The Untold Story of How Kitchen Safe Made it on Shark Tank
Why did we do Shark Tank?
I have been an avid fan of Shark Tank for a number of years. I always enjoy watching the pitches and seeing the passion of the entrepreneurs; from the time we started our company I advocated for our participation. We had three main goals: introduce our product to America, raise money, and get the sharks to advise our small but growing company.
We figured it would be best to be on the show if we were shipping a product that people loved, and had plenty of inventory, but not before that time. You have a small window to make a good impression, and the impact of press is fleeting.
In August 2013, we were contacted by Shark Tank to apply for the show. They had seen us on Kickstarter and were interested in our product. They thought it was cool, useful, and relatable. But, shortly after we applied, we found out that they already filled all of the slots for the season, and we were cut. This was quite disappointing because we didn’t know if we would have another opportunity.
Our business soldiered on and we made steady progress. We began growing sales and delighting thousands of new customers. It was a ton of work but we were pleased to watch our sales grow rapidly. What was most satisfying was that our customer reviews for the product were averaging 4.8 out of 5 stars on Amazon. We were feeling more and more confident with our momentum, and to our delight, we were once again pinged by the Shark Tank crew and invited to apply for the show.
The application is a massive document filled with all sorts of questions about what your business does, its financial performance, whether you have raised money, what makes you different, and whether the founders have committed any serious crimes. We filled it out, stuffed it in the mail (electronic copies were not acceptable) and we were thrilled to hear that we made it into the semi-final round!
At this point we were paired with a producer, Kate, who worked with us on our pitch. Kate found our original pitch very boring, which was worrisome, but eventually she helped us turn it into something energetic and fun. It was Kate’s job to assess us on a near weekly basis and she regularly reminded us that we could be cut at any time. She was responsible for assessing our suitability for TV. Are we engaging enough? Is our product interesting? Are we appearing on the show for the right reasons? How would we respond in Q and A? Our producer Kate was amazing and very transparent with us during the process. If not for her help, we never would have made it to our filming day.
Day before filming
We were super excited when were notified that we were invited to film. Ryan, Nick and I travelled to Hollywood. We were put up in a hotel with all of the other participants and the place was full of enthusiasm. While there, we learned that over 35,000 companies apply to be on the show - we didn’t realize how fortunate we were to be selected. We made stacks of notecards filled with possible questions and we practiced firing questions at each other for several days prior to the show. When we got tired of Q&A, we practiced our pitch in our hotel room, which, if you saw the show, was probably very annoying for our neighbors. We practiced pretty close to full volume, and we are grateful that the neighbors never complained!
Packing our car full of Kitchen Safes before we head to Hollywood!
On the day of the filming they herded everyone into several large vans and drove us over to the Bat-Cave, yes, the actual Bat-Cave from the Dark Knight series. It was a massive building with a blacked out interior enclosing that probably could have fit two or three football fields. Apparently there was a large lagoon under the plywood floor. Batman might have been down there too.
Upon arriving, they put a camera in the face of the entire group, maybe forty people, and said have a great time, this is a great opportunity, and don’t tell anyone about the show, the contestants, or that you were even here, before it airs. Then they said, just because you are here, that does not mean you will film. And even if you film, only a small fraction of people who are filmed will actually be aired. Bummer.
As a final test, we were asked to present our pitch to all of the show’s producers to see whether we were fit for TV. Our pitch was well received; they clapped for us, which we hadn’t heard for any of the other pitches. I think they used the pitch to rank us, to determine in which order we would be filmed. If you were low in the ranking, you might never be filmed.
Day of filming
After practicing our pitch and Q&A late into the night we woke up early the next day without much sleep. We received our film time and found out we were going first! This made us happy, because being the astute readers of willpower research, we knew that people, including the sharks, would be most amicable early in the day: theoretically. We later learned that in Kevin’s case, this doesn’t really apply.
We had our own make-up artists, which was a new experience for both Ryan and me. They gave me a great tanned complexion and styled my hair (I wish I had taken some selfies). They put us in a trailer with some snacks and coffee, and told us they would call us when ready. Our producer, Kate, stopped by and had us run through our pitch a few more times. At this point, everything was going smoothly.
Ryan's nerves building as we wait to be called to the Tank.
