Taking the plunge: What Three65 Underwear founder William Strange learnt from his Shark Tank experience
Tuesday, May 19, 2015/
As an aspiring business person, viewing business-related content is always the first thing I do in the morning. Whether it is reading with your morning coffee, online at your desk or on your TV in bed, absorbing the content is the key.
For three years, I watched the US version of Shark Tank with ambition. The tunnel-visioned passion these founders have for their business, idea or product is uncompromising and sometimes detrimental in the face of the most successful.
Searching through social media, I noticed an article asking for ‘people with start-ups or products’ to ‘pitch on a television series that is coming to Australia’. It seemed very much like the program I had viewed for many years. The combination of free PR and the potential for investment drew me to the application process within seconds.
A few months later, a phone call regarding ‘the entrepreneurial program’ invited me to pitch to get on the show. After the pitch (and a physiological testing procedure), I was quickly notified that Channel 10 would be filming Shark Tank and Three65 Underwear was to be on one of the episodes.
This was a huge boost in momentum and expectation for the team at Three65 and we were ecstatic to get the opportunity.
Swimming with sharks
December rolled around and I was on a flight to Sydney, for my pitch the very next morning.
An early start, and a few cups of coffee and it was all happening.
As I arrived, I was told that I was going to be first up in ‘The Tank’ and that it would be in about an hour. The nerves started to kick in. I walked into the green room with four other entrepreneurs, all of us showing signs of pre-game jitters.
I was quickly dragged into a room to have my shirt steam cleaned and put a little ‘glare dampening’ makeup on for the cameras (something I have never experienced before). All mic’d up and I was ready to go.
Next was the practice pitch. One of the co-ordinators pulled me aside and asked me to do my two-minute pitch. After giving my usual elevator pitch (extended version) the co-ordinator tells me “fantastic, great job.”
I’m happy; I started to walk off knowing she was impressed. Wooo!
But then she yells across the room, “Actually that was a little boring; it’s TV remember, so do something… entertaining.”
Oh wow, way to kill some confidence with about 15 minutes before they call me on set.
In the next 10 minutes, I was pushed and pulled and told where to stand, where to look, how loud to speak, and all whilst a camera is following me around trying to get some action shots.
I didn’t have time to think about my pitch or how to make it entertaining.
The nerves started to build with a five-minute call to be on set. I still haven’t got my pitch set yet. Ahhh!
Lights, camera, action
After being told where to stand on stage, and about how nerve-racking the experience of walking onto set can be, I’m asked to stand on the white dot for 60 seconds in front of the sharks with 10 cameras locked onto me just for facial expressions – it was not ideal for my nerves as I was still worried about my pitch.
One of the producers asks if I’m ready. I ask him if I could quickly grab something from my bag. Twenty seconds later, after making a mad dash to my closet, I’m ready to go.
I start the walk out on stage and feel the tension build. I stand for 60 seconds, which is the most intimidating 60 seconds I have experienced and then “ACTION” is yelled out from behind the sharks.
I start my pitch, “Hi, My name is Williams Strange, I am founder and managing director of…” about 60 seconds in I felt like I had completely lost my point and had no idea what I was going to say next.
So what did I do?
When I ran out to my bag, I quickly grabbed a spare pair of my Three65 Underwear and stuffed them down my pants (yes, that’s right. The underwear was placed there and I didn’t actually take my undies off with one hand. Shocking, I know) and the rest is history.
What some viewers don’t know is that after the two-minute pitch, there is anywhere between 45 and 90 minutes of back and forth between the entrepreneur and the sharks. This is then cut down to five to 12 minutes and only the juicy bits are shown. I was in there for all off the 90 minutes.
All of the sharks expressed opinions of how we, as a business, could become successful. This advice was fantastic and culminated in the on-air decision by Janine Allis and Naomi Simson to take an equity stake in my venture.
Taking the plunge was an unforgettable experience
The sharks all have a role to play on air. The version of what the audience see is a manipulated and edited version. But from my experience in “the shark tank,” not only are Janine and Naomi exceptional people but Steve, Andrew and John were also extremely friendly and genuine in everything they said and do.
And now I have the ear of two of the most successful women in Australia, and from our meetings, you can tell why they are so successful.
My time in the tank will never be forgotten as a personal building exercise, but it’s invaluable for my business going forward.
My advice to all entrepreneurs that are thinking about going on the show: just give it a crack, the worst they can do is say NO!