Anyone who watched Myself Belts on Shark Tank on Halloween knows what happened. It was intense. Or should I capitalize it and say INTENSE! It truly was rough, and although I know it was a reality television show, I did feel like I had been in a fight and was definitely bruised. It is complicated emotionally though because the story has a happy ending, a Daymond John partnership.
Going In The Tank
My decision to apply for Shark Tank didn't have anything to do with money. The "ask" was kind of arbitrary to me because I was there for a higher purpose than money. I wanted a partner. I wanted a strategic partner because I knew that Myself Belts had not yet reached its potential and I had only been able to take the business to a certain point. I knew we had an amazing product that helped solve a problem and we had tens of thousands of happy customers. I knew we were a profitable business that provided jobs for people who work at Myself Belts. We had sold $2 Million dollars worth of belts over the years and although sales weren't increasing, we had a stable business. Myself Belts didn't need money to grow, it needed a strategic partner to help it to scale- someone who could see the licensing opportunities for the patented belt closure, someone who had connections to companies that could expand distribution, someone who understood branding, someone like Daymond John.
Swimming with the Sharks
When I decided to apply for Shark Tank, I decided I wanted Myself Belts to grow more than I cared about my own ego. I decided it was worth the risk of how I would look and be portrayed. That decision was surely put to the test. My mom's biggest fears about the Sharks being mean to me came true. They were very hard on me. I was strong and didn't back down, but their words still stung. The Sharks as a whole wouldn't look past the flat sales to see the potential. They talked about what I hadn't done right instead of seeing how far I had come. I was a social worker before Myself Belts. A therapist that worked with kids in foster care who knew nothing about manufacturing, retail, sales, marketing, and patents. My sister and I brought a product to market, patented it, and proceeded to sell hundreds of thousands of belts over the years. It's true that we haven't grown in recent years, but many businesses have had similar patterns and were impacted by the recession, we certainly are not alone.
Throughout my time in the tank, Daymond was quiet as he often is. I didn't know what he was thinking. I had hoped that he would connect with both me and Myself Belts. I knew he had invested in Mission Belt and had found great success. I had hoped that he would want to create a "belt empire" and add Myself Belts to his portfolio. I hoped that he would see the potential that I saw in my brand. When everyone was "out" and Daymond shared his thoughts, I held my breath as I had no idea what he was going to say. Was this whole undertaking for nothing? Had I spent months preparing for Shark Tank and just endured a humiliating beat down that was going to end up on national television for no reason? I held my breath. When he spoke, I was so out of my body grateful. He described me as I see myself- someone strong, who had weathered a tough economy, been a mom to 3 kids while creating a business, and was still standing. I was so incredibly relieved. When he said he believed in me, I thought, thank goodness this was all for a greater good. I had found the strategic partner I had been hoping for. I had accomplished what I had gone on the show for. The bruises and emotional hurt had been worth it.
Halloween Airing Our air date on Shark Tank was Halloween night. As you can imagine it was a crazy day filled with Halloween parades, trick or treating and typical parenting activities. My sister flew to St. Louis so that we could watch the show together. Friends and co-workers gathered with their kids at my house after trick or treating to watch the show with me. I was nervous. Of course I knew the outcome and the tone of my time in the tank, but I didn't know what the final show would look like and how it all would be edited. I was in the tank for 45 minutes and I knew it would be cut down to less than 8 minutes. Unfortunately, a lot of the background about the Myself Belts trajectory was edited out as well as a lot of the great benefits of our product, including our extremely affordable retail price of $16.95. I wish they had included the benefits of our belt closure for the school uniform market and for children and adults with special needs. I wish they had clearly shown that we have an adult line of belts for people with hand dexterity challenges that can benefit from the ease that Myself Belts provide. Luckily, many in the audience realized the many applications for Myself Belts. We have heard from so many parents of kids with autism and other challenges that are so excited to have discovered us. I am so grateful for the opportunity to have introduced Myself Belts to millions of people. I am also incredibly grateful to Daymond John and the next chapter of this story. I can't wait to chart the next course for Myself Belts- "Myself Belts 2.0" is what we are calling it around my house. Opportunity awaits, and I am buckled up for the ride.
Thanks for sharing this journey with me, Talia