They put us in a golf cart and we sped from our trailer down to the Bat-Cave where the Shark Tank set was waiting. It is a grand, beautifully crafted setup, and a much larger space than it appears on TV. They took us to a holding area, a small room with a couch that was close to the set and they informed us that we would be filming imminently. That turned out to be a 45-minute wait, which gave plenty of time for our nerves to build. Now they were ready.
They asked to do a sound check before we went towards the set to make sure the microphones were properly calibrated to capture good audio. I warned them it would be loud… they laughed and said go ahead and use your pitch volume. “KITCHEN SAFE!!!!!!” They were quite surprised, because I had decided to take it up a notch from our practice pitch the day before. But we both thought it would be really funny, so we went with it. They quickly hushed us because the Sharks are not supposed to know anything about us until the moment we walk through the doors, and now “KITCHEN SAFE!” was ringing throughout the Bat Cave.
They lined us up in front of the double doors, and then 3,2,1. Doors open.
We walked down the hallway and the next set of doors opened to reveal the Sharks. Mark Cuban, Daymond John, Kevin O’Leary, Lori Greiner, Nick Woodman. Cool. Tons of cameras and bright lights pointed straight in our face. We launched into our pitch, which we thought was funny, but we weren’t sure how the sharks would react. They smiled and laughed, which we hoped was representative of how it would be perceived by the rest of America.
A snapshot of our opening pitch - ABC promoted our episode with the tagline, “LOUDEST PITCH EVER”.
Shortly after the pitch ended the questions began. It was a barrage of questions covering topics ranging from our work experience, to whether we had kids, to our financials, and marketing plans. They expected quick, succinct answers, and often cut each other off. It was difficult to keep pace. All the while the cameras and lights are trained on your face, waiting to capture a dumbfounded look that you promised not to give them. I reminded myself that I only have to last 60 minutes without making a stupid facial expression (I have since decided that this is impossible).
We were quite thrilled when Daymond made his first offer; at that point we figured others would follow. I’m pretty sure that Mr. Wonderful thought it was interesting, but too expensive, and he suggested that we build it for less money, even if the result was a piece of crap. We informed Kevin that we were not interested in building a piece of crap, and that’s when he decided to spend the remainder of the time harassing us.
We would get a question from Lori, we would respond, and Kevin would chime in “but this is a tchotchke”. We would get a question from Mark, we would respond, and Kevin would again chime in “but this is a tchotchke”. This went on for some period of time, and Ryan found it pretty amusing because I couldn’t believe how ridiculous he was acting. I, on the other hand, did not appreciate the disparaging comments. So, I decided to stand up and speak out for our product and our customers.
Frankly, I wanted to tell Kevin off and let him know that he was not the right investor. We were looking for people that shared the same passion for helping others. That said, I really caught myself off guard with how emotional my response was becoming; I was NOT planning on opening up like that. Kevin was striking an emotional chord and I was becoming more and more passionate in my defense of our company. And that's when it happened.. WTF… Oh no…. Oh no… why is this happening… TEARS. On National TV! This is terrible and so embarrassing… But hey, as a result, Nick and Lori connected with us. They felt our passion. And we got our deal done. Yay!
Nick and Ryan saying thank you and goodbye to Kate and her colleague after filming.
As previously mentioned, we had no way of knowing whether or not we were going to air. So for almost three months after filming we waited to here from the producers. Keep in mind, we have no idea how they were going to cut the tape. How will they make us look? With an hour of content in the hands of professional film editors, you never know how it will turn out.
When we found out we would be airing two thoughts raced through my mind: First, this will be great for our business! And second, I hoped they edited out the crying parts. When the teaser commercial for our episode was released, they included a close up shot of tears streaking down my make-up covered face. NOOOO!
Eh, how many people watch Shark Tank anyways, I rationalized. Then I started getting text messages from people I hadn’t seen in years. “Saw the commercial for Shark Tank and there you were!”
Our friends and family cheering us on during the episode debut!
I set up a viewing party at my house, had about thirty friends over and we enjoyed drinks as we watched the episode. It was great fun. We had a good laugh and ended up selling tons of products that night and for the next few weeks.
It was an amazing experience – something very different, fun, emotional, and totally unforgettable. If you watched the episode, thank you for cheering for us!
If you haven't caught the episode, you can watch it on ABC.com by clicking here.