Millennials and the generation after them have are stereotyped to be entitled, lazy narcissists. Not these 30 entrepreneurs who’ve started their own businesses before age 30 and pitched on Shark Tank.
1, 2. Sharon Bui and Kate Steadman, Frill Clothing, both 25
Sharon Bui and partner Kate Steadman fashioned a $100,000 investment from Kevin O’Leary and Barbara Corcoran for 30% of their Raleigh, N.C. company that fills a niche need for matching sorority outfits. Frill Clothing’s sales blasted fourfold after the March 2015 airing. Bui and Steadman received kudos from national sorority organizations, Chi Omega and National Panhellenic Council. They launched Frill in January 2012 during their junior year in college at age 20 out of their own need for matching sorority recruitment outfits.
“My sorority required us to purchase all kinds of outfits and accessories for recruitment,” said Bui. “The outfits didn’t fit, and they totaled almost $500 for just one week. I didn’t even like them or wear them ever again. I found this frustrating especially since I was paying dues for the sorority, groceries and other normal college activities.
“I barely had any money since I was just a broke college student working many part-time jobs to make ends meet. Since this frustrated me, we decided to design and produce sorority recruitment outfits that are affordable and trendy that you can try on before you buy and that you can wear again and again.”
3. 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.”
4. Kaeya Majmundar, BZbox, 23
Chicago native Kaeya Majmundar created the BZbox, a collapsible storage box that needs no assembly, out of the frustration from helping her friend move out of her dorm after their first year in college. BZbox is more durable than regular cardboard boxes and is made to withstand wear and tear.
“The product actually evolved into a higher-end home storage product rather than a cardboard box,” said Majmundar. “The product I sell now incorporates the same design but is made of a very durable plastic corrugate inside with a canvas wrapping. It’s ideal for people who don’t have a lot of space in their homes and need compact storage solutions. There are comparable products on the market, but they’re all flimsy and definitely don’t last as long.”
BZbox was still in prototype phase, and Majmunder had yet to start her company when she taped Shark Tank in December 2014. She managed to put it together in time for her airing in May 2014, Season 5. Sales blasted nearly 300% and then fell off a cliff. QVC queen Lori Greiner offered $50,000 for 40% equity, but the deal never materialized. After the “Shark Tank effect” died, Majmundar developed the ZipTank, a basketball jersey that zips at the bottom to convert into a bag.
“I pitched my product as tour merchandise for a few music artists and scored one rapper named Vic Mensa,” Majmundar said. “He was blowing up at the time as he’d just signed a deal with Roc Nation and put out a couple of songs with Kanye. It worked. Sales skyrocketed. So now I find myself in the business of developing products and selling via my “Shark Tank effect” method, which is essentially one part celebrity involvement and one part my secret sauce.”
She also sells a variety of silly T-shirts, tank tops, mugs, hats, keychains, smartphone covers and socks on her website, KaeyosInc.com, in case you ever never need a T-shirt of the Donald puckering his lips, or one emblazoned “I matter.”
5, 6. 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, and 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.
7. Tania Green, PMS Bites, 30
Bostonian Tania Green created PMS Bites — chocolate cake balls mixed with herbs that alleviate premenstrual symptoms — in response to her sugar cravings and PMS. Green started her company, Everything Bites, with $2,000 and officially launched in February 2015 with a Kickstarter campaign.
“I started (the business) because I was among the 90% of women who menstruate and experience one or more of the 150 symptoms of PMS,” said Green. “These symptoms can last seven to 10 days out of the month. That’s a significant pain point for women each month, without fail. Sugar is what women crave when we experience these symptoms. But it’s the one thing we shouldn’t eat because sugar exacerbates PMS symptoms. I just wanted a tasty and healthy treat that wouldn’t make me feel worse.”
PMS Bites did not whet any shark appetites in her May 2016 episode, Season 7. However, the appearance increased sales 15 times and attracted inquiries from retailers and online stores.
“The most fun outcome from Shark Tank was receiving a call from Donnie Wahlberg and Jenny McCarthy,” said Green. “They watched my episode, called me directly two days later, invited me onto Jenny’s radio show Dirty, Sexy, Funny on SiriusXM, and we are in discussion about investment and endorsement. It was surreal to talk with Donnie and hear him say that they both love the product, the name, and couldn’t believe I didn’t get a deal.”
Green told Forbes in May that she’s also developing Diet Bites, Hangover Bites, Insomnia Bites and Menopause Bites, They are scheduled to debut in early 2017.
8, 9. Shelby and Gordon Gogulski, Yourself Expression, 17 and 12
Siblings Shelby and Gordon Gogulski left the tank without a deal for their line of interchangeable, pop-in jewelry, Yourself Expression, in a May 2016 Shark Tank episode, Season 7. But all of the Sharks admired how their Jacksonville, Fla. business has more than 300 retail partners, a brick-and-mortar location and online sales, YourselfExpression.com. It rings up $1,000 in sales daily in less than two years of being in business. They signed up 42 new retailers, secured a licensing deal with Nickelodeon and are in talks to sell in Wal Mart’s (WMT) jewelry department within a month after their airing.
Shelby started her jewelry business to help her parents with her high school tuition after it increased more than $6,000. Gordy got on board to make enough money to buy a PlayStation.
