Plenty of entrepreneurs have pitched off-the-wall products on the hit reality show "Shark Tank," but most walk away empty-handed. Sometimes, however, a crazy-sounding company with a strong track record of sales — and a founder who is, in fact, perfectly sane — can score an investment from the sharks. From insect-based food products to flavored lip balm engineered to improve kissing, these are the wackiest companies to win a deal in the tank.
By Graham Winfrey, special to CNBC.com
Posted 11 November 2015
Artist Steve Gadlin surprised the sharks with his bizarre business, I Want to Draw a Cat for You, during the show's third season. The one-man company had a simple premise: letting feline enthusiasts order custom-drawn cat cartoons.
invested $25,000 for a 33 percent stake, but Gadlin closed the business about three years later, saying it was too time-consuming and stressful.
In Season 3, entrepreneurs Dallas Robinson and Mike Buonomo demonstrated their flavored lip balm, Kisstixx, by having sharks Barbara Corcoran and Kevin O'Leary lock lips. Designed to enhance the experience of kissing, the product comes in packages with complementary flavors, such as raspberry and lemonade and peaches and cream.
When two people kiss, the flavors combine to produce a chemical reaction and a delicious sweet taste. Cuban took a 40 percent stake in the company for $200,000.
Today, Kisstixx is sold through the company's website and in roughly 50 stores across Utah, including 7-Eleven and Fresh Market.
Entrepreneur Pat Crowley introduced the sharks to his nutritional energy bars made with cricket protein during the show's fifth season. His company, Chapul, makes a variety of flavors, each rich in his proprietary high-protein cricket flour.
Selling the sharks on a food product derived from insects took some time, but Crowley ultimately landed $50,000 from Cuban, who took 15 percent of the business.
Chapul sells the bars through its website and recently landed a distribution deal with Sprouts Farmers Market, which agreed to sell the energy bars in every one of its specialty grocery stores. Roughly 50 other retailers throughout the U.S. and Canada are featuring the bars as well.
In Season 6, mother-and-son team Judy and Bobby Edwards pitched their bathroom product, Squatty Potty, to a group of highly skeptical sharks. The remarkably simple product helps individuals do their "business" better in the bathroom. How? It's a stool that elevates a user's feet when seated, creating a squatting posture that helps relieve colon issues, like constipation.
The company's $2.7 million in annual sales convinced Lori Greiner to invest $350,000 for a 10 percent stake. Through October, 2015 sales reportedly have reached $8 million.
Neal Hoffman's Hanukkah-themed toy company Mensch on a Bench made a big splash in the tank in Season 6. The Jewish equivalent of Elf on a Shelf, Mensch on a Bench sells a 12-inch plush doll and a hardcover storybook for children that introduces them to a new Jewish tradition for each night of Hanukkah.
After sharks Lori Greiner and Robert Herjavec acquired a combined 15 percent of the company for $150,000, Hoffman sold the film and TV rights for its main character, Moshe the Mensch, to Los Angeles-based Pilgrim Studios for an undisclosed sum. The company plans to produce a TV special for the 2016 holiday season.
In Season 6, Christina Conrad pitched her sports bra/tank-top shirt with hidden pockets as a "fanny pack for your rack." Boobypack helps women keep their hands free during athletic activity by storing items like a phone or wallet in secure, waterproof zipper compartments.
The product attracted an $80,000 investment from Barbara Corcoran, who acquired 25 percent of the direct-to-consumer e-commerce company. Since appearing on "Shark Tank," Boobypack has expanded its product line to include a bikini version and has added Amazon as a retailer.
Chelsea Briganti and Leigh Ann Tucker pitched their edible drinking-cup company, Loliware, during the current season of "Shark Tank" (Season 7). The business received orders totaling roughly $100,000 in the week following their episode's air date. Launched in March of 2015, the company's patent-pending product is intended to be the first in a line of 100 percent "biodegr(edible)" tableware and packaging.
The co-founders came up with the cups — which are 134 calories each, made from vegan gelatin and taste like fruit leather — for a design contest at Parsons School of Design. Cuban and Corcoran partnered up to invest $600,000 for 25 percent of the company.