem to really appreciate.  I even listed specific brands (with prices) I gifted to my daughters’ teachers this past holiday season.  The end of the school-year is fast approaching, so perhaps this will give you some ideas.  Please comment if you have any other ideas to share with other busy parents.

  • hand cream – Kiehl’s Ultimate Strength Hand Salve – $14-$22
  • water bottle – Lifefactory – $20-$25
  • mani/pedi gift certificate – $25-40
  • canvas tote bag – L.L. Bean – $20-$35
  • bottle of wine – $10-$25
  • host a simple lunch for teacher(s)
  • gift certificates are always practical – coffee, grocery store, amazon, gas station, car wash, bookstore, VISA/AMEX, etc.

One of My Go-To Healthy (and Easy) Kids’ Meals

My older daughter is a bit of a gourmand.  She is open to trying anything, and loves to eat. My younger daughter, on the other hand, eats a lot, but prefers carbs and fruit over protein and veggies.  She’s also quite picky.  If she finds a sliver of a scallion on her chicken, she will spend an eternity picking it off.  She literally hates the color green.

I do know that the girl loves to dip and enjoys soups, so in my effort to get some vegetables in her, I’ve amassed an arsenal of vegetable-based soups.

Cauliflower soup is one of her favorite, so I thought I’d share the recipe with all of you.  I love it’s simplicity, and it’s so nice to watch this little girl devour a healthy meal.  Since everything’s blended together, she can’t pick at the pieces.  One of her favorite dinners consists of pita chips or crackers to dip in her large bowl of cauliflower soup.  Bon Appetit!

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped white onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1 head of cauliflower, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups whipping cream/milk/rice milk/soy milk/etc.
  • salt (I like Kosher salt)
  • white pepper to maintain the color of the soup, but black pepper will do as well

Heat oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic. Sauté until onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Add cauliflower, broth, and cream. Bring soup to boil. Reduce heat to low, partially cover, and simmer gently until cauliflower is tender, about 20 minutes. Puree soup in small batches in blender/food processor until smooth. Return to same saucepan. Season soup with kosher salt and white pepper.

* This recipe is very forgiving.  My daughters have a dairy allergy, so I use rice milk or sometimes just 4 cups of chicken broth.  It still tastes great!

A Free Kids’ Activity: Little to No Effort for Me and Loads of Fun for Them

We had a family brunch at an Italian restaurant this weekend, and two people in our group ordered Linguine al Pescatore, a rustic seafood stew with calamari, shrimp, prawns, clams, mussels, and of course, linguine.  A random sound grabbed the attention of my daughters – the clanking of the mussel and clam shells against the bowl as they were quickly being consumed and discarded.

A barrage of questions ensued . . . what are those? are they alive? can I take them home? – Take them home?  Having just had a parent – teacher conference the day before, I immediately thought, “what would their teachers do?”  They [the amazingly patient and attentive preschool teachers] would somehow turn this into a lesson.  Now, I wasn’t ready to plan and execute a lesson on molluscs and crustaceans, but I agreed to get a doggy bag for the empty shells and toted them home.

That afternoon, I filled a bucket with water and dish soap, gave them some sponges, towels, and old toothbrushes, and let the girls have at it.  They had the time of their lives washing these shells!  I kid you not, they were scrubbing away at those shells for almost an hour, chatting and laughing the whole time.

Isn’t it amazing how simple children can be?  They find happiness and joy in the most mundane things.  As parents, some days feel eternal and no toy in the house captures the kids’ interest for more than 5 minutes.  Take a moment to look around you, because you may be able to make magic happen with the most random things.

Here are two simple ideas inspired by this shell-washing activity:

1.  Put some rocks in a bowl or on a cookie sheet, let the kids paint the rocks, and give them spray bottles to wash and repeat.

2.  Prewash some berries, give your child a small bowl of water and a colander to wash, strain, and enjoy!

If you have any more ideas, please share!

Happy Easter

A tornado ripped through the Dallas-Fort Worth area, the beautiful island of Fiji is heavily flooded, and somehow, we, here in Southern California are blessed with sunshine and warmth.  I have to admit that life has been beyond hectic these past few weeks, but I’m trying to find some serenity and joy as Easter approaches.  What better way to epitomize serenity and joy than with flowers.  Flowers are one of those things I love to have around the house and receive, but they’re just so darn expensive.

One year ago, I hosted a baby shower for my dear friend & photographer, Caroline Tran.  I had the pleasure of working with 2 local florists who completely blew my mind with their creativity and diy-prowess.  One of my all-time favorite pieces – their flower arrangements really are pieces of art – is this “Pretty Dozen.”

If you’re interested in having a go at this before Easter, here are some basic instructions, from Euri of Fleuretica:

1. Empty out each egg by cracking the top with a fork tine or sharp knife. Break away the shells carefully until you get the opening you’ll need.
2. Empty out the egg (set aside for baking!) and rinse carefully.
3. Cut out patterns using tissue paper, newspaper prints, napkins, etc. Figure out how you want to place the pattern on your egg.
4. Using decoupage glue (try Mod Podge from your local craft store), paint on a thin layer over the paper.
5. Allow to dry for a few hours.
6. Add water to the egg shells, place your flowers within!

Whether you decide to have a go at this or make your table’s centerpiece a potted Easter Lily plant from Trader Joe’s, like I will, have a Happy Easter.  May you surround yourself with things that make you smile.

p.s. If anyone decides to make one of these “Pretty Dozen,” will you please please share photos?

Today is World Autism Awareness Day

My first job after graduating from college was as a teacher in a residential school for children with autism.  I was a young, bright-eyed college graduate, who thought she would make a major impact on childrens’ lives through this job.  The job impacted me much more than I impacted those children, I’m sure, and that year was one of the most challenging and eye-opening years of my life.

When I learned that April 2, 2012 is World Autism Awareness Day, I just had to blog about it.  I was shocked to read that the prevalence of autism has now climbed to a staggering 1 in 88 children in the U.S.  Autism is essentially an epidemic at this point.  It is one of those disorders that is so perplexing to me.  I remember watching a touching documentary that profiled families who have children with autism.  The most striking part of the documentary was when a mother tearfully described the moment she felt her son “slip away.”  She described her perfect baby boy hitting all his milestones and suddenly, at age 3, simply turning off – Her son no longer made eye contact, virtually stopped speaking, and entered an “other” world of repetition and seclusion.

If you or someone you know has a child with autism, please think of him/her today.  If anything, take a moment to familiarize yourself with Autism.  I like the website, AutismSpeaks.org.