“Jewelry is a billion-dollar business, and many buy a product for a special event or outfit, and then it sits in a drawer,” said Shelby. “Our designs allow you to keep that great same style base and change to match the outfit starting at just $4 and not spend a fortune on new items that may never be worn again. Our company also is one of a few that focuses on items for the entire family including our leather personalized dog collars.”
10. 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 aging. 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 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.”
11. Mikaila Ulmer, Me & the Bees Lemonade, 11
Mikaila Ulmer of Austin, Texas started Me & the Bees Lemonade when she was only 4-years-old owing to her fascination with bees that resulted from getting two bee stings. Her business donates part of proceeds to nonprofits trying to save bees. At age 11, she inked an $11 million deal with Whole Foods (WFM) to sell her flaxseed lemonade made from a recipe in a 1940s cookbook given to her by Great Granny Helen. Originally called BeeSweet Lemonade, it’s sold in a variety of restaurants and stores in Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas.
Ulmer pitched on Shark Tank in March 2015, Season 6. Daymond John pledged to invest $60,000 for 25% equity on the contingency that he can find a distributor to get it into stores across the country.
12. 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.
13, 14. Jess Edelstein and Sarah Ribner, PiperWai, both 27
Jess Edelstein and Sarah Ribner saw sales for their all-natural, charcoal cream deodorant explode after appearing in a December 2015 episode, Season 7. PiperWai had $110,000 sales in the 10 months leading up to Shark Tank. Since the airing, sales have reached a staggering $4 million as of mid-July. They’ve received inquiries from 200 new wholesale and retail outlets. It was sold in 40 outlets before the show.
The two best friends, who started the business in 2014, have been business partners since selling lemonade together in fourth grade. Both were still working in their regular day jobs when they secured a $50,000 investment from Barbara Corcoran for 25% of their business. Ribner was also in business school at Columbia Business School through which they won $7,000 in a pitch competition.
Edelstein came up with the formula through trial and error after searching for an all-natural deodorant but couldn’t find one that didn’t irritate her skin. They funded the startup costs with a $2,000 from Edelstein’s parents and raised more than $20,000 in a crowdfunding campaign. They initially made the product themselves in small batches of 300 in a rented kitchen and mailed orders from their apartments.
15. Ryan Kelly, Ry’s Ruffery, 14
Ryan Kelly of Stamford, Conn. started making dog treats when he was 10 years old for his newly adopted beagle, Barkley. His pooch devoured them. So Ryan started selling them to neighbors and at adoption events in which he donated part of the proceeds. The treats are made with all-natural, human-grade ingredients and come in three flavors: Cheddar Cheese, Peanut Butter, and Pumpkin Apple. Three bags sell for $24.95 plus free shipping.
Barbara Corcoran invested $25,000 for 25% equity in the Season 4 finale, May 2013. It went from $800 in total sales to $1.8 million. Ry’s Ruffery made its way into a Shark Tank promotion at Target (TGT) and became one of the top-sellers. The treats can also be found at PetSmart (PETM), Wegman’s and small pet shops nationwide.
16. Benjamin Stern, Nohbo, 17
Mark Cuban found his protege in a February 2016 episode, Season 7, and invested $100,000 for 25% equity in Nohbo. Benjamin Stern, a student at Viera High School in Melbourne, Fla., hired a chemist to develop Nohbo shampoo balls to reduce plastic waste from shampoo bottles. Nohbo — an acronym for no hair bottles — is a zero waste product, wrapped like candy in a compostable, plant-based material.
“Nohbo is an amazing solution to the plastic bottle,” said Stern. “By incorporating our patent pending single use, water-soluble delivery system into a high-quality shampoo, Nohbo eliminates the need to use plastic bottles in the shower. Considering four out of five people admit they don’t consistently recycle any items from their bathroom, the waste adds up, and is killing off our sea life and oceans.”
The lathery shampoo balls come in three scents: Japanese Cherry Blossom, Smoky Sandalwood, and Unscented. The cost $11 for a package of 15 on his website Nohboball.com. Stern failed to capitalize on the Shark Tank effect because of a manufacturing problem when his episode aired. But he received $30,000 in pre-orders through an IndieGogo campaign and inquiries from L’Oreal, Unilever and American Hotel Registry, the largest U.S. hotel distributor in America.
17. Lani Lazzari, Simple Sugars, 22
Lani Lazzari, who was prone to eczema outbreaks, created her all-natural skincare line in response to her own needs. She preaches “If you wouldn’t eat it, then you probably have no business putting it on your skin,” which is the body’s largest organ.
Mark Cuban invested $100,000 for 33% equity in Pittsburgh, Penn.-based Simple Sugars in a March 2013 installment, Season 4, when Lazzari was 18 years old. Sales blasted from $44,000 to a $6 million, Success magazine reported. Simple Sugars sells at more than 700 outlets including overseas.
18, 19. 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 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.
20. Rachel Zietz, Gladiator Lacrosse, 15
Rachel Zietz, a lacrosse player from Fort Lauderdale, Fla. started her company in 2012 when she was 13 years old because of her dislike in the quality, high costs, and selection of products on the market. The equipment she used to play wall ball in the backyard didn’t last outdoors or was too costly. Zietz decided to start Gladiator Lacrosse to provide high-quality, yet affordable lacrosse equipment after taking part in the Young Entrepreneurs Academy Program, co-sponsored by Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce and Florida Atlantic University.
Zietz appeared on Shark Tank in May, seeking a $100,000 for 15% equity. The