Beyond the Tank Episode 102 aired May 15, 2015. This marked the third installment of the first season of Beyond the Tank. The show featured 3 in-depth looks at past Shark Tank entrants. In each 20 minute segment, the trials and tribulations of what life after Shark Tank looks like are explored. Episode 102 has one of Robert Herjavec's early investments: Chord Buddy. The segment shows Robert's interactions with entrepreneur Travis Perry and explores what happened when sales started declining. The second segment highlights Mix Bikini, a failed business Barbara Corcoran invested in back in season three. Entrepreneur Frank Scozzafava blew her investment on a lavish party and had major website issues when the segment initially aired. The third segment features Nick and Elyse Oleksak who scored a deal with Lori for Bantam Bagels in season 6. Viewers get a glimpse of how a small bakery re-brands itself and scales its business.
Each Episode of Beyond the Tank has these “back stories.” We'll recap them here.
Beyond the Tank Episode 102 Recap
Travis Perry’s Chord Buddy first appeared on episode 301 of the Shark Tank. Perry quickly became one of the most popular entrepreneurs ever to appear on the show. The first Shark Tank appearance perpetuated a launch into the stratosphere for the company. “Everyone wanted Chord Buddy," he recalled. “I couldn’t answer the phones fast enough. We had tissue paper taped to our ears because our ears were so sore from answering the phones."
In the third episode of the special series, Beyond the Tank, Perry returns to meet with his Shark, Robert Herjavec, who initially invested $175,000 in return for 20% of the company, beating out three other Sharks who were also interested in the product. Although Chord Buddy is still a well-recognized product, Herjavec has concerns: “Chord Buddy sales after Shark Tank went BOOM. After a while, they started to decline. Something’s going on."
Sales in the year Chord Buddy aired on Shark Tank were $1.9 million. The following two years, they began dropping, to $1.7 million and then to $1 million. Herjavec wants to know why. “Business is a lot of fun and a lot of games but when your business isn’t doing well you’ve got to have a heart to heart talk."
Perry explains that the marketing of Chord Buddy slowed in 2014 because he was busy focusing on a new idea- Math Buddy. After a meeting with an educational leader, he was motivated to find ways to integrate Chord Buddy into the core curriculum, tapping into a larger educational market. He hopes that Math Buddy is the next evolution in Chord Buddy, one that will get his product into schools across the state.
Herjavec has his doubts about launching a new product when the company seems to be struggling: “There’s no doubt about the benefit to kids. I just feel like you’re pinning all your hopes on this. Your core business is suffering, and we have to work on that before we can do something new."
Barbara Corcoran agrees, live-tweeting during the show; “Your business can suffer greatly if you split your focus too early."
Now comes the tough part. From the time of his appearance on the Shark Tank, Perry has been adamant about keeping manufacturing of Chord Buddy in the US. His company has created jobs in his hometown, a fact of which he is very proud.
“What’s more important? Having it made in America, or having the business survive," asks Herjavec. “We have to make some hardcore decisions here. It’s not fun and games anymore." He explains to Perry that, “You can succeed in two ways in business. Increase sales, or reduce costs."
Perry has plans to move toward using Public Domain materials, reducing his licensing fees by $3 per Chord Buddy sold. Moving operations overseas could save an additional $3 per piece. “You’ve got to go offshore. You don’t have a choice. If you can extract another $120K in profit out of this business, you need to do that," says Herjavec.
Perry is devastated by the idea. “We’ve based everything on having Chord Buddy an American company, bringing jobs to Duncan, Alabama. It’s very, very important to me."
He decides to hold off on the decision to go offshore until a meeting with Alabama senators about Math Buddy. Senator Lee Pittman is impressed with the product. “When you give a child something they’re interested in, they’re more interested in learning," he remarks. The representatives do some math, and decide that it would cost $2.5 million to provide Math Buddy to all schools. They decide it’s a good investment.
Perry’s dream of keeping Chord Buddy in the US is coming true. “Now I know we can keep Chord Buddy made in America. This is a home run for Chord Buddy, and for every child in the state of Alabama," he says. Perry had good advice in running his business; “My daddy told me, Work hard, do what’s right, and the money will follow you."
