America has seen hundreds of entrepreneurs seek an investment to grow, start or save their businesses over the past seven seasons of ABC’s hit business reality show Shark Tank. Here’s a look at 10 male entrepreneurs age 30 and under to watch in 2016. They’ve all experienced steroidal growth since appearing on the show and have glistening futures ahead even if their on-air deals didn’t go through.
- Sawyer Sparks, Soy-Yer Dough, 29
Sawyer Sparks was just 22 when he pitched his gluten-free modeling clay, Soy-Yer Dough, in September 2009, Season 1. In a rare feat, he got investment proposals from Kevin O’Leary, Daymond John and Robert Herjavec who pledged $100,000 each for 51% of his Bloomfield, Ind. company. The deal fell through. O’Leary insisted on going overseas or licensing the product to a big toy maker while Sparks, who had Herjavec and John on his side, wanted to keep production in his hometown to create jobs. Thanks to the huge sales boost from the airing, Sparks ended up keeping 100% control of his company and building a production plant in Indiana.
“Being ‘Made in the USA’ was huge for me,” said Sparks. “My county, Greene County, was/is one of the highest in unemployment in the state of Indiana and I wanted to build something that would bring life back into my hometown.”
Soy-Yer Dough went from being sold in a handful of toy shops to more than 300 nationwide. Retailers and other toy companies contracted Soy-Yer Dough to private-label manufacture it under their brand name. Sparks started the company in 2008, making the dough in his kitchen.
“Children with Celiac Disease and many children with Autism avoid wheat products,” said Sparks. “Soy-Yer Dough allows all children to be able to use their imagination and not be left out in the classrooms during play dough activities.”
2, 3. Michael Kannely and Matt Alexander, Illumibowl, 30 and 25
Michael Kannely and Matt Alexander launched their Provo, Utah company out of a spare bedroom in 2014 after talking at a family reunion about how much they hated turning on the light when they go to the bathroom at night.
“We went through a million ways to solve it and it hit us that we should put the light in the bowl,” said Kannely. “We started building prototypes immediately and launched our business about a month later.
Kevin O’Leary invested $100,000 for 25% of Illumibowl in a March 2016 edition, Season 7. Sales shot up 500% after the show. They made $100,000 in sales in just one day and more than $1 million that month. They secured distribution deals with Bed Bath & Beyond (BBBY) and other retailers.
“Matt and I have always wanted to be free, and starting our own business was the only way to achieve it,” Kannely said.
- Skyler Scarlett, GLACÉ CRYOTHERAPY, 26
Skyler Scarlett and his sister Brittney Scarlett-Torres of Carmel, Calif. jumped on the coolest health fad of all — Cryotherapy — in October 2014. The act of standing in a nitrogen chamber, called a Cryosauna, at below freezing temperatures for two to three minutes at a time supposedly detoxes the body, reduces inflammation and prolongs ageing. It originated in late 1970s Japan and was used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and other chronic conditions. Somehow pro athletes came to love it and cryotherapy spas started popping up in the U.S. in 2010.
“I believed I could bring Cryotherapy to millions of Americans,” said Scarlett. “I wanted to make an influential impact on my community and I wanted to inspire others that if you believe in yourself anything is possible. I started with absolutely nothing straight out of college and now I have a contract with Fitness International and my company is the leader of an entire industry.”
Scarlett added: “We are closing in on $2 million dollars in funding for a rapid expansion to 25-50 within select LA Fitness locations and have received a much higher valuation than we received back in February on Shark Tank with Barbara Corcoran.”
Corcoran made an on-air deal of $100K for 30% of GLACÉ CRYOTHERAPY in a February 2016 episode, Season 7. But the deal didn’t go through. Glace recently sold its first franchise to a franchisee in Chattanooga, Tenn.
“The Cryotherapy industry has seen a 2400% growth since we opened our doors in October of 2014 and LA Fitness offers amazing real estate in great markets for Cryotherapy with front door access to one of our key demographics,” Scarlett said. “You will not be required to be an LA Fitness member to use GLACÉ CRYOTHERAPY services inside of the select locations. Along with our top notch service, we are hoping this model will not only get Cryotherapy to every city in the country, but also allow us to price Cryotherapy more competitively.”
- Shaan Patel, Prep Expert (formerly 2400Expert), 26
Shaan Patel spent countless hours writing SAT-test prep materials based on what he had learned in vaulting from an average score to a perfect 2,400 — an epic accomplishment claimed by merely 0.02% of test takers. The Las Vegas native sent book proposals about it to nearly 100 publishers and agents and was rejected by every single one. They all deemed the market too competitive and that he had no credibility.
Not wanting all of his work to go to waste, Patel taught SAT prep classes in Las Vegas and online. It was only meant to be a one-time give in summer 2011 before starting med school at USC. Then parents called asking for more classes after hearing how his students’ scores improved. Patel decided to train other instructors to teach his methods and launched 2400Expert.
