Shark Tank Veteran Shares Experiences

Shark Tank Veteran Shares What it's Like to be an Entrepreneur
Posted on 10/03/2019
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What’s it like to be an entrepreneur? Liberty Junior seventh-graders learned firsthand through a recent “Shark Tank” project, complete with a special guest speaker who had inked a deal with shark Daymond John on the popular TV show.

Entrepreneurship is one of the 4Es that Lakota emphasizes to prepare students for their future. (The 4Es are enrollment in higher education, enlistment in the military, employment and entrepreneurship).

Stephanie Lutz introduced the Shark Tank project to her students last school year, and she brought it back bigger and better this year to kick off her topic review of economics. Students were challenged to create a new product and develop a pitch to present to investors (their classmates). The pitch included a detailed description of the product, the target audience, product supply and logistics, pricing, a jingle and even a prototype of the product.

“The Shark Tank project really challenged the students,” said Lutz. “It allowed them to creatively develop a product to solve a problem, and then work in teams to try to get investors for their idea. Project-based learning like this is fun for the students, and it also helped set the foundation for other things we will learn this year that we can relate back to this project.”

This year the project added a new twist: Shark Tank veteran Brad Baker and his friend Mike Lewis (who helped write the Shark Tank pitch) gave the students pointers on being an entrepreneur and making a good pitch. 

This invaluable real-world learning experience came about because Lewis’ daughter, Ariana, is in Lutz’s class. Since Lewis helped with the pitch for Baker’s digital pinball machine business, the two entrepreneurs offered to visit Liberty Junior and share their experiences.

The students were amazed to learn that Baker and Lewis became entrepreneurs at age 14 when they started a car stereo installation business. Both talked about their work careers that included being both an employee as well as an entrepreneur. Students learned that some of their business ventures succeeded, while others had failed. 

Baker’s VPcabs digital pinball business (which he started in his garage) is now thriving and in its fourth factory. It is the product that Shark Tank investor Daymond John invested in.

Baker and Lewis shared this advice with students: 

- You don’t learn until you dive in and try. There is nothing wrong with failure in business; in fact, many great ideas evolve through failure.

- Don’t discredit other people’s advice. Sometimes it is hard to hear, but you can learn from it. In fact, VPcabs biggest selling product was developed in response to a customer’s criticism.

- Being an entrepreneur is hard work and requires a lot of dedication – but it can pay off (Baker just finished working from 4 a.m. until 10 p.m. for 12 weeks on a large project). 


Students also learned that there are all types of entrepreneurs. Baker is the type that is ready to take on risk and dive full-fledged into a project, while Lewis is more methodical and takes a slower, process-oriented approach. The friends often bounce ideas off of each other to get a well-rounded view of the product concept.

Through the Shark Tank project, the seventh-graders also learned that having a good team can help make a product idea more successful. Liberty students Cy Hines, Shaun Dickerson and Kaleb Watts developed the ‘EZ-Lock’, a keypad lock that would solve the problem of struggling to get lockers open which can make you late for class. Each team member brought a different skill set that helped bring everything together. 

Gabby Weber and Poppy Wallbank teamed up to create the ‘3C’, a comfortable sports chair cover that can easily be cleaned in the washing machine. “I loved using my imagination during the project,” said Gabby. “This really opened my eyes to new things I would have to think about if I became an entrepreneur.” Poppy hopes to become a robotic engineer when she gets older, but the Shark Tank project gave her an idea of how she could market something she might invent in the future.

Ariana Lewis’ product idea was Hall Pass, an expandable elastic pouch that acts as a second pair of hands to solve the problem of having too much to carry in the halls, which could lead to dropping things or running into other people by accident. Once you get to class, you can roll the Hall Pass into the palm of your hand. “Since my dad is an entrepreneur, I’ve grown up learning all types of things about business,” said Ariana. “But this Shark Tank project gave me hands-on experience on what it is really like.”


Behind the Scenes at Shark Tank 

  • Over 100,000 people apply and only 170 are selected to be taped for the show (and not all of those make it on the show).

  • The interview process is very long, very detailed and very invasive – the producers want to make sure you have the resolve to make it.

  • The top 200 applicants are issued an airline ticket weeks before they would make the trip to Hollywood to film an episode for Shark Tank. The trip can be cancelled at any time – you don’t know until the morning of the flight if it is okay to go to the airport.

  • You spend a week in Hollywood in seclusion rehearsing and making final pitches to the directors -- and still can be sent home.

  • The VPcabs 11-minute spot on the show was worth 7 million dollars of advertising.
  • All of the shows for the Shark Tank season are filmed in just three weeks. They film seven days a week from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m. or midnight.

  • Lots of makeup is used on the set (case in point, Mark Cuban with makeup looked like a Ken doll).

  • Your taped segment has to be entertaining to actually make it on the show; they film an extra 30-50 people that might even get a deal but don’t make it to the show.