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Lollacup: How this fan favorite almost never happened

Mark and Hanna Lim, the founders of the Lollacup.
Source: Caroline Tran
Mark and Hanna Lim, the founders of the Lollacup.

Married couple and business partners Mark and Hanna Lim came up with the idea of the Lollacup when their pediatrician recommended a straw cup for their 9-month old daughter. Unable to find one that worked, the couple created their own.

The couple made a deal with Robert Herjavec and Mark Cuban for $100,000 for 40 percent. According to the Lims, before they appeared on the show they had 50 accounts. Now, they sell to more than 650 accounts. The Lollacup is made in the USA, which the Lims felt was extremely important.

However, this "Shark Tank" success story almost never happened. The Lims originally were chosen as an alternative for "Shark Tank." Find out the details below.

Source: Caroline Tran

What has the impact of being on "Shark Tank" been for your business?

Being on "Shark Tank" gave us the instant brand recognition we so desperately needed. The Lollacup was competing with the likes of Gerber and Playtex sippy cups, and entering the market with that much competition was a huge challenge for us. However, after seeing the Lollacup on "Shark Tank," many buyers and store owners recognized our product, and it made for an easier sell.

Is there anything that was shot but didn't air?

We were actually selected as "alternates" and were heartbroken because we had made it so far in the process. It came as a complete surprise when the producers called and told us to be at the studio in 30 minutes.

Although our "Shark Tank" segment was only 10-15 minutes long, we were actually in the "tank" for over 90 minutes. The whole experience is just as intense and stressful as it appears on television. Many viewers could not understand why we passed on Daymond's offer of $100,000 for 30 percent, but they didn't know that his offer was contingent on breaking the contract we signed with our sales representatives. With no more than 15 seconds to consider the offer, we decided against it. We value our relationships and the integrity of the deals we make, so we decided not to betray our sales reps on national television. Before we could ask Daymond to remove his contingency, he took his offer off the table.

What happened after the show?

Minutes after our episode aired, life became chaos. Within 24 hours we had roughly 5,000 emails in our inbox along with over $100,000 in sales on our website alone. Our retail customers were also calling in reorders because they had sold out of their stock, as well. We had enlisted the help of our entire family and a few friends, and we worked 16-hour days for at least 12 days. Amidst the chaos, we would find ourselves at wit's end, but we kept reminding each other that this was the moment we had prayed for, so we had a "no complaining" rule.

Have you received pressure to manufacture outside the USA, and how have you handled that?

Absolutely! Initially Kevin O'Leary made us an offer contingent that we move our production overseas. While we understand his business strategy, we stuck to our guns because we felt that making the Lollacup in the USA was our biggest competitive advantage. As we expand our brand, it may come to the point where we may produce some items overseas for cost reasons. Although we'd prefer to manufacture all our products domestically, sometimes our customers are simply unwilling to spend "US-made" prices for some things. This being said, the Lollacup will ALWAYS be made in the USA.

What advice would you have for entrepreneurs who want to go on "Shark Tank"?

We are often asked, "Should I try out for 'Shark Tank'?" and we always recommend giving it a shot. You really have nothing to lose. Mark and I were watching a rerun of "Shark Tank" one evening, and we decided to apply for the show online. It turned out that the casting call was taking place the next morning, so we completed the 30-page application at 11:30 that night and arranged for child care. We knew it was a complete shot in the dark, but somehow we made it through to the final round!

Another piece of advice is to not let "Shark Tank" affect the timeline of your business. Sometimes we meet people who say they are waiting for a response from "Shark Tank" before making another business decision or move. What most people don't realize is that "Shark Tank" is a long, drawn-out process, so putting all of your eggs in the "Shark Tank" basket could destroy your business. I would advise writing your business plan, making phone calls immediately, going to trade shows, and talking to as many people as you can…there is so much to learn and time passes way too fast! You cannot wait around for opportunities. In fact, growing your business organically may even increase your chances of getting a deal once you do get on "Shark Tank."

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