Topless man, Joanne Rathbone and Michelle Crosts received the bad news from the Shark Tank judges
The judges on the first season of Channel Ten’s Shark Tank offered 30 deals worth close to $7 million to budding entrepreneurs, but those who pitched their business on the reality show and walked away empty-handed say the experience was “deflating” and “humiliating”.
The season one finale on Sunday night saw the sharks invest in a range of iced tea drinks and women’s hosiery.
Joanne Rathbone and Michelle Crosts, founders of Mr Browne, a range of self-tanning product for men, also had their chance to pitch to sharks Naomi Simson, Steve Baxter, John McGrath, Janine Allis and Andrew Banks. But the pair told SmartCompany this morning they felt “really deflated” when their pitch failed to impress the judges.
Rathbone and Crosts went into the tank asking for a $70,000 investment in exchange for 20% of their self-tanning range, which is specifically aimed at men.
“It valued the business at around $250,000, which is quite on par with what it is worth,” Rathbone says.
“It was nothing excessive. We were wanting help with PR and publicity too.”
But Rathbone and Crosts say they were taken aback by the “ruthless” comments from the sharks, none of which offered the pair a deal. Rathbone even described the bid as an “epic fail”.
“We had quite high hopes that they would see we have a great brand that is unique and there is nothing else like it available,” Crosts says.
“We were hoping we would be a bit more supported but we felt really deflated.”
But reflecting on the experience Rathbone and Crosts believe they were pitching to the “wrong panel” for their business and may have had more luck with investors with backgrounds in the fashion or fitness industries.
The entrepreneurs also feel disillusioned with the Shark Tank process, saying the feedback they had received throughout the audition process led them to believe they had a real shot at securing a deal.
“The production company was very positive,” Rathbone says.
“We were told we had a great product and they loved the concept. They fussed over you and made you feel wonderful but after you pitch, they sent you away as fast as you can.”
The sharks spent over an hour with the entrepreneurs that pitch to them but only a portion of their conversations make it to air. Rathbone and Crosts say the section of their pitch that made it into the episode was misleading.
“The part that showed us talking over each other, that was in the 50th minute of the recording,” Crosts says.
“By that time you are just trying to save yourselves from drowning.”
In her weekly blog, shark Janine Allis congratulated Rathbone and Crosts on their presentation but said at the end of the day, she “did not believe in the business model”.
“They were not hungry enough in business for me to invest,” Allis said.
“You need to not leave any stone unturned and these guys did not seem that way to me. You need to be more hungry to succeed. They may have the tenacity required but they did not show it in the pitch.”
But long-time friends Rathbone and Crosts say there is a silver lining.
“We’ve had so many orders and things are happening now,” Rathbone says.
“It has made it worthwhile. Something had to come out of our humiliation.”
This is certainly one way to make an impression! Mr Browne Male Tanning Products – are you IN or OUT? https://t.co/AIfTKtn0ZY
— Shark Tank Australia (@sharktankau) June 7, 2015