Shelley Ehler appeared in Shark Tank season 3, episode 304 and got an on air deal with Lori Greiner for her ShowNo Towels. Shelley was featured in an update segment in episode 313. Since appearing on Shark Tank, Shelley has started a new business, continued to produce ShowNo Towels and been an active participant and leader of the Shark Tank entrepreneurs community. Shelley writes on her own blog, often about business and inspirational topics. She offers us this guest post to share what she did to get on Shark Tank.
I’ve done a ton of interviews since airing on Shark Tank and connected with 100’s of entrepreneurs. The question I am most frequently asked is, “How did you get on Shark Tank?" I get phone calls and emails from people all the time who are trying to get on the show and want some inside scoop. Since they are casting now and just announced the open casting calls, everyone wants to know “HOW DO I GET ON SHARK TANK?" More and more people apply every season making it more and more difficult. I have no magic answer, but can tell you how I was cast and give you some tips that could help.
My Introduction to Shark Tank
About 3 years ago my best friend Tiffany and I had lunch and were brainstorming about my business. She said, “Have you ever seen Shark Tank? You should apply. I think you would be perfect!" I told her that I had never seen the show but would look into it. I went home and watched an episode which filled me with tremendous anxiety and thought, “No way! I could never do that. Why would I ever put myself in the position to be totally humiliated on national TV and look like a complete idiot?" For one year we played a game that went like this…
“Shelly, have you applied to Shark Tank?"
“No Tiffany. That show gives me anxiety and I would never apply."
“Shelly, I think you should apply to Shark Tank. You would be perfect!"
“Tiffany, the thought of being on Shark Tank scares the s**t out of me and I’m not interested in making a fool out of myself."
This went on for at least a year every time we spoke. It’s funny because I didn’t just get it from her, but from so many others when I would tell them about my company. They would compliment my idea and then say, “Hey, you should get on Shark Tank!" I would laugh, say, “Yes, I’ve heard that quite a bit, but it’s not really my thing."
In the meantime, I was doing trade shows, trying to get press, sending my product to TV shows and anything I could to get it noticed. One day I got a telephone call that knocked the wind out of me. It was from The Today Show saying that they had received my towels and were doing a segment on “Moms With Good Ideas" and wanted to feature the ShowNo! I was thrilled and we aired on the 4th hour of the show with Hoda and Kathie Lee in an addition of Bobbi’s Buzz. Once it aired, I posted it on Facebook and asked my friends to share the link.
A few days later, my friend Debi called me and said, “Have you ever heard of the show Shark Tank?" I laughed and said, “YES. My best friend has been pestering me to apply for over a year." She responded, “Well my husband is related to a casting director from the show and she saw the Today Show link I posted and thinks this would be great. There is an open casting call in LA next Friday and she wants you to go." I laughed. Told her I would think about it and let her know.
It was then that it dawned on me that maybe I was hearing Shark Tank over and over and over again because the universe was trying to tell me something. I learned that when things keep showing up in your life, there is a reason and although I couldn’t imagine doing something like this, I decided to go.
I spent the whole next week worrying about it. I talked myself in and out of it every other day. The morning of the casting call was a “talk myself out of it day." I called my pal Tiffany to break the news that I wasn’t going. Yikes! She didn’t like that. She told me to get my ass in the shower, stop complaining, she didn’t want to hear my excuses and to call her when I was done. LOL.
Casting Calls help many get on Shark Tank
I arrived in LA around 1:00pm and the line was insane!!! Once my turn came, they immediately took me into a ballroom where two producers were sitting at a table and I was on. I introduced myself and product and briefly told the story of how I came up with the idea.
They then began to ask me questions. Same type of questions they ask on the show. How much money was I looking for? What would I do with the money? How much does the product cost? How much does it cost me to make? What was my background etc. They told me that they liked me, my idea and my story and I would be moving on to the next round. They said I would be going into another room to pitch on video for ABC Execs. I was then brought to a smaller room to wait for my video pitch. There weren’t that many people in the small room and the whole thing started to feel very real (and terrifying). It was in that room that I met Gary DeJohn. He was pitching his Vinamor and asked if anyone wanted a glass of wine to test out his product. I was happy to oblige!
After about an hour and a half wait, I was brought to the other room to pitch on video. The producer just said, “GO". I started talking and went on and on telling the story of how my product came to life. When I finished, he looked at me and said, “Do you realize you have been talking non stop for 8 minutes?" I started laughing and apologized. He said, “No. It’s good. You are going to do well. I really think they are going to like this." I got a call from a producer about a week later saying that I was being considered and a call the next day saying that they were moving forward with me. I couldn’t believe it. We started working together right away and three weeks later, I was pitching to the Sharks.
My Advice on How to Audition
The best advice I have to offer those going to the casting calls or submitting videos is, be yourself. Speak from your heart in your pitch. The goal of your pitch is to connect. You connect by being felt. Not just heard. Be vulnerable. Show them YOU. Shark Tank is a TV show. They aren’t just looking for products, they are looking for stories. If you have a great story about your product’s development, share it! They loved my story about trading my drapes for a patent. It was unique and showed my resourcefulness.
If you have gone through some struggles, don’t be afraid to share that. It shows your resilience and that’s who they are looking for… people who can take a hit and get back up. It’s not about the hit, it’s about the getting back up. Show them you are someone who gets back up and always will! They key is this… you must have absolute confidence in your product. If you don’t, it will show. It’s unavoidable. For your pitch to be well received it must be sincere and sincerity is found in truth and passion. It comes when you speak from your heart.
My second piece of advice is to be prepared!!! Know the answers to all the typical Shark Tank questions. Answer them confidently and to the point. Practice answering the same questions over and over again so the answer just rolls off your tongue. Have everything memorized. Don’t read anything!!
Lastly, be brief. Whether you are submitting a video or going to a casting call, be brief and to the point. Your pitch should be no more than 2 minutes. A video that is too long and filled with unnecessary information will be overlooked. Get straight to the point. Tell them the good stuff right off the bat. They have to review 1,000’s and 1,000’s of these things. They likely only watch a small portion of each. You have to grab them right away! Those two minutes are precious. Use it wisely!!!!
I have no idea how many people are applying to Shark Tank this season. I think my season there were 24,000 and thought I heard that last season 40,000 applied (not sure if that’s right). Anyway, this season there will likely be more and getting that coveted spot is not going to be easy. As hard as you try and as great as your product is and as much as you want it, it might not be. Know this my friends… Shark Tank isn’t the only way. I hear from people all the time who are disappointed that they didn’t make it and feel like there is no hope for them. Shark Tank will only be the way for about 80 people a year. It was the way for me, but it may not be for you. That means nothing. There is always a way my friends. There is a way for you. You will only fail when you stop looking.
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