What if your hands stink and your breath stinks too? The solution to such first-world problems is Spretz — the world’s first two-in-one spray that freshens both your hands and mouth. Tony Gauthier, a closet smoker, created Spretz after needing to get rid of cigarette odor from his breath and hands. He officially launched Spretz the night he and his co-founders appeared on Shark Tank on Jan. 8, 2016.

Until then, he had sold 1,000 units on the sidewalks of his hometown, Oakland, Calif., totaling $3,500 in revenue. Sprëtz is only sold online. Gauthier is in talks with distributors in hopes of getting it into stores. A single Sprëtz retails for $3.99 while a three-pack goes for $9.99 at Sprëtzme.com. It’s all natural and made in the U.S. Gauthier invested more than $13,000 of his savings in developing it.

Spretz offered the sharks 20% equity in the company for $100,000 on the ABC hit business reality show. QVC queen Lori Greiner confirmed that it works after a garlic demonstration.  But none of the sharks bit given their concerns over distribution and the difficulty in getting shelf space in stores.

Not one to be deterred Gauthier is developing new flavors and similar products for homes and cars. He’s also vetting prospective investors who reached out to him after Shark Tank. Gauthier shares the how he formulated his idea, his vision for making it a household name and much more.

Ky Trang Ho: Tell us about your background. What were you doing before you started your business?

Tony Gauthier: Before creating Sprëtz, I was working as a public information officer and spokesperson for a transportation agency in the Bay Area. For the majority of my professional career, I have always been in public relations, communications, and community and educational outreach.

Minting an Idea

Ho: How did you come up with the idea for your business? What problem were you seeking to solve?

Gauthier: How Sprëtz came to be is a funny story, at least to me. I know smoking is a terrible habit. I never like to smoke around people who didn’t know I smoked. So I would try to cover it up. And like many people today, I was what you would call a closet smoker.

I was hosting a fundraiser for a friend. I snuck outside for a quick smoke break. Since I was going to head back into the function to continue networking, I noticed I didn’t have anything to cover up or remove the smell of the cigarette from my hands nor did I have any mints for my breath. I did have one tiny piece of gum that I chewed for a quick second. Then I spat it into my hands and started rolling it around thinking I would remove the scent of smoke from my hands.

It was at that moment where I thought to myself, “damn wouldn’t it be cool if there was a product that could eliminate the smell of smoke from not only my breath but also my hands at the same time?” That’s when I had my Ah Ha moment, and Sprëtz was born.

Ho: What is the market for your service or product?

Gauthier: Although targeting toward to smokers, Spretz’s market is anyone that desires a new convenient, quick and easy, discreet, clean and all natural way to freshen the breath and hands.

Ho: What made you think it could be a successful product (especially when there are so many competing products)?

Gauthier: I knew from the gate that Sprëtz would be successful. For one it had never been done before. I also knew I wasn’t the only person who wanted my breath and hands to smell better after eating sushi, fried foods, cheese or coffee or having a quick smoke.

I knew that the target market and audience of Sprëtz would get it. The gum and mint industry is a multi-million dollar, if not billion-dollar industry. So is cologne, lotions and sanitizer and people were carrying around pockets full of products when there could be just one: Sprëtz.

So what would happen if you blended the two? A breath freshener and hand freshener? That’s precisely what Sprëtz did. There are millions of other individuals in this world that have experienced exactly what I did. How to get that damn smoke smell off your hands. Yes, you can wash your hands. But there isn’t always a restroom around. And let’s be honest, some people never wash their hands after doing certain activities. But they will put a piece of gum in their mouth.

You have to understand; there is nothing out there like Sprëtz. Yeah, you might have the products that can be sprayed in your hair, or on your clothes. But one product that does both freshen your breath and hands? Nope! If Sprëtz were in the movie Back to the Future, people would be expecting to have such a product today along with their hoverboard.

Ho: How many hours did you work on your startup per day?

Gauthier: (Laughs) Countless hours. I wish I could quantify the exact hours I’ve spent working on this dream called Sprëtz. I can’t. Let’s just say there have been many nights where I’ve seen the sun come up and my daughter waddling from my bedroom asking for a breakfast bottle while my eyes are burning from entrepreneur-fatigue™.

