Seventy-two-year-old entrepreneur Peter Kuhlmann locked down a $400,000 investment offer on last night’s episode of Shark Tank, with plans to take his Mini Pallets business global.
Kuhlmann secured a $400,000 joint investment at 40% equity from sharks Naomi Simson and Andrew Banks for his Mini Pallets business, which manufactures a small, robust plastic pallet to allow easy shipment and transport of small numbers of cartons, kegs, and other equipment.
Speaking to SmartCompany prior to last night’s episode, Kuhlmann said he was “still pumped” from the episode’s filming eight months prior, but notes the pitching experience was “the most terrifying thing I’ve ever done in my life”.
“I’ve been in senior management all my life so all my experience has been pitching on a boardroom table, not standing in front of five investors with 10 cameramen all around you,” Kuhlmann said.
“You’re really out there all on your own.”
Kuhlmann says the Mini Pallets concept came to him one day sitting in a cafe, watching two delivery people struggling to unload a number of cartons of coke by hand, whilst a full sized pallet sat against the wall behind them.
“I thought, instead of a forklift with a pallet, why not have the cartons on a little pallet to use with a handcart?” Kuhlmann said.
“After thinking about it, I knew if I didn’t do something it would go with me to my grave.”
After taking a few punts, Kuhlmann put together a “perfect” design for his Mini Pallets and went around knocking on doors, admitting he had “no idea” how to market it. However, before long, he had signed up with some wine producing companies to use his product in their storerooms and was in talks with Australia Post.
“Over 50,000 back accidents are reported every year, and another 50,000 go unreported. If this becomes flavour of the month, we could cut out 70% of those accidents,” Kuhlmann says.
So far the business has sold over 100,000 Mini Pallets to various businesses around Australia, and now has its sights set on global markets.
Despite the sharks’ enthusiasm for Kuhlmann’s business, he says the deal didn’t end up passing due diligence. He isn’t phased, however, as the main reason he entered the tank was to gain expertise and knowledge, he says.
Although the investment from the sharks didn’t eventuate, the business has still significantly benefited from the agreement. Mini Pallets has since entered a partnership with Hegs Pegs, a business backed by Simson on season one of Shark Tank, which now distributes the product in Australia and overseas.
Kuhlmann says both the sharks have still continued to offer him support, with the company in talks with Banks in the US, and Simson having pledged “everything in her power” to help the business.
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Looking forward, Kuhlmann wants the business to run independently with Hegs Pegs handling the distribution, saying it’s “very fulfilling to drag something like this from nothing”.
“I’m a bit older and well past my working life, but this gets me out of bed in the morning. It’s very satisfying,” he says.
For business owners and startup founders hoping to land a successful pitch, Kuhlmann believes there are three essential features a business needs to succeed.
“First, you’ve got to have a product and it’s got to be a good idea. If you’ve got doubts, it’s not right,” he says.
“Secondly, you’ve got to have a solid track record, and thirdly, it’s got to have potential. It’s no good investing or making something if there’s no great potential in it.”