Mark Cuban loved this 24-year-old 'Shark Tank' CEO's company—here's why he rejected it: 'You're making a boatload of money'
Sophie Nistico seemed to have all the pieces in place for a big investment deal on ABC's "Shark Tank."
Nistico is the founder of Trumbull, Connecticut-based apparel brand See The Way I See, which sells clothing emblazoned with mental health-related phrases. She started her business in 2020 with just $500, she said on Friday's episode of the show.
By the time of the episode's taping, it had brought in $2.3 million in year-to-date sales, Nistico said. She spent no money on advertising, due to a large social media presence, and had more than $400,000 in the bank, she added. She was only 24 years old.
Nistico, who said she started See The Way I See after battling "severe" anxiety throughout high school and college, asked the show's panel of investors for $250,000 in exchange for 10% of her company's equity.
"I have zero background in business, my family has zero background in business and I just feel like I'm hitting that point where I need a mentor," she said.
Every investor declined, for a simple reason: They didn't see any way to help her get better. "What do you need a Shark for? You're doing so well," Daymond John told her.
"You are making a boatload of money," Mark Cuban added. "You're a star."
When Nistico first launched See The Way I See, she sold "mental health-based" stickers on social media. She thought it'd take months to sell out, but it "only took two days," she said. The success of her stickers allowed her to expand into apparel.
The ability to make that happen isn't common, no matter how much experience — or lack thereof — you may have, the show's investors told Nistico.
"I don't really know how to help you," said Kevin O'Leary. "This thing where you don't know anything about business, I don't really buy it anymore. You're doing better than 90% of the people who stand in front of me there."
Cuban and Lori Greiner took it a step further, saying it would feel morally wrong to take a percentage of Nistico's company without being able to offer her mentorship in return. Instead, Cuban gave Nistico some heart-to-heart advice.
"Let your community grow your business, not a team," Cuban said. "Be who you are to your community and you'll grow with it. And you don't want an investor for that, because you're already putting money in the bank and all we'd be doing is taking what you earned."
"We're sorry we wasted your time," John joked.
Ahead of the episode's premiere, Nistico expressed the nerves she felt in an Instagram post. "If you know me, you know my number one biggest fear is public speaking," she wrote, adding: "I wanted to prove to myself, and to others who struggle with their own mental health that they're more capable than they think."
On screen, she seemed both surprised and motivated by the investors' praise.
"That was really difficult for me to do, but they really did give me a boost of self-confidence," Nistico said. "After today, I really feel as though I can do anything."
Disclosure: CNBC owns the exclusive off-network cable rights to "Shark Tank."
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