Shark Tank Casting Call Recap

While browsing social media just a few weeks ago, I stumbled across an open casting call for the hit TV series Shark Tank, set to happen in Des Moines on Monday, July 14. Over the years many of my customers and supporters have encouraged me to take my personalized word art and pitch it to the investors on Shark Tank. I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. I mean, what are the odds that I would discover that there was a casting call so close to me just 13 days before the event? I didn’t even know they did casting calls like this. I assumed you had to travel to LA or New York City to be considered.

With just days to spare, I decided to make the two and a half hour drive up to present. I  worked diligently on my 15-page application, wrote the 60-second pitch and gathered up samples to showcase the many formats TYPOGRFX artwork is available in. I also had to decide what kind of investment I was seeking and what I would use the money for. Last fall, I launched my direct sales pARTner program that allows anyone to sign up and earn commission from sales they refer. I’ve successfully ran this business debt-free for 6 years. It’s not always been easy, but I’ve figured most everything out along the way. Since launching the pARTner program, I feel like there is so much more that I need to learn about how to run a direct sales company. That is why I need the Sharks. I need their investment – and more importantly – their guidance in this unfamiliar territory of transforming my business into a successful and well-known direct sales opportunity.

I arrived in Des Moines Sunday evening and settled into my hotel room just across the street from the Iowa Events Center where the casting call was to take place. Having never been to the area, I walked over to explore the venue. Much to my surprise, there were already a handful of people camped out in line. A gentleman who traveled all the way from southern Oklahoma immediately offered to let me borrow a camp chair and to hold my spot in line.

I was quite surprised at the generosity and instant camaraderie of the group that had already gathered there in line. They welcomed me into their group without hesitation. One guy had ordered pizza and drinks for the group. Another had brought an extension cord and power strip so everyone could charge their devices. And best of all, everyone was eager to learn about each others businesses and to share ideas.

As the evening went on, a plan was devised to take shifts to stay at the makeshift camp inside the convention center and to reserve the spots in line that each person had claimed. Some of the entrepreneurs had family or friends there, so they could get sleep back in their hotel rooms. Several, like me, were there alone, so the others kept watch.

The next morning, most of the group had reconvened by 5:30am all dressed up and ready to present their ideas to the casting producers. There was still 3 ½ hours until the numbered armbands were to be given out, so the group took turns taking photos of each other with the Shark Tank signs, giving advice on each other’s pitches and trying to keep things lighthearted to ease everyone’s nerves.

Tosha waiting to pitch

Tosha waiting to pitch. And for the record, I did wear dress shoes into the pitch – not flip flops!

Around 8:00am the casting director Scott Salyers and others including a film crew from ABC arrived. Salyers commended those who had waited all night, saying he admired their enthusiasm. At 9:00am the armbands were distributed all while the film crew captured every angle. I received #8. Shortly after 10:00am the doors were opened and the crowd was lead into a large room with rows of chairs. Salyers explained how the day would go and offered encouragement and advice.

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Then the first group of 5 was lead in, followed by the next 5. It was such a relief to hear how relaxed the pitches were going to be. They allowed us a short time to set up our stuff and they weren’t going to time us to the second. Don’t get me wrong, it was still very stressful, but easier than I imagined.

When it came my turn, I confidently walked up to the table where I was to pitch my artwork. I set out samples to show most of the formats I offer – gallery-wrapped canvas, wood, burlap and metal prints, and a keepsake blanket. I also presented the Shark Tank-themed TYPOGRFX I had designed specifically for the event. After explaining what the artwork is about and how I got started, I answered questions about earnings and growth. The casting producer was excited to hear about the business’ tremendous growth over the past 6 years.

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After it was all over, I walked out to meet up with the others from our initial camp-out group. All seemed very confident in their presentations. Everyone said their good-byes and headed their separate ways.

Since returning home, I have been overwhelmed with support and words of encouragement from friends, family and customers. I’ve also answered a lot of the same questions.

Did you get to actually meet the sharks? No, it was an open casting call. I met the executive casting director Scott Salyers, and I pitched directly to one of his casting producers.

Did you see any other really great ideas/products? Yes! I met Sherri from Nashville, TN. Her product Bowling Buddies shoe covers are pretty awesome! You’ll probably be seeing those in a bowling alley near you soon. I also met Brian with Moonstruck Meadery. I had never heard of making spirits from honey. I also got to sample some yummy treats from Alotta Brownies.

