A South Australian business that appeared on last night’s episode of Shark Tank has come leaps and bounds since the episode of Network Ten’s reality show for entrepreneurs was filmed, but one of the founder’s “big mouth” nearly cost the business a deal.
For Rebecca and Anthony Keain, pitching their foldable cart manufacturing business Cart-a-Lot to five hungry sharks was unlike anything they had done previously, with the business starting out as a side hobby in 2015.
Self-confessed “huge Shark Tank fan,” Rebecca Keain told SmartCompany her background as a pharmaceutical sales rep had somewhat prepared her to spruik her business, but the pitch itself was something “totally different”.
“I was so nervous I could hardly speak, which is a pretty rare occasion,” Keain said.
But despite her nerves, Keain’s ability to speak became a point of contention on Tuesday night’s episode, with sharks Steve Baxter, Naomi Simson, and Andrew Banks all reprimanding Keain multiple times for not taking a minute to listen.
“Rebecca, you would know the first rule of sales is to know when to listen,” Simson said during the episode, minutes after Keain was told a similar thing by Baxter.
Keain admits she had been told similar things by her parents and teachers “ever since she can remember”, and says a desire to speak is just part of her nature.
“I have a big heart and a big mouth, so I don’t think anyone will be surprised by this,” she says.
“The sharks aren’t the first to ‘shh’ me, and all I ever learnt to do was speak faster.”
Undeterred, the two founders pressed forward in their quest for a $100,000 investment in exchange for 10% of their Cart-a-Lot business.
The Keains were inspired the hobby business after seeing a similar design overseas, recognising they could do it better locally, and then deciding to just “give it a crack”.
Despite netting $245,000 in sales and $113,000 in profit at the time the episode was filmed, the business’ youth and $1 million valuation left all bar one shark baulking, with Naomi Simson “on the fence” about whether to invest.
“We were truly looking for investment. We had identified what we were good at and what we needed to help grow the business, so we were seeking an investment to scale up the business,” Rebecca Keain says.
“If we got a deal we could have improved parts of the business plan which were missing.”
Simson’s eventual offer came with a much higher equity stake than first proposed, with the shark seeking a 45% equity stake for the $100,000 price tag. After talking her down to 40% equity, the Cart-a-Lot founders shook on a deal and began due diligence.
However, after months of due diligence, the deal with Simson ended up not going through because of a change of heart by the two business owners.
“We didn’t take the deal, and it wasn’t because of any due diligence issues or anything like that, we just laid it all out on the table and decided the best thing for the business was to take a different avenue,” Keain says.
“Naomi has been absolutely delightful. She’s business driven and very focused, but also very nurturing. She’s made the time to call and email us and even meet us in person, and to meet someone with her business calibre was one of the most precious things for me.”
Cart-a-Lot has sold thousands of carts since the filming of the Shark Tank segment and celebrated its second birthday. Keain says the two have also continued the brand’s rollout into New Zealand, which included a partnership with Bunnings NZ, which she says has been “beyond expectations”.
For other business owners, Keain says the most important things in her eyes are believing in yourself and staying focused, and not forgetting to congratulate yourself after each win.
“When you kick goals, pat yourself on the back. Small business is absolutely hard work, but the rewards are immeasurable,” she says.
“The whole thing is a journey, so take every opportunity that comes your way.”
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