Assessing the ‘Shark Tank’ Effect on Beauty
“Shark Tank” is on a beauty streak.
In its first decade on air, the beauty brands that went on “Shark Tank” to pitch were homegrown mom-and-pop companies. But in the last few years, that’s changed, with more well-known beauty and wellness brands like Nopalera, Youthforia, Kinfield, 54 Thrones, Bala, Mad Rabbit and Range Beauty having gone on the show. Some have made deals and some haven’t, but the common thread amongst all is it’s worth it for the exposure alone.
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“There’s been a shift in the cosmetic and beauty industry over the last three years, particularly because during the pandemic, many of these large brands started