Anyone who gets to appear as a guest judge on "Shark Tank" has made it pretty big, from Major League Baseball star-turned-investor Alex Rodriguez to Bethenny Frankel of "Real Housewives of New York City." Even Ring founder Jamie Siminoff, who appeared as a contestant in 2013 (he later sold the company to Amazon for $1 billion), returned to the show as a judge.
Sunday's guest judge, Matt Higgins, is no exception. Higgins is the CEO and co-founder of private investment firm RSE Ventures with real estate mogul and Miami Dolphins owner Stephen M. Ross, who is worth $7.7 billion according to Forbes. The firm invests in buzzy companies across sports (like the Drone Racing League), entertainment (like NextVR), media (like Gary Vaynerchuk's VaynerMedia) and food and lifestyle (like Momofuku and Bluestone Lane).
But Higgins didn't start out controlling hundreds of millions of dollars and partnering with the likes of Ross, Vaynerchuk and David Chang. His first job was scraping gum off the bottoms of chairs in the playroom of a New York City McDonald's.
"I had the undignified job of scraping it off," Higgins tells CNBC Make It. "But I would sort of geek out on it, right? Like, how long would it take for that gum to fill up again, how quickly can I scrape the gum off, and how quickly can a 5-year-old replace it?"
And that caught the attention of his bosses.
"What happened was, somebody out of the corner of their eye was noticing this 14-year-old kid who was just geeking out on scraping the gum off the bottom of the chair," he recalls. "And within nine months, I was managing the maintenance function in the party room."
It taught Higgins an invaluable lesson about success: "What I have found throughout my life, is if I work hard enough to make myself indispensable at whatever menial function, that somebody would notice and they would give me the next opportunity," Higgins says. "Because really, all you're doing when you're hiring someone for a job is you're solving a problem. And if you demonstrate to your employer you can solve that problem, they're going to give you a bigger problem."