“Many of our students come back to us raving about how our SAT course helped them on AP exams, SAT subject exams, the PSAT, the ACT, high school proficiency exams and just general high school coursework,” Patel told Forbes.
Patel claims his students have gotten into Ivy League schools and millions in scholarships. Patel himself won 20 scholarships totaling $250,000, including ones from The Coca-Cola (KO), McDonald’s (MCD) and Toyota (TM). He met President George W. Bush as a White House Presidential Scholar on top of being a National Merit Scholar and valedictorian.
In a January 2016, Season 7, episode, Mark Cuban made a $250,000 deal with Patel for 20% of his business. Patel told Forbes he’s shooting to 10X the Dallas Mavericks owner’s money. His company naturally experienced hockey-stick shaped growth from the Shark Tank effect. In April, Patel released a new book, Self-Made Success: Ivy League Shark Tank Entrepreneur Reveals 48 Secret Strategies To Live Happier, Healthier, and Wealthier. Most amazing of all, Patel did all this during a year in which he’s taking a break from med school to attend business school at Yale.
6, 7. Wombi Rose and John Wise, Lovepop, 29 and 28
Wombi Rose and John Wise worked 16 hours a day, seven days a week, when they started their 3D-greeting card business while at Harvard Business School. After appearing in December 2015 episode, Season 7, they went from three staff members to 20 full-time staff and 25 brand ambassadors. Kevin O’Leary invested $300,000 for 15% of Lovepop cards, based in Boston, and has gotten them great media exposure ever since. He talked them up on Good Morning America and gave away Lovepops for Christmas. After Shark Tank, Rose and Wise acquired investments from individual angel investors, Accomplice, a venture capital firm in Boston, DraftKings and Moo, a maker of premium business cards.
Wombi and Rose came up with their business idea while on a Harvard Business School trip to Vietnam, where they discovered kirigami, paper-art form like origami but also entails cutting paper. Applying their backgrounds in ship design, they developed their own technology called Slicegami™ to create elaborate 3D-paper sculptures. They gave away a few cards they created to friends, who all loved them. They realized they had a winning product on their hands.
8, 9. Steven Blustein and Sean Knecht, PrideBites, both 29
Steven Blustein and Sean Knecht started PrideBites five years ago out of their college dorm room, fulfilling a dream they’ve had since middle school. The Austin, Texas-based company known as the NIKEiD (NKE) of pet products, claims to have developed a proprietary technology to churn out customized pet products within four weeks. Their prices start at $10 for a stuffed mailman and while a large custom dog bed goes for $150. You get to pick every detail: fabric and piping color, the shape of the banner for your pooch’s name, the font, the font color, etc. You can even add a picture of your fur baby. Or select a pre-made design from collections such as Kate Spayed, Ruff Lauren and other riffs on high fashion.
“We were inspired by our passion to create better pet products for our dogs,” said Blustein. “We are providing pet parents everywhere the ability to customize quality pet products that are completely unique to their furry friends.”
Knecht and Blustein made an on-air deal of $200,000 for 20% equity with Lori Greiner and Robert Herjavec in an April 2016 airing, Season 7. They are still working on finalizing a deal with one of the Sharks. Their appearance led to a threefold growth in sales. They’re negotiating a partnership with a celebrity pet lover to create new products.
10, Daniel Mastronardo, Nardo’s Natural Skincare, 30
Daniel and his three brothers — Keith, Kyle and DJ — launched Nardo’s Natural Skincare in 2009. Keith, who’s since passed away, was the youngest at age 24 when they appeared on Shark Tank in an March 2012 episode, Season 4. Daniel was 26, Kyle 28 and DJ 30. They were willing to give away half of their Tampa, Fla. company and change its name to secure an investment from Barbara Corcoran. She offered $75,000 for 50% equity. But Barbara ended up taking a smaller bite out of the company and let them keep the name. Nardo’s went from $30,000 in sales to $1 million in less than two years following their appearance.
“Our family has always been extremely close knit,” said Danny, now 30. “It simply didn’t make sense to do something without all of the brothers on board. Each individual carries a specific strength and the business thrives off of our passion and commitment.”
Nardo’s expanded into producing private label products, www.NardosNaturalPrivateLabel.com, for entrepreneurs to sell skincare products under their own name. Starting your own skincare line is “just as easy as buying a T-Shirt on Amazon (AMZN).”
“In the beginning we were working tirelessly distributing via wholesale, similar to many companies that appear on Shark Tank,” said Danny. “As our products reached larger markets, inquiries poured in for producing private-label products. Now 80% of our company revolves around private label and launching products for individuals looking to begin their journey as an entrepreneur.”
This story was originally published in Forbes.com in July 2016.