There have been many times where I’ve wanted to give up and throw in the towel. But when I visualize Sprëtz creating jobs in the near future, helping others to live their dream, I say to myself, that is what it is all about.

Ho: How many employees did you have before?

Gauthier: Sprëtz never officially had employees, but I guess you can say it began with a buddy of mine Russell Overbeck and myself. I procured equipment, materials, and ingredients. Russell was the chemist. We mixed by hand, labeled every container and packed them. After things started to pick up. Scott Hoag and Wesley Osaze later sought me after. Which ultimately became the team that was seen on ABC’s Shark Tank.

Ho: Where and at how many locations were you selling your product before Shark Tank?

Gauthier: Before Shark Tank, I was selling Sprëtz hand-to-hand. I was just trying to spread the word. I would go to various bars, clubs, smoke shops anywhere where I knew people would be smoking. I would walk up to them and hit them with my elevator pitch. I recall a moment where I became known as “that hand/breath freshener dude.”

Ho: How did you go about making a prototype, sourcing the materials and finding a manufacturer?

Gauthier: I knew I wanted Sprëtz to be all-natural and didn’t want any crazy ass chemicals or hard to pronounce ingredients in it. I called my buddy Russell who is a chemist, told him what I wanted, and he brought the first sample. The first couple of iterations weren’t too attractive to the eye. But they tasted freaking awesome. We worked through about 20 to 30 different iterations before deciding on the final product.

Ho: What hardships did you encounter in developing and launching it?

Gauthier: The hardest challenge I’ve experienced thus far has got to be trying to do everything myself. The creation, fulfillment, the general admin work, finances, marketing and social media strategy, is impossible to do alone. Until we switch over to automation with manufacturing, Sprëtz has been mixed, filled, labeled, and packaged and sealed all by hand.

I was doing much of the work myself and was becoming overwhelmed. This is why it is crucial to have the right team. I want my company to succeed. I don’t want anything to prevent that success from happening. Therefore I work my ass off day and night to learn what I didn’t know, or read what I haven’t read, research the industry, respond to every single email, Facebook post, Instagram comment, and Tweet on Twitter. I believe that for this to take off, I will need to be very uncomfortable now to be comfortable later.

Refreshing The Shark Tank

Ho: When and where did you first audition and appear on Shark Tank?

Gauthier: The Shark Tank experience was crazy. We found out about the San Francisco open casting call via Facebook. I have been watching this show religiously for the last few years, and now you mean to tell me I have the opportunity to audition. I’m in.

I have Shark Tank on my vision board at home. There was no way I was missing this. I took off from work to go to the audition. Something I remember from reading “Think and Grow Rich” says “The time will never be “just right, start where you stand, and work with whatever tools you may have at your command, and better tools will be found as you go along.” So we went for it and killed it.

Ho: Given that you didn’t get a deal, should you have done anything differently?

Gauthier: Although we didn’t get a deal, the Sharks loved us. I thought Lori was going to offer a deal. Because of Lori and the garlic test, which was awesome by the way, we received the stamp of approval “It works.”

She experiences first hand (pun intended) the power of Sprëtz and how it can be used on the hands after getting foods like garlic on your hands. We also received invaluable advice that you can only get from the tank. They gave us props for our passion, drive, and hustle, but no deal.

I don’t think they understood the potential of Sprëtz or the fact that there is a huge market out there for Sprëtz. The one thing I wish we could have done was to go more into more about the target market and why someone would use it but we couldn’t.

Ho: How did you prepare for your appearance?

Gauthier: Practice, Practice, Practice. I rehearsed every day. I watched every episode of Shark Tank before going to the show. I would stage a faux tank at my home with my wife and go over the business pitch.

Ho: What made it a success?

Gauthier: I think just being ourselves, being authentic and being transparent is what made it a success. When I spoke about my mother, it was real; it wasn’t staged, I damn near broke down in tears when I spoke about my mother’s passing. I focused on not being nervous and being able to enjoy and appreciate the experience as a whole.

