Arlene Battishill, one half of the GoGoGear gals, was kind enough to chat with me for an hour or so today. I wanted to hear about her experiences on the show, and she took time out of her very busy schedule to share insights on an entrepreneur's life after Shark Tank. Arlene was gracious enough to provide a GoGoGear Jacket for our weekly contest, so taking an hour of her time was a true bonus.
I always want to know about website traffic after a show airs. Arlene said their site traffic went up 1000% and she thinks the only reason they didn't do bigger numbers “is because we have such a niche product.” GoGoGear switched to dedicated servers prior to the show to avoid a site crash and revamped their shopping cart software with the help of Big Commerce's Interspire Shopping Cart. Arlene was glad the site didn't crash but only had three words for the huge traffic spike: “OH MY GOD!” GoGoGear was making money prior to being on the show, “now we're making more,” said Arlene.
Arlene had a conversation with one of the gals from Litter Jewelry before the show aired and she warned Arlene not to pick up the phone the next day. Arlene said, “I can't describe the experience, there were so many calls. I didn't pick up the phone for two days after the show.” She eventually did answer the phone and began making deals from the exposure the Shark Tank appearance gave GoGoGear. “We got calls from people in a position to put our products all over Europe and South America- they saw the show, got on the phone and said ‘we have to have this.'” Finally the Thursday after their air date, the phone didn't ring for a while during the morning. “It was nice to have a respite, I thought ‘this is great, the phone isn't ringing.' Then I thought ‘Oh My God! The phone isn't ringing!'” She says it picked up later in the day.
Besides selling online, GoGoGear is in motor sport specialty shops all over the USA, Australia, France, Germany, and Italy. When I asked Arlene if she'd ridden a scooter in Italy (Italians are crazy drivers), she shared a story about a visit to a manufacturer in Shanghai. “I had finished a factory visit and I needed a ride back to my hotel. I hopped on the back of a guy's scooter and he took me back in the rain.” She said Shanghai's congested traffic makes driving in Italy look like a country ride. “I was riding on the back of this scooter in the rain, in all this traffic and I laughed out loud- it was so absurd!”
Arlene Battishill in the Tank
When I asked Arlene about her portrayal on the show, she had a lot to say. “Desiree and I have pitched venture capitalists before, they never yell at you and they never ask for a decision in two minutes. We were in there for an hour and a half and we never even got to finish our pitch.” Robert Herjavec (who wore the men's jacket throughout the entire pitch) launched in with “you're telling me this [jacket] is protective?” After that comment, the structured pitch went out the window.
“We wanted to talk about the European market- we had a London sales channel in place to serve Europe- and what came out was ‘we're going to Europe!' We meant it figuratively. After that comment, Mark barely let us speak. He called two fifty year old women ‘cockroaches,' it was outrageous. It was almost like he got up on the wrong side of the bed for our whole episode. We were yelling back at them as much as they were yelling at us. I really had to laugh at some of the things that were said.” While Arlene would have preferred to finish the pitch, she understands what makes for good TV in the Shark Tank. “The Sharks are the stars, the entrepreneurs are the props,” she said.
On another unkind editorial cut, Arlene said, “the perception was we blew $400K on the business. Actually, we spent $50K for development, $150K for marketing, $150K for manufacturing, and $15K for legal work. The rest of the money was for operating expenses.” Arlene knows a bit about TV, even though she doesn't watch much (must come from living in LA). On a show like The Shark Tank, “it's not a question about fair or unfair, it's about creating drama and tension; I am happy for the entertainment value.” She's not the only one. Arlene and Desiree were actually approached by a Reality TV producer who wants to do a reality show on GoGoGear!
The GoGoGear gals would have plenty of material for such a show too. They could re-enact Arlene's product testing for an entertaining segment. When they first were getting started, Arlene put on a protective jacket and “threw myself down a fifty foot hill to test it. I didn't break any bones, but I was sore for a week.” She also “had a motorcycle drag me 80 feet to test the fabric. The outer lining had a little tearing, but the inner shell stayed intact.”
Now that's dedication!
I asked if the deal with Daymond John went through. “He didn't write a check. He is acting as an adviser to us and will put up money for manufacturing when we figure out the best avenue. Because our product is more challenging from a fashion standpoint, we have to educate both the consumer and the retailer outside of the power sport world. It's not like he can call up CVS and have them put our product on the shelf.”
Arlene had nothing but high praise for Daymond. “Access to Daymond is worth more than money, he is AMAZING to work with,” she said. “He calls a lot and he takes my calls. In addition to having distribution in 40 countries, he has both the fashion and manufacturing background. His rolodex is incredible.” As for Daymond's Shark persona, Arlene thinks he is a “thoughtful, gentle, man; he's approachable and generous with his time and advice. I can't say enough good things about him.”
Arlene and I concur on Daymond. We both admire him giving time to students on the college and high school level. As far as his actual portrayal on the show, Arlene saw him as “reserved; he makes his funny comments, but that's his sense of humor more than anything else. He's not deliberately nasty at all. We are lucky to be working with him.” The GoGoGear gals hope to have a long and prosperous relationship with Daymond John.
As far as the overall experience goes, Arlene wouldn't trade it for anything. “People who appear on Shark Tank have this small moment in time that they will never get back. There's no reason an entrepreneur shouldn't get good PR from being on the show. Once the show airs, if you don't take advantage of the exposure, that's on you. You have to prepare yourself to NOT look good, but the trade-off is worth it. Even though you can't out-guess or outwit the Sharks, the producers or the editors, I would go back tomorrow.”
It looks like Arlene and Desiree won't have to go back, at least until their “follow-up” segment!
As usual, when I speak to a Shark Tank entrepreneur, I ask them “The Question.” See Arlene's answer here.