3:08 pm August 25, 2009,
by Rodney Ho
Marietta entrepreneur Lori Lite jumped into the shark pool and came out unscathed — and with $250,000.
In an episode of the ABC show “Shark Tank” Sunday, Lite showed off her her Shark Tank products consisting of her line of books and CDs to help kids under stress and convinced real estate mogul Barbara Corcoran to buy 50 percent of her company for $250,000.
“I always had this dream of mine that one of my books would be held up on national television. I just never thought it’d be me!” Lite told me Monday. She hopes the infusion of funds and mentor-ship with Corcoran will allow her to market her expanding Stress Free Kids line.
The show is set up pretty simply: five successful “sharks” who have cash to invest listen to entrepreneurs seeking funding and willing to concede some (or all) control for cash. They show a product line or service and the judges give them offers — or not. For anybody with a business bent, it’s actually a lot of fun.
ABC, in the episode taped last month, provided the back story. Lite, a mother of three, was stressed out with her kids and took stress management classes. She transferred those techniques over to her son, who had a tough time going to sleep, via a short story. It worked. From there, she created a line of books.
She then demonstrated her “progressive muscular relaxation” technique to the sharks. A couple seemed impressed.
Lite noted she and her husband sold 30,000 units out of her kitchen ($180,000 in revenues) and made a profit of $50,000 last year. She said she had a book publisher but decided she’d make more money on her own. She said she has sold more on his own.
At this point, she said afterwards, “I expected a feeding frenzy. I thought they’d offer me $1 million given how much I was helping children. That was the kind of confidence I had.”
But the sharks started nitpicking her business, noting that if she had as broad a distribution as she stated (all the major chains and Amazon), why hadn’t she sold more?
“What are you going to do with my money?” said one skeptical shark Robert Herjavec. “Your valuation is crazy!”
“I can’t believe you don’t appreciate what I’ve done,” Lite said, exasperated. At this point, she said she really thought it was over.
But one shark offered $250K for 100% of the company. “I think you are a star,” said FUBU founder Daymond John. He offered $250,000 for 51 percent of the company. (Lite said he had not indicated any interest at this point so that surprised her.) Corcoran offered the same amount of dough but needed only 50 percent, giving Lite a chance to share in the decision making.
Lite pondered with her husband via phone. He told her to play hardball. She countered with 40 percent for 250K. Neither shark budged. Lite ultimately relented and took Corcoron’s offer.
Later, she said with no idea how the show would work. She was shocked by the 50% and 51% offers. (She had entered asking for $250K for 20% of the company.) “That was a curveball,” she said. “Next season, people will know better.” She worried afterwards that everyone would think she was a patsy when in fact, her deal was not terribly different from others so far.
The publicity from the show alone has propelled sales of her books on Amazon.com, where “Angry Octopus” jumped into the top 200 Monday.