Start-ups

'Shark Tank': How this founder got Daymond John to invest 6 figures after first rejecting her

Daymond John
Gonzalo Marroquin | Getty Images

For the entrepreneurs appearing on ABC's "Shark Tank," no one wants to hear the dreaded words from the Sharks: "I'm out." But on Sunday, entrepreneur Lisa Nguyen didn't take no for an answer.

The co-founder of kids shoe company Baubles + Soles has grit.

"My mother and I left Vietnam on a fishing boat. We ended up in a refugee camp for three years," Nguyen told the Sharks. "We were one of the lucky few — 25% of people who did this died at sea.

"We resettled in Australia, where I grew up and got into law school. I worked in banking and finance for a short while, and then just realized life has to be more extraordinary than this," she said. Nguyen went on to do pro bono legal work to help refugees like herself and worked at a non-profit.

The Sharks were impressed.

"We've had a lot of people who went through tough situations, but I don't think we ever heard of someone who went through a refugee camp and lived there," Shark Daymond John said. "So you know that she's gonna be a hard worker."

"It's an amazing story," Kevin O'Leary said.

And Mark Cuban added, "immigrants get it done!"

The idea for Nguyen's company, Baubles + Soles, came when her first daughter was 10 months old. The baby was given a gift of shoes with a red heart on them; Nguyen knew her daughter would soon grow out of the shoes and wished she could just take the red heart and put it on a different shoe.

Three years ago, with her husband Duc, Nguyen founded the company, which sells patent-pending interchangeable shoes for kids.

"One shoe equals endless possibilities. Our shoes are machine washable, slip-resistant, totally recyclable, and made here in America," Nguyen told the Sharks.

ABC

Nguyen broke down the numbers for the Sharks: She said Baubles + Soles was projecting $300,000 in sales for 2019.

The Sharks were nervous about the numbers and inventory, despite loving her story.

"You're gonna have a nightmare with that because you have to stock up on so many sizes, colors and accessories," said John. "In my business, the thing that has killed more people than the plague has been inventory. I really love your story, but I'm out."

Robert Herjavec (whose family emigrated to Canada from Communist Yugoslavia in 1970 with just a suitcase and $20), Cuban, O'Leary and Lori Greiner also declined to give an offer, even though they admired Nguyen.

But the entrepreneur didn't give up.

"Can I de-risk this investment for you?" Nguyen asked the Sharks. "How about if we pay you back [the $100,000 investment] in two years from the revenues and profits that we make? I know this company is gonna work, and we're here for a Shark. This has been our biggest dream, and we're here."

That was enough for John.

"You're not gonna bail. I'll give you $100,000 for 25%," John said. "I gotta be in business with you. You're amazing."

Thrilled with the offer, the Nguyens accepted the deal.

"When [John] went out, my heart dropped to my tummy," Nguyen said. "I'm so incredibly thankful. I think that 'Shark Tank' is an example that if you work really hard, and refuse to take any other outcome, you're gonna be successful. We're so excited to work with Daymond."

When the other Sharks asked John why he changed his mind, he said the tipping point was that "she's just not gonna quit. She's not gonna stop."

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

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