When will you know something? If chosen to move on to the next step, I should hear something in the next few weeks. The casting producer said, “Chances are you won’t hear anything. Last season, out of 40,000 applicants, only 180 were filmed in front of the Sharks for the show.”

How do you think you did? Afterwards, of course there are things that I wish I would have said or done differently, but I think my presentation went really well considering the immense pressure of presenting next to 4 other people with cameras going. Overall, the experience was great and the group of people I met were phenomenal. Even if I don’t make it onto the show, it was worth the trip!

You can see some of the event coverage here:

Des Moines Register

 

TYPOGRFX pARTy fundraisers

It’s always been one of my goals to share the bounty of my business with others. This lead me to start my pARTner program last year so that other women (or men!) could earn income promoting my artwork. It’s also important to me to give back to nonprofits and other organizations that help the community. That’s why I’ve decided to convert my pARTy platform to a fundraising option only, so that organizations and groups can raise money for their causes by promoting my custom artwork to their friends, family and supporters.

My first Canadian customer Kristin has now hosted two very successful pARTy fundraisers. I asked her to share her experience after hosting the first one last year, and again after this most recent one.

From Kristin:

When someone you know or love faces a struggle, you always wonder what you can do to help. That is how I felt when I found out my friend Leanne was battling Breast Cancer.

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 I just knew I had to connect her with Tosha at TYPOGRFX. Leanne reached out and was able to create a meaningful piece of art that would carry on her legacy for her children.

I also recently read about the opportunity to do a fundraiser through TYPOGRFX, and I knew right away where the funds would be directed. With Leanne’s blessing, the very first TYPOGRFX pARTy was held, and the money raised went to the CIBC Run for the Cure.

With all the typical sales party details worked out, I knew it would not be a hard, high-pressure sell. TYPOGRFX is a product that sells itself. I reached out to friends, family and neighbours via a quick email, phone call and Facebook event page. All the particulars were included, as well as links to the website, the TYPOGRFX Facebook page, and even samples of styles, colour combinations and backgrounds.

I had several samples to show of the TYPOGRFXs I had purchased for my own family, and our guest of honour Leanne brought hers too. This was the first time anyone other than Leanne or Tosha had seen it.

Leanne sharing her TYPOGRFX at the first pARTy fundraiser in 2013

Leanne sharing her TYPOGRFX at the first pARTy fundraiser in 2013

There was lots of discussion about word lists, sizes, shipping, etc……and all of this is explained in the pARTy package from Tosha. We then had a brainstorming session, and discussed the “who for”, “why” and ‘what words” behind creating a TYPOGRFX word list. Most people thought 25 words would be too hard, but I assured them once they started their list, the words would keep coming to them. I also encouraged them not to try to come up with all their words at once, but to “sleep on it” and let the words come to them over a few days.

Sadly, Leanne’s fight came to an end this spring, and her special TYPOGRFX was on display for all to see and share at the funeral home. When I heard about all the positive and meaningful feedback, I again knew I had to connect these people with Tosha. And so, my second pARTy was held. I included a few others from Leanne’s closer circle to help host and spread the word. We again created a Facebook event to initially get the planning of the pARTy started. But we also invited anyone who was interested – neighbors, workmates, soccer moms – word of mouth is a powerful thing. It was amazing to see the diverse and eclectic circle of women who showed up for this great cause, to honour and remember our beautiful, vibrant Leanne. Our second fundraiser doubled the amount raised from the first, with funds going to the Weekend to End Women’s Cancers.

With feedback from the first pARTy we tweeked the execution of the second. We had several cut-outs of available sizes of canvases, and we scheduled a Facebook chat with Tosha, so she could answer any questions in realtime. I think my favourite detail of hosting the pARTy, was showing the Yours Truly video. In a few short minutes, you see several TYPOGRFX samples brought to life. You get to see the stories and families behind the words.

When you combine a product you are passionate about with a cause that is very meaningful to you, then a TYPOGRFX fundraiser pARTy will surely be a huge success!!!!

Leanne, and the other co-host Kristen M. – another breast cancer survivor

Leanne, and the other co-host Kristen M. – another breast cancer survivor

 

Leanne's beautiful family

Leanne’s beautiful family

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Leanne and her family at the CIBC run for the cure in Oct 2012 when she was in remission

Leanne on the left and Sandasha on the right – the other co-host of the fundraiser

Leanne on the left and Sandasha on the right – the other co-host of the fundraiser