A Melbourne couple looking to revolutionise baby food bottles scored $120,000 on last night’s episode of Shark Tank after one shark’s enthusiasm led to the rest quickly backing off.
Subo was founded by husband and wife duo Julie-Anne and Glen Mayer in 2012 after a lightbulb moment with an empty toothpaste container led to the two conceiving an idea for a non-squeeze baby food bottle.
Locally made and manufactured, the bottle has a one-way air valve at the bottom, allowing for food to be pushed easily through the spout at the top as the user sucks it out, reducing mess at what the creators called “the most stressful part of the day”. Liquid isn’t the only thing the bottle is limited to, however, with the founders saying it can be used for chunkier substances, including Weet-bix and spaghetti.
Entering the tank, the two confidently reeled off their pitch, before asking for a $120,000 investment for a 12% stake in the business, valuing Subo at $1 million.
Speaking to SmartCompany, the founders say the valuation of their company was “very difficult” to work out, with its youth and low sales numbers (just 2,500 in the first 12 months of operation) posing a problem. However, in the end the two were happy with the amount they asked for, believing the strong raft of patents and intellectual property associated with the product, plus its Australian Made accreditation, made the valuation “pretty bang on”.
“The only thing I think now is maybe we should have asked for less,” laughs Julie-Anne.
However, despite the sharks baulking at the over half a million dollars the two had poured into the business so far, entrepreneur Steve Baxter was quickly on board.
“What do I need to do to get you? I’m in,” he said.
“I’m on your journey, I’ve got a pair of 30-month-olds. This to me is a godsend. It’s so well built, you name your price.”
Both the sharks and the founders were shocked, with Naomi Simson saying “I have never seen [Steve] like this.”
Glen Richards added: “I’ve never seen Steven Baxter, the grumpy bastard, with so much enthusiasm.”
The founders say they were actually expecting a grilling from Baxter upon entering the tank, and his unabated eagerness was a pleasant surprise.
“It was such a game changer for us. Steve laid his cards on the table early in the Q&A session, and his reaction was fantastic. It really changed the direction of the session though, and all the sharks seemed like they were getting out of his way,” Glen Mayer says.
“Once they saw how passionate Steve was, they were asking us what we’d put in the bottle!”
With the four other investors tapping out, the Subo founders shook hands and agreed on the deal they had asked for: $120,000 for a 12% equity stake in the company.
The deal is still in due diligence, with filming of the episode finishing only in March. But the founders say the past few months have been a very positive experience for them and the business, and Baxter’s networks have already begun to open up overseas opportunities.
The choice to manufacture the product in Australia has also been a significant boon for Subo, with the founders saying they made the decision not only to support the local manufacturing industry, but also for the power Australian Made goods have in international markets.
“A lot of countries love Australian Made baby products, and we wanted to ensure if we export the product we could be part of the Australian Made campaign and use that iconic logo,” Glen says.
“We have some overseas distributors that said they wouldn’t have looked twice at our product if not for that logo.”
The duo say their plans right now are on fast-forward, thanks to Shark Tank, as they’re kickstarting their goals of international expansion into US and Chinese markets that otherwise would have taken years to develop.