For any brand, getting on Shark Tank is a major opportunity. The reality show is in its 14th season, with each episode airing to a captive audience of 4.17 million viewers, on average. Moreover, it’s one of the most “real” reality shows on the air. After the founders give their pitch, the rest of the show is completely unscripted, and the “sharks” offer and make real deals with their own money. Even if founders don’t secure an investment from one of the sharks, they still benefit from the exposure alone, which often results in skyrocketing sales and an influx of new customers.
Beauty brands have experienced substantial growth and impressive long-term success after appearing on Shark Tank—including those that didn’t receive an investment. In 2015, the Shark Tank investors harshly rejected the opportunity to invest in The Lip Bar, with one shark going so far as to call it “clown makeup” and telling founder Melissa Butler she should quit. Now, The Lip Bar is the largest Black-owned makeup brand in Target.
Other brands that appeared on the show, including Kinfield and Nopalera, experienced a huge influx of orders after the show aired, resulting in months of multiple six-figure revenues, which helped grow and scale their businesses. Youthforia was the latest beauty brand to appear in an episode, and nabbed a $400,000 investment for 8% equity from Mark Cuban―making this his first investment in a beauty brand on the show to date.
BeautyMatter spoke with beauty brand founders who’ve appeared on Shark Tank to find out how to land this whale of an opportunity, the biggest lessons they learned from swimming with sharks, and the truth behind the viral “Shark Tank effect.”
How to Get on Shark Tank
There are two ways you can make it on the show: You can apply online on Shark Tank’s website, or you can be scouted by a producer.
“I was contacted via email by a casting producer and asked if I would be interested in applying,” founder and CEO of Range Beauty Alicia Scott tells BeautyMatter. “I thought it was spam honestly—so much so that I did a google search to make sure this was legit. We arranged a call and I submitted my application soon thereafter.”
Nichole Powell, founder and CEO of Kinfield, nearly missed her shot to be on the show after a casting producer reached out in January 2022, but the email got buried in her inbox until August of that year. Luckily, the producers replied, but due to how late it was in the season, Powell had less than 72 hours to pull together the audition video, send product samples to LA, and complete the 200+ question application if she wanted to be considered. She immediately sprang into action to take advantage of the huge opportunity that she had almost let slide by.
“We had less than six weeks from submitting our application until our taping day, so I truthfully didn't have time to get anxious!”
Fiona Co Chan, founder and CEO of Youthforia, says she spoke her Shark Tank appearance into existence. “I remember seeing a comment on one of my TikToks from someone suggesting I go on Shark Tank,” Co Chan tells BeautyMatter. “So, I jokingly replied, ‘Next season! Let's manifest this!’ And two weeks later, a producer reached out and asked if I wanted to submit an application.”
Still, you don’t have to be scouted to appear on Shark Tank. Christina Funke Tegbe, founder and CEO of 54 Thrones; Sandra Velasquez, founder of Nopalera; and even Melissa Butler from The Lip Bar all applied online and sent in video auditions before being contacted by a producer. As beauty brand valuations rise and the industry continues to grow, investors like the sharks are eager to get in on the ground floor of a brand before it becomes the next Drunk Elephant or Fenty Beauty.
“Shark Tank certainly made it a point to bring on more beauty brands, especially Black-owned brands, and so the opportunity is there to seize,” says Scott.
How to Prepare for Shark Tank
All of the founders BeautyMatter spoke to entered the Shark Tank at different points in their businesses, but they all shared the same goal: to take their brand to the next level, scale, and bring national awareness to the brand. They came in seeking different amounts with varying equity percentages, which just goes to show that there is no “right time” to go on the show.
“I think you never really ‘know’ if you are ready or not, but you get to the point of rehearsing so many times that an additional run-through just doesn't make sense and you have to just believe you got it,” says Funke Tengbe. “I think that's where a certain type of instinct kicks in.”
Preparation is absolutely critical in such a high-stakes situation like Shark Tank. Like many entrepreneurs, Scott had been a long-time viewer of Shark Tank and actually used questions posed by the sharks as part of her prep for pitch and grant competitions―which gave her an edge going in for her pitch.
“Knowing your stats will take you far!” says Scott. “I already knew that, but the show solidified for me that there is nothing better than teaching someone new about your industry and market and seeing them receive it in real time and acknowledge that you're onto something pretty special.”
Ahead of her Shark Tank debut, Co Chan watched a ton of episodes and memorized all the numbers for the business, which were constantly changing due to the brand’s viral success on TikTok.
“When we first got approached, we were only a few months in, and by the time I filmed, the business was in a very different place,” says Co Chan. “Just by the nature of having to prepare for Shark Tank, I learned a lot more about the different nuances in the business.”
A typical Shark Tank pitch is between 60 to 90 seconds, so founders need to zero in on those few key points quickly if they want to get the sharks’ attention.
“I worked with the producers for several weeks leading up to our taping to perfect my pitch, and it was a great exercise in really honing in on perfecting our elevator pitch!” says Powell.
The practice paid off. Powell received four offers and left with $250,000 in exchange for 10% equity share by two sharks, Barbara Corcoran and Tony Xu. However, just because she got an investment didn’t automatically mean her segment would make the air.
“Not everyone that tapes ends up making it onto air, so we had no guarantee that my pitch would ever see the light of day,” says Powell. “We decided to prepare for the (possible) airing by assuming that we would make it on, and used it as an exercise to fully optimize our website and prepare our inventory—just in case. I'm so glad we did, because when we finally aired, we were ready!”
Aside from practicing their pitch, brand founders also have to do some preparation on the back end to ensure they can handle a sudden spike in demand.