I mean being on the show in itself was a huge success. I am very proud of making it that far. I know my mother would have been proud of me. What made it a success was the energy. From the moment those doors open, our energy and passion were second to none.

Ho: What about being in the Tank (or whatever happened before or after) surprised you the most?

Gauthier: First I was surprised that Daymond John wasn’t there. I wanted him to be there. What surprised me the most is that the Sharks didn’t get it. I thought they would get it.

The moment we aired, Twitter went crazy. My email blew up, and people were writing in saying, “ What the hell, how do they not get it! This product would be perfect for hockey players, chefs, waiters, fishermen, athletes, smokers, medical marijuana patients, teachers, you name it.” You see, the people got it.

Ho: If you could do the show over, what would you do differently?

Gauthier: If I could do the show over, I probably would have shown a video of Sprëtz in action. Other than that, I wouldn’t do much different.

Ho: What are the secrets of a successful audition and appearance?

Gauthier: There are no secrets to a successful pitch. If there were, then it wouldn’t be a secret. Be authentic. Be yourself. Know your business and enjoy the moment. No matter what happens, it’s a blessing.

Formulating a Business Plan

Ho: What are your goals for your business over the next year and five years?

Gauthier: I want Sprëtz to be in every store, gas station, airport, grocery store, music video, sports commercial, vending machines you name it. The goal is to be a successful multi-million dollar brand with a product that everyone can and will use. I want to provide jobs for residents, high school students and give back to the local economy.  I want to continue to grow Sprëtz into a nationwide company but based in my hometown, Oakland, Calif. So I can at some point relax.

Ho: What is your media and marketing strategy? How do you acquire new customers and what are your customer acquisition costs?

Gauthier: Word of mouth, trade shows and social media are the greatest tools of our generation. For the most part everyone has a smartphone, smart watch, tablet or access to a computer of some sort. Utilizing social media and the Internet is the best way for Sprëtz to reach its customers and gain new ones.

Ho: What was the most effective thing you did to get more exposure for your business before going on Shark Tank?

Gauthier: Utilizing social media and embracing my local network of resources. I wasn’t afraid to ask for help, or favors and talk to my community. We promoted the hell out of the upcoming appearance on Shark Tank.

Freshest Business Books and Tools

Ho: What business books do you recommend people read and why?

Gauthier: A few of the books that I am going to name have no direct correlation to business. But they have a connection to self-belief and any successful business begins with positive belief.

I think every entrepreneur should read The Alchemist, 48 Laws of Power, The Power of Broke, and most importantly Think and Grow Rich at least once. And listen to The Strangest Secret by Earl Nightingale.

Ho: What are your favorite business websites, tools or resources that you love and why?

Gauthier: My favorite resources have been my surroundings. It’s true what they say “if you surround yourself with successful people, then you too will be successful or at least learn how to be.” I don’t know where Sprëtz would be without the guidance and support from folks at 510 Media, Nido, State Creative, Celebritunity Productions, 389 and Mad Oak.

Ho: What’s the worst mistake you’ve ever made in business and how can others learn from it?

Gauthier:  At one point I underestimated my value, knowledge, and capacity of the business. I would outsource tasks to someone who had a Masters or Ph.D. in a particular area. I assumed they should be the one doing that defined task.

In no way am I discrediting the awesome and amazing hardworking individual that does, I am just saying that in today’s society, with the wealth of knowledge at our fingertips on the web and in books (yes paperback books), we can learn anything.

I have made it a point in my life that if I need something done but I have to rely on someone to do it, then I’d rather pick up a book or turn on the Internet and learn how to do it myself. There are no excuses for why a person should not be able to educate themselves with some many tools at our convenience and fingertips.

Now granted, some areas of interest may be more difficult than others, and it may take more time. But I still do my best to get at least a fundamental understanding of whatever it is that needs to be done for business to succeed.

Ho: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

Gauthier: The best advice I’ve ever received was that failure is a part of the process, quitting is not. You have to fail many times to succeed even once. So never give up. Focus on your goal no matter how big or small and focus. Laser sharp focus with the accuracy of an arrow.

Making mistakes is fine. It’s the quitting that isn’t. If you stay persistent and know where you want to be, you will eventually arrive there. Own it.

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