Just a few years ago, Ashley Silfies was "staring at the wall" of her apartment, trying to think of a way to make more money to support her new wife, Brittany, and their three children.
"She actually was sitting there, looking at the wall, and she said, 'What skills do I have?'" Brittany said on Friday's episode of ABC's "Shark Tank." "Photography and manufacturing were her background."
Put them together, and you get Pink Picasso, a Birmingham, Alamaba-based start-up that the couple launched in 2019. The company turns photos taken by a host of photographers, including Ashley, into paint-by-numbers kits — each packaged in a cardboard tube that holds a rolled-up canvas, paintbrushes and a set of acrylic paints.
Two years ago, the couple said, they spent $1,500 on initial products. By the time of the "Shark Tank" episode's taping, they said they were on pace to bring in more than $5 million in 2021 gross revenue. Their kits are in more than 2,000 boutique stores nationwide, and available on Pink Picasso's website, Ashley said.
During the episode, the couple landed a $400,000 investment from Lori Greiner and Kind founder Daniel Lubetzky, in exchange for a 15% stake in Pink Picasso. The deal valued the company at nearly $2.7 million, according to a CNBC Make It estimate.
Nearly four years ago, the two women were just friends with husbands and children, Brittany said, until their "feelings just evolved." Launching Pink Picasso helped them restart their lives and financially support their family, she added.
"We blew up our lives," she said. "It was not glamorous at all."
The company posted $1.5 million in gross revenue in its first year, helped by landing on Oprah Winfrey's "Favorite Things" list. It made Winfrey's list again last year, while bringing in $3.5 million in annual gross revenue — including, Ashley said, more than $900,000 in profit.
The couple attributed much of that growth to the Covid-19 pandemic, which forced people to find more ways to entertain themselves at home — like taking up painting. "Everybody needs self-care, and this is something that anybody can do," Ashley told the Sharks.
Last year, Brittany said, they finally began outsourcing fulfillment services — after spending the pandemic's summer peak handling every aspect of the business themselves, "from start to finish." That meant printing each shipping label and packing every box. Even the kids got involved, she said.
Greiner saw that as a selling point: "The family that works together, stays together."
The couple particularly impressed the Sharks by describing how Pink Picasso could produce a 16-inch by 20-inch canvas painting kit for roughly $4, then sell it at wholesale for $19 and have it resell to individual customers for $42.
"Oh, wow, there's a ton of margin," Mark Cuban said. And Barbara Corcoran joked that, with those margins, the couple "should be ashamed of [yourselves]."
Greiner and Lubetzky, a guest Shark, initially offered $400,000 in exchange for a 20% stake in Pink Picasso, promising to help the couple get their painting kits into big-box stores like Michaels. The couple eventually negotiated them down to 15% before accepting the offer.
"I think you are spot on, and that's why you have done so well," Greiner said, noting Pink Picasso's sizable profit margins. "I think we're in an age where people are trying to get away from [their] phone and spend time doing things that are creative, that have to do with improving the mind in a different way."
Disclosure: CNBC owns the exclusive off-network cable rights to "Shark Tank."