“From a practical perspective, it's important to be prepared for Shark Tank by having enough inventory and having a site that is prepared for the volume of traffic,” says Powell. “We had taken on outside capital prior to appearing on the show, so I was confident in my abilities to negotiate and had a clear picture of what it would mean to take on another investor; so I felt comfortable with the experience from that angle.”
Brand founders know their brand better than anyone else. If you know your product, your consumer, and where you’re headed as a brand, you’re already more than halfway there.
“I like to say, ‘If you stay ready you don’t have to get ready,’” says Butler. “My partner, Rosco Spears [Creative Director at The Lip Bar] and I were always clear about building a brand that challenged beauty standards. This was simply another opportunity to share that mission, making the preparation fairly easy.”
The Shark Tank Effect
Going on Shark Tank is a gamble because you may or may not walk out with an investment. But in other ways, it’s a sure thing. Post-SharkTank, many brands report experiencing what has become known as the “Shark Tank effect.” Simply appearing on the show has the potential to significantly boost sales—even for those that didn’t get an offer.
“We sold out of several products in minutes,” says Funke Tegbe. “I remember streaming Shark Tank on [Instagram] and watching the number of people joining live just skyrocket.” Funke Tegbe and her brand, 54 Thrones, walked away with $250,000 in exchange for 17.5% equity from sharks Kevin O’Leary and Nirav Tolia.
Range Beauty experienced a similar sales frenzy following Scott’s appearance on the show. The brand made Shark Tank history as the first Black woman-owned brand to strike a deal, giving up 20% equity in return for $150,000 from Lori Greiner and the first Black guest shark, Emma Grede.
“The night we aired, we sold over 1,500 of our Hydrating Foundation sample kits along with our products, which was incredible!” says Scott. “Our traffic from Friday to Saturday was close to 50,000, and we saw the aftershock well into March due to streaming services. We are not your typical Shark Tank brand, and our audience isn't necessarily the same demographic of the Shark Tank viewer, so our sales really shocked me.”
Nopalera received 6,000 orders in 11 days and did over $300,000 in sales. “Ironically the same amount of money the sharks wanted to give me for 30% of my company,” notes Velasquez.
Velasquez received two offers from sharks and turned them both down, but the episode and its halo effect allowed her to raise $2.7 million from investors who she felt were more aligned with her vision. Still, she doesn’t regret her time in the Shark Tank.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and you never know how it’s going to turn out,” she says. “I knew it was an opportunity to represent Latinos and my brand.”
Butler also didn’t get a deal from the sharks, but she still sees her experience on the show as a blessing. “TheLipBar.com got 30,000 hits the same time our episode aired,” she says. “Within the next two weeks, we got another 150,000 people coming to our website.”
Powell wasn’t so sure her brand would benefit from the Shark Tank effect since people are typically less likely to buy bug repellent and sunscreen in January, when her episode aired.
“Shark Tank showed us that Kinfield is easily capable of delivering multiple six-figure revenue months in our ‘quiet’ season, when we have the right visibility,” she says. “Our summer months are typically multiple times larger than our winter months, so starting the year with such a bang definitely is a strong indicator for a great year to come.”
Lessons from Shark Tank
Regardless of the outcome, going on Shark Tank is always going to be a huge win for brands, and all the founders we spoke to said they would recommend it if ever given the opportunity.
“If nothing else, it's an amazing platform to showcase your brand to a new audience and gain new supporters,” says Scott.
The founders that secured an investment said it’s important to hone in on your unique brand narrative to stand out among the many pitches the sharks have heard so far on the show.
“I learned that people buy into you and your story often times more than the product,” says Funke Tegbe. “So if you have a differentiated story or a great founder presence and track record, it helps mitigate risks for investors.”
“Brands with an authentic story and ‘reason for being’ are the ones that seem to do the best on the show, as the viewers and investors are really looking for something that sets the brand apart and gives their audience a reason to care,” says Powell.
Shark Tank is unlike any pitch meeting you’ve ever had before, and it’s important to remember to have fun. The preparation is beneficial whether or not you get a deal, and no matter what happens, you know you’re walking away with the kind of exposure most brands can only dream of.
“It's truly a really unique experience where you're having a real serious business meeting, but you get to have a lot of fun with it from crafting a pitch, thinking about how the set will look, and what to wear,” says Co Chan. “Anything can happen in the Shark Tank, and I think that's what is really cool and unique about the experience.”
Even with all their successes under their belt, the sharks have been wrong about a brand before. Butler’s The Lip Bar didn’t get an investment from Shark Tank, but in the years since, her business has continued to thrive. To commemorate a decade in the business, Butler put up a billboard in her hometown of Detroit, Michigan. “Shark Tank told me to quit. Ten years and 2 million units sold,” the billboard read. “Thanks, Mr. Wonderful.”
“When the investors harshly rejected my products, it did not stop me or my team because I knew the investors were not the customers I was targeting,” says Butler. “I could have stopped going when a group of multimillionaires and billionaires were telling me that my idea won't work.”
But Butler didn’t stop. Instead, she used Shark Tank simply as a springboard to launch her business further than all the sharks ever thought it could reach. In September 2022, The Lip Bar closed a $6.7 million funding round led by Pendulum with participation by Endeavor and the Fearless Fund. Since its launch in Target, The Lip Bar’s matte liquid lipstick Bawse Lady has grown to be the retailer’s #1 red lipstick across all multicultural color cosmetics brands.
“It does take a lot of courage to look within and still go after your dreams,” says Butler. “To this day, I would not do anything differently, because the Shark Tank experience taught me to be open to failure and receiving advice, while being confident in my own abilities. If you aren’t confident, those moments of resistance will eat you alive.”
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