We’ve all seen or heard of Shark Tank, and if you’ve got a business, you may have checked out how to get on the show. Well, on May 13, I took the first step and tried out for the show. I’ll break down my audition process here.
I’ve been on the fence about whether I would even want to be on Shark Tank or not. I didn’t really have enough sales to justify a big company valuation and felt like I wasn’t quite ready. I had also read old news about ABC taking a cut of 5% of your business just for being on the show. Turns out that is no longer the case and my sales are good enough to justify a larger valuation, so I figured I was as ready as I’d ever be.
The Shark Tank “Open Calls” are posted on ABC’s website here. There’s no reservations required and all you have to do is fill out the application form they have linked at the site. So, all you have to do is get to one of the audition sites and be ready to pitch your idea. There was one coming up in Raleigh, NC, on May 13 which is about 6 hours from me, so I decided to go for it. The site tells you that numbered wristbands would be distributed 9-11am, with the actual auditions starting at 10am. I wanted to get there early so hopefully I could make it home that day, so I decided to spend the night before.
I left home around noon on the 12th – the drive ended up taking more like 9 hrs due to some really bad rain and road closures. I checked into my motel which was about 10 minutes from the tryout location, Marbles Kids’ Museum. (it was a weird place to host the auditions, more on that later). The rain had let up a bit, so I swung by the site to get a feel for it and see if I needed to go ahead and get in line then. It looked like there were just a few people who had already set up outside, so I figured I’d get some sleep in a real bed. It was good that I scoped out the site, though, since there were a number of people who had lined up on the wrong side of the building the next morning.
I slept pretty well, and intended on getting up at 5am, get showered and breakfast and get in line by 6am. My body got me up at 4am, though, so I just figured I’d get there a bit earlier. Shower, packing up, etc. went fine, but there is NO WHERE that is open 24hrs in the downtown Raleigh area. I had to drive out to their beltway to find a gas station that was open – a breakfast of awful coffee, a Fig Newton and banana had to do.
After all of that, I ended up getting in line at 6am anyway and that was fine. At that point,I estimated there were about 30 people in front of me in the line. I brought a camp chair, my poncho and my sample bag. If it rained again, I can sit in the chair cross-legged and make a tent out of my ponch, staying totally dry (although it looked close several times, it luckily did not rain while I was in line). Some previous blogs I had read, along with the Shark Tank site, said that you would have time to get props and stuff from your car between when you get your wristband and when you audition. I brought my stuff just in case and it worked out fine.
I went over my pitch, took a couple of naps and chatted bit with other people in line. They didn’t really seem to want to talk and honestly, I didn’t either really. Around 8:30, the local news crew starting doing some interviews. I tried to get them to interview me, but they got distracted by someone with the dubious product name of “Shower Apron”.
Promptly at 9am, the casting crew came out and distributed wristbands – my estimate was about right since I got #21 – a good lucky card number. It looked like there was about 100 people behind me in line. At this point was when we probably could have gone back to our vehicles to get stuff, but it was never really made clear, and since I was by myself, I would not have wanted to risk it. But I had everything I needed with me,so I just waited.
Again, promptly at 10am, they let in the first 100 groups. We were ushered into a conference room, where Mindy, the casting director, gave us a run-down of what to expect, what to do (be enthusiastic) and what not to do (shake hands). You’ll have a minute to do your pitch, and although it won’t be timed, the staff will start to move you along if you ramble. You’ll pitch to only one of the staff, totally at random and you don’t get to choose (male/female, young/old, etc). You’ll hear back in two weeks if you’re picked to move on, but otherwise you won’t hear anything. She was friendly and funny and the vibe was positive, though.
Mindy the Casting Director gives us the run down
So after that, they called in groups of 10 or so at a time. Here’s where I wasn’t thrilled about the process. The casting staff were in a few of the smaller meeting rooms, and we waited in groups of 5 or so outside the rooms and went in one at a time as the previous person came out. Remember when I said that the site was a kid’s museum? Well, it was open for business and there were kids all over the place doing what kids do. Kind of distracting and a bit jarring, but you’ve got to be ready for anything I suppose. But I had read some other blogs saying that they had curtained booths where they could do a few last run-throughs of their pitch right before going in and that was definitely not the case here.
Anyway, my turn rolled around fairly quickly. I stepped into the room and there were two of the casting staff at two different tables – someone was pitching to the table on the left, the one on the right was open. I handed the caster (what’s the job title of these people) my application package and set up a few of the larger Card Caddies and accessories on the table. She looked up and said “whenever you’re ready” and I did my pitch and really nailed it. She interrupted at one point, which I read that they may likely do just to see how well you respond. I finished and she asked a number of questions about how I would use the money, what my upcoming sales projections were and what my background is. So those questions were a nice opportunity to talk about more stuff about me and the product. She thanked me for being to the point and we fist-bumped and I left. Overall, she was very friendly and engaged – maybe it was because it was still early, though! Looking back when I texted my wife that I was done, it was 10:43, but I had walked back to my car and gotten stuff organized, so I was probably out of there by 10:30.
Afterward, I had an excellent breakfast at Big Ed’s City Market , although I was a bit unimpressed with the grits. Anyway, I was one the road home by noon.
So, what advice would I give?
- Have that pitch nailed – when you get interrupted, if you know it by heart, you can just slide right back in. Also, don’t be locked into repeating it verbatim each time – give yourself a few variations in words and timing – it sounds more natural
- Scope out the site – the people who lined up on the wrong side of the building probably lost around 100 places in line
- Be ready for anything – although I could have gone back and gotten stuff, it would have added to my stress level, so I was happy to have everything I needed for the pitch. Also, although one last practice would have been nice, I was not counting on it, so it wasn’t a big deal they didn’t have the curtained booths
- Be enthusiastic – I didn’t quite get to infomercial-level, but it was close. Mindy said that they were looking for your personality and enthusiasm (this was also backed up by some interviews I read with another Shark Tank casting director). I don’t think they are screening your business idea (although it has to be somewhat viable) as much as your screen presence.
That’s it for now – I’ll let you all know if two weeks if I hear anything!