Tiffany Krumins is the inventor and co-founder of the brand Ava the Elephant. On the episode of "Shark Tank," she pitched a medicine dropper that is disguised as a talking elephant head. because it is shaped like an animal, it takes the fear and anxiety of administrating medicine to children. She came up with the idea when she was working as a nanny. On the episode, she made a deal with Barbara Corcoran for $50,000 for 55 percent. Read below to find out what it was like to be on "Shark Tank," what she has been up to since her last update, and what it's like to work with Barbara Corcoran.
What was the biggest impact appearing on "Shark Tank" made for your company?
"Shark Tank" quite literally made my company what it is today. When I pitched on the first episode I had only an innovative idea and five homemade clay prototypes, one for each shark. After my show aired I received thousands of requests for both national and international distribution. "Shark Tank" has an unbelievable reach. I have connected with customers here in the USA as well as all over the world. The amazing part is it never really stops. I receive more sales and distribution requests now than I did when my episode first aired. With the show now airing on CNBC, entrepreneurs are getting double the exposure! With "Shark Tank" your next customer may see your product from their couch, on an airplane or even in a taxi! It adds up to huge success for the right products!
Is there anything you wished you did differently during your pitch?
I wish I had argued more with Kevin O' Leary when he said something along the lines of "How do I know a child won't be scared of elephants after using this?" The answer is simple. Kids typically love animals but are often anxious when they see a syringe or dropper. My product puts a sweet face and voice over the scary syringe and takes the fear away. It is a friend to the child and a valuable tool for parents. What parent wouldn't want to change the way their children look at taking medication? For some kids taking their medication could mean the difference between life or death. He obviously wasn't as familiar with their struggles as I was. Where he knows business and money, I know children.
In the tank, Kevin O' Leary said this was just an idea and not a business. How have you built up your product into becoming a large and successful business?
He was right in saying it was just a product at that time. Knowing what I know now I can see why he wasn't interested in that part of the process. Although everyone loved the idea of Ava, to become a successful business, there was a lot of work to be done. Over time I built my product into a successful business by persevering through hard times and remembering my original vision, helping sick children.
Most people don't know this but a major pharmaceutical recall a few years ago greatly affected my company. The original Ava design included a dropper and that particular recall made the dropper useless with a major brand. I could have given up. But instead, I took the opportunity to redesign my product, extend the line and move production back to the USA.
What is it like to work with Barbara Corcoran?
Barbara Corcoran has been so many things to me over the past five years. A mentor, a friend and at times a "second mom." She encourages me, inspires me and even puts me in my place when I need it. Although she has many years of life and business experience she has always treated me with respect when giving guidance. I will make sure to do the same with any co-owners or employees I have in the future. I love that she looks at every option in order to succeed. If something isn't working she finds another way. I have learned to do the same! Barbara and I faced a lot of challenges with my products that were outside of our control. Her willingness to stand by me through difficult times has taught me more than anything else. As I move into the next stage of my life and business I am thankful to have learned from the best!
What advice would you give to other aspiring entrepreneurs?
The list of advice I would give to other aspiring entrepreneurs is much too long for this article, for now I'll share my top three. There are so many pitfalls and I hope to help others avoid most of them.
First and foremost I would advise entrepreneurs who plan to have co-owners to have an operating agreement in place. It should be written to protect you should things change down the road. Keep in mind that often entrepreneurs don't earn a salary for the first few years. If you pour your life into a business but aren't protected legally that could be devastating, both emotionally and financially. A well written operating agreement can protect your ownership and all of your hard work. I was so thankful that Barbara had my best interest at heart when we formed our company. I can only hope entrepreneurs reading this will find the same type of investor.
Second I would advise inventors to get over the "they might steal my idea" mentality. I can't tell you how many entrepreneurs I have met who had great ideas but were stuck on the idea that if they didn't have a $20,000 patent filed they couldn't get started. That is not to say you shouldn't file a patent, but there are cheaper options. One option would be a provisional patent. With that said, a patent is only as good as the money you have to protect it. If a large corporation comes after your idea you need to have the funds to go after them legally. Spend your time and energy hitting the market hard! With social media and the ability to sell online these days the "little guy" has just as much advantage as the big companies. You just have to go for it!
Third I would advise entrepreneurs to pursue a business they already have a passion for. For me that was helping sick children. Through it all, including my own cancer diagnosis, I stayed focused on that passion. If you are starting a company to be your own boss, choose your own hours or make millions you've got it all wrong.
What has happened since your last update?
So much has happened since my last update. I have secured a U.S. manufacturer and will be launching new designs this fall. I am thrilled to be able to oversee production and support American jobs. Although I can't share yet, the new designs are everything I ever dreamed they would be. The new name and branding is also everything I hoped it would be. I will also have a version that is available for hospital use which is something I wanted from day one. After all, hospitalized children need my product badly, as they often face many doses of medication each day. I look forward to visiting some of the local children's hospitals with the new products, mascots and educational items.
I have also been speaking with a few production companies about filming the next stage of my journey. I was originally against the idea of a spin off from my few short appearances on "Shark Tank." I am not a "reality star." I am a mom and small business owner. However, I do like the idea of inspiring others to go after their dreams. I also love the idea of helping children on a much larger scale, which the show would allow me to do. If we decide as a family to do a show it will be beneficial for entrepreneurs to see the ups and downs of running a product based business; as it is so different from a brick-and-mortar store.
Tuesdays have more bite with back-to-back episodes of "Shark Tank" on CNBC every Tuesday night.