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'Hillbillies' turn lifestyle into a global business

HillBilly Brand co-founders Michael Abbaticchio, left, and Shon Lees making country style an international success.
Source: HillBilly Brand, Inc.
HillBilly Brand co-founders Michael Abbaticchio, left, and Shon Lees making country style an international success.

Florida "country men" Mike Abbaticchio and Shon Lees appeared on "Shark Tank" in 2011 with HillBilly Brand. On the episode, Abbaticchio and Lees described that people are proud to wear their clothing. It's "a badge of honor" for countrymen or outdoors men.

Abbaticchio and Lees sold out their first event in four hours when they sold the merchandise at a small rodeo. It was then they realized the potential behind their brand and headed to the "tank" for some help from the sharks.

On the episode, they accepted an offer with three of the sharks. Daymond John and Robert Herjavec teamed up with guest shark, Jeff Foxworthy, to give the pair $75,000 for a 7 percent royalty.

CNBC caught up with Lees to find out what it's like to make a pitch on "Shank Tank" and how being a country-loving hillbilly can turn into a successful business.


How has appearing on "Shark Tank" affected your company?

"Shark Tank" has had a tremendous impact on our company. HillBilly Brand not only received national exposure several times thanks to reruns but also worldwide exposure. It's amazing how many inquiries and orders we received from other countries. The "country lifestyle" has generated a lot of attention lately thanks to country music and several new country-themed reality shows. HillBilly Brand is a perfect fit for that lifestyle.

Is there something about your lifestyle that resonates in HillBilly Brand?

Growing up we both spent a lot of time outdoors and still spend a lot of time fishing and going to country music festivals. We started HillBilly Brand by selling T-shirts from the back of a truck and are now selling a variety of products in hundreds of retail stores. Our product line includes apparel, head wear, cell phone accessories, knives, lighters and beverages. We created the brand because we wanted to give people who enjoy the country lifestyle a way to express themselves. We think HillBilly Brand does a great job representing that lifestyle and the people who live it every day.

What was the hardest part about entering the tank and making a pitch to the sharks?

Knowing that we had one chance to tell our story in front of a prime-time audience was very stressful. You only have about 60 seconds to pitch your business before the sharks start sinking their teeth into you, and then it gets kind of crazy. You only get one chance. You can't stop and do it over again. Once your pitch starts the cameras roll until it's over. I think we did a pretty good job of telling our story and dealing with the panel of sharks.

You made a deal with not only one, but three sharks. What do you think it was about your pitch that made the sharks want to bite?

The sharks understood the value of our trademarks and the power of our brand. Our logo represents a huge demographic. Our customers are loyal to the brand and proud to show it. We tried to show the sharks, with our pitch, what HillBilly Brand was all about. They obviously understood the potential value of our brand because they all jumped in for a piece of the action. Even Mr. Wonderful wanted in, but his offer didn't make the final cut.

What do you think Daymond John (founder of FUBU) saw in HillBilly brand, and what has he been like to work with?

Everyone on the show was great, but we really communicated with Daymond the most after the show. Daymond was awesome to work with and taught us a lot. He turned a simple idea with FUBU into a billion-dollar brand, and we knew he was the right partner. He understood the power of our brand and knew he could help turn HillBilly into a global success.

What have you been up to since your last update?

Every day our products are being placed into more retail locations and not just in the United States. We recently placed our apparel into Peavey Mart, a large retailer in Canada. We have also partnered with Real Brands (RLBD) to launch a line of beverages. Look for HillBilly Brand Iced Tea and Lemonade at your local grocery and convenience stores. We also have a few new products coming soon that really fit the brand. You can keep up to date with HillBilly news by visiting our website or following us on Facebook.

Tuesdays have more bite with back-to-back episodes of "Shark Tank" on CNBC every Tuesday night.

Meet the Sharks

  • Mark is the highly successful entrepreneur and investor who founded HDNet, Broadcast.com and MicroSolutions.

  • Barbara Corcoran parlayed a $1,000 loan into a five-billion-dollar real estate business.

  • Lori Greiner started with one idea and turned it into a multi-million dollar international brand.