Frank Scozzafava first appeared on Shark Tank on episode 315 with his product, Mix Bikini. Barbara Corcoran was so taken with Scozzafava’s sales skills, that she invested $50,000 in return for 25% of the company. Scozzafava and his partner, Adam DiSilvestro, had already invested $50,000 of their own money into the Mix Bikini’s website. In anticipation of the Shark Tank traffic, they invested another $20,000, creating a complicated click-and-drag feature that allowed customers to create and preview their own, customized Mixed Bikinis.
Upon receiving the Shark Tank deal, Scozzafava wanted to celebrate. He arranged a party. “We had an indoor swimming pool, and Barbara rode in on a shark. She wore a great pink dress, a wig, and retro pink glasses. We spent probably $50,000 on the party."
Barbara was impressed, but worried: “There were beautiful girls diving into a pool in a night club. I was wowed by the party, but in the pit of my stomach I was worried. How does a little business throw this big party? Poof! Maybe that’s where my investment went!"
It was, indeed. Worst of all, the website crashed under the avalanche of interest from the Shark Tank appearance. Website crashes on the night of Shark Tank are common, but the complexity of the site caused it to stay down for nearly ten days.
“I had not only lost all the publicity that I could’ve gotten on Shark Tank, but I’d lost all these sales, too," laments Scozzafava.
Corcoran was understandably disappointed. “Watching Mixed Bikini crumble so quickly was really sad for me, because it had so much potential. You had Frank, who could sell anything, and you had a great product." She holds no ill will over her lost investment. “There’s a warm spot in my heart for Frank, because he does everything he does 150%."
So, what is Scozzafava up to, now that his first business has crumbled? He’s exploring a new venture, one for which he has high hopes: “Maybe you’re all thinking, ‘he’s starting another business? He hasn’t learned his lesson?’ I’ve learned from my mistakes. If Mixed Bikini was a million dollar business, this is a billion dollar business."
Meanwhile, a former designer for Mix Bikini, Kelsey Duffy, reinvented the company, renaming it Versakini. Perhaps Barbara was gracious because she didn’t lose her investment after all.
Nick and Elyse Oleksak came to Shark Tank in episode 611. Their mini bagel balls filled with cream cheese were a hit with the Sharks. Barbara Corcoran and Kevin O’Leary both wanted in on the business, but asked for 50% and 51% respectively. Lori Greiner made the couple an offer for $275,000 for 25% of the company, cutting the others out of the deal and landing her most successful investment on the show. Greiner’s excitement over the deal was palpable. “I knew they were the type of partner I wanted," she beams, “because I knew they would do whatever it takes to make us successful."
The deal was exciting for the Oleksaks, too. “We sold more bagels the night we were on ST than in the two months before," says Nick.
The couple have big plans for their little bagel business. After working with Greiner, they’ve positioned themselves to expand their line to include sweet balls that don’t need to be reheated, and move their products into big retailers. “Probably the most beneficial thing that happened in the Tank was the Sharks insisting unanimously that we go to a co-packer," says Elyse. Having a co-packer to handle the production greatly increases volume.
While Bantam Bagels can produce up to 3,000 balls a day, the co-packer can turn out 100,000 or more, a number that makes Greiner happy. “Every single thing about this is going to let us expand to this next level," she says.
Greiner has more than just her money riding on this company. When the couple told her they were moving toward creating a sweet balls line, she shared with them a cherished family recipe: Her mother’s banana bread. “It was the only recipe she ever made that was a dessert," she says, and the Oleksaks have “nailed" the nostalgic flavor.
While Lori is sentimental over her recipe, she’s not as attached to the name, Bantam Bagels, as Nick is. “In the grocery store, you have only seconds. It’s so important that it be clear what your product is," she tells the couple. “The future of the company is on the line. What are these? Stuffed bagels. What do we need to make sure people know? That they’re stuffed." She wants the couple to consider changing the name to Bagel Stuffins. She’s gotten a notice of allowance from the patent office, meaning they have to move fast to secure the name. “We have to make a decision, and we have 24 hours."
Nick is unsure, saying the Bantam Bagels name is “locked in my heart." The couple go home to discuss the change, before coming back to Greiner. “We are 100% sure that this is the right decision for our business," says Nick.
Elyse gives Greiner the news. “We are on board. Let’s do it. Bagel Stuffins."
The Bleeker St, NYC location will retain the Bantam Bagels name, but the retail products will be Bagel Stuffins, a happy compromise.
Says Elyse; “This decision means that our product will fit on the shelf with the big guys. Our goal is to be in the stores with the big guys and this name change is the first step to fitting in."