Entrepreneurs Circled Workbar Hoping to Get a Bite During Shark Tank Auditions
Amin Ross traveled six hours from the Bronx to Cambridge, and then waited more than 24 hours outside in the unseasonably cold weather, all for a shot at pitching his business plan to casting producers from ABC’s Shark Tank, so he could try to secure a spot on the show.
His novel business plan that he believes stands out from the throngs of entrepreneurs that lined the sidewalk outside of Central Square’s Workbar Thursday morning is simple: sports-themed walkers for toddlers, called “Walk Hims” and “Walk Hers.”
“They resemble baseballs, soccer balls, basketballs—it’s a unique type of walker. It’s getting kids involved in sports early. It’s a real good product I got,” said Ross, bundled up in layers, standing at the very start of the audition line. “It’s not the original or average walker, this is the 2014 walker. This is our generation’s walker. This is an Instagram walker—it’s cool, it’s hip, it’s dope, it’s stylish. I think it’s a real good idea I’m working with.”
As the wind whipped up Prospect Street, Ross started planning his pitch. He would have roughly one minute to knock his idea into the heads of the casting crew in hopes of carving a space into an upcoming episode of the hit show.
“My description of the product, that alone should seal the deal,” he said. “I got something real unique and special on my hands.”
Unlike many of the people trailing behind him in line, chomping at the bit to impress the show’s crew, Ross didn’t have a prototype with him to demonstrate his product. But he did have diagrams, and those alone gave him confidence. “I got steps made, I got drawings and stuff like that,” he said, adding that he almost “broke down” and left around 5 a.m., after a full day outside finally got to him. “But just knowing that I have an opportunity was enough to stay around.”
Others like him had a similar mantra churning in their heads, and were using it as fuel to both keep their minds off of the cold and their eyes on the prize of advancing to the next round of auditions.
Ed Levine and his wife, Wendy, both doctors from Connecticut, didn’t need a flashy prototype or poster board explaining their concept. The name and slogan alone were enough to grab a person’s attention upon hearing them. “Good to Go,” said Levine. “Vacation without constipation. People get constipated when they travel; it’s an incredibly common problem. People feel pretty strongly about [the subject], and we have gotten great feedback on the product.”
A few spaces down from Levine’s nook—blankets, a chair, and layers of clothes to keep warm—on the Cambridge sidewalk, Jason Barsosky waited patiently with his own original idea, a specialized pillow built for mothers of twin babies that can be interchanged and used for multiple tasks, called “Twin-Z-Pillow.”
“It has six uses,” he said, rattling off all of the ways a mother could make use of the pillow, like breast-feeding or bottle-feeding. “It has full back support, too. It’s almost like a chair.”
Like a lot of inventions, the Barsosky’s was born from a personal problem. He said both he and his wife were laid off from their jobs and had twins at home, so in her free time, his wife sewed together the pillow for personal use. When friends told the Barsosky’s they should slap a patent on the idea, they didn’t hesitate. “Now she has this thriving business. We have had $500,000 in sales this year,” he said. Thursday’s audition was a chance to advance their business, and give it a “leg up” through exposure and funding from Shark Tank’s investors.
In order to do that, however, Barsosky would be up against inventors like Claude Levesque, the third person in the long line that stretched around an entire block, who drove all the way from Bangor, Maine, to introduce his “KwiKlik” device, an interchangeable garden kit. “Anybody that has a lawn or garden has a lot of tools in the garage. They all have one thing in common: the handle. My invention lets you put any tool into the handle, that way you don’t have a bunch of tools hanging out,” he said.
While many products are already up for sale, some were in their earliest stages, like Matt Murphy’s “Knockley,” an electronic system that connects to a smartphone app and gives a person access to their home before they reach the front door. Murphy, a Boston resident, said the mechanical device has two modes. In one mode, a person can create a knock that the device will later recognize before unlocking the door. In the other mode, the app can be used to authorize access to a home. Unlike other products out there, Murphy’s design is temporary, and can be hung from any doorknob.
“It was thought of for the real estate business, where you have these lock boxes for all of these keys,” he said of his patent-pending product. “This was born out of solving that problem.”
He was hopeful that when his time came knocking during Thursday’s auditions, however, that show’s producers would answer the door.