Heidi and Cory Santiago pitch Corey's invention, the Bear Minimum, in the season ten premier of Shark Tank. Their product is a play on words that hints at both the outdoor uses and its small size. The Bear Minimum is a folding cooking pot for taking on the go. It literally folds into a wallet sized carrying case, eliminating the need for toting bulky cookware while camping and backpacking.
The Bear Minimum assembles simply and quickly. It's handy as a camping accessory, but it's also a good survival tool. It's size and ease of use could be a lifesaver in a situation where you need to boil water to survive. As the website says, it opens with “four folds and two snaps.” It's made from a soft teflon material and can cook with indirect heat. When cooking over an open flame, the company recommends wrapping the “pot” in tin foil to prevent degradation to the material. Reviews on the company website indicate customers like the product, which will cost you about thirty bucks.
To date, the Bear Minimum has been a family affair with both Corey and Heidi, along with two of their five children (three have moved on to “the real world”) making, packaging and shipping out of their Spokane home. As of publication, they've secured a manufacturing deal in China, but they ultimately want to make the product in the USA. To date, they've sold over 3000 units in 30 countries. The product is still very niche, but they hope to expand their reach – and distribution – with the help of a Shark. Will one of the Sharks cook up a deal for this business?
My Take on The Bear Minimum
Back in my late teens and twenties, I did a lot of backpacking all over New England. My idea of a fun weekend was strapping on a pack and disappearing into the woods. I had a bulky, standard issue military “mess kit” in my pack which nested a small pot, a pan and plate along with a knife fork and spoon. It served me well over the years, but it was bulky and hard to clean. Since weight and space in a backpack are big considerations, I was always looking for ways to cut down on both.
I would have loved to have this. You can literally carry your cookware in your pocket with this product. That eliminates about a pound from my pack, that means I can carry a pound more of food! While I have some concerns about the degradation of the material over open flame, the convenience won me over. I like this product and I'd use it if I still went backpacking. I am IN.
Will Sharks Cook Up a Deal?
I see the Sharks having several concerns with The Bear Minimum. The first is sales. With only about $90,000 in total sales, this product isn't exactly flying off the shelves. They do have positive momentum, but those numbers are a bit thin for Sharks.
This is a very niche product. Sure, it appeals to the large outdoor/camping market, but it doesn't have broader mass appeal. The company website touts it as good for a portable dog dish and small tote, but many people who don't camp aren't going to drop thirty bucks for an item they already own.
The final concern is the degradation of the pot over an open flame. The pots use Teflon and while Teflon does not cause cancer, Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) does. PFOA is used in the manufacturing of Teflon and is a known carcinogen. On the Bear Minimum website, they caution using the pot after degradation caused by using it over an open flame. While it is perfectly safe to use as intended, there is too much of a liability risk for a Shark. If they get a deal, this fact could kill it in the due diligence phase.
I don't think Mr. Wonderful or Lori goes for this because of the sales numbers and lack of mass appeal. MArk will probably call this “a product, not a business,” and will likely pass. Daymond is an outdoorsy type of guy who may take a flyer because of the obvious utility of the product, but he will back out once the degradation issues come to light. Siminoff is a wild card because he has no track record as a Shark, but my gut tells me he's out too.