Success

Why Mark Cuban gave this entrepreneur an extra $50,000 (for free) on 'Shark Tank'

Mark Cuban
Tyler Golden | Getty Images

After working a corporate job with minimal exposure to the sun, Amber Leong was inspired to start a light-therapy lamp business, which includes a line of lamps that mimic sunlight for workers' desks indoors.

And in June, Leong found herself pitching her company, Circadian Optics, to the Sharks while filming an episode of ABC's "Shark Tank."

"I am a big fan of the show," Leong told CNBC Make It. "So, when I started the business in 2016, I always joked around that one day, I'd be on 'Shark Tank.'"

Leong came up with the idea for her lamp line (which sell for $45 to $70) while suffering through "tough" winters in Minnesota.

She started to wonder, "Why isn't there a solution to this? Why are all lamps so ugly? Why can't I have a good light-therapy lamp? It all leads to this big question: Why don't you do it yourself?" she said.

On Sunday's "Shark Tank" episode, Leong asked the Sharks for $750,000 in exchange for a 10% stake in her company. She said her company's lifetime sales were $7.4 million since 2016, with $4 million in sales in 2018. For 2019, she projected $5.6 million in sales.

Leong told the Sharks that as an immigrant from Malaysia, she always dreamed about coming to America. Her business is part of her goal to live the "American dream."

"When it was time to go to college, I told my parents I wanted to come to America, and they said, 'OK, let's do this together,'" she told the Sharks. "They cashed out their retirement fund, they borrowed money from their family and friends, to send me to school here on a one-way ticket, and school fees ... They gave everything they could to me."

She revealed that she grew up in poverty in Malaysia, telling the Sharks that her home did not have indoor plumbing.

"You represent why we all do this show. You represent to everybody in America that watches this show, that it doesn't matter where you come from," investor Mark Cuban told Leong. "If you put your mind to it, anything is possible. You represent everything great about entrepreneurship, the 'American dream.'"

Together, Cuban and fellow shark Lori Greiner offered $750,000 for a 20% stake in Leong's business. Kevin O'Leary and Barbara Corcoran then offered the same.

But Cuban and Greiner decided to raise the bar, adding $50,000 to the pot, just to give back to her parents. This offer tugged at Leong's heart-strings and she accepted.

"Lori and Mark were my target Sharks, and they made offers," Leong told CNBC Make It. "They were so generous to make an offer to my parents. I am so thankful to both of them."

"I never dreamed this big. I am just a girl from a small town in Malaysia," she said. "If you have the chance and the opportunity to reach for your dreams, reach for your dreams."

Leong told CNBC Make It that since filming ended, she has been in talks with Greiner's and Cuban's teams.

"We're in communication, and we're working on it. I am so thankful and so excited for the future, you wouldn't believe it."

Disclosure: CNBC owns the exclusive off-network cable rights to "Shark Tank."

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