When Melissa Butler, 32, took her line of custom-made, vegan lipsticks — in bright colors from pink and red to green and purple — on ABC's "Shark Tank" in 2015, she was laughed out of the room.
"The chances that this is a business are practically zero," Kevin O'Leary said in the episode. "You only have so many minutes on Earth, don't waste them trying to sell lipstick."
Fellow shark Daymond John added, "You are never going to create anything new in this world. It's lipstick."
Sharks Lori Greiner, Mark Cuban and Robert Herjavec took a more subtle approach, but also declined to invest in Butler's cosmetics company, called The Lip Bar.
Butler was devastated.
"They were really cruel to us," she tells CNBC Make It of the episode, where she appeared with her creative director Rosco Spears.
But the experience only further ignited her ambition to succeed, Butler says. And it taught her an important lesson about persistence that would years later allow her to land The Lip Bar's products on shelves at 142 Target stores across the country.
"At the end of the day, if I stopped my business after one 'no' — even a public 'no' — then maybe I shouldn't have started," Butler says. "I couldn't allow someone else to be the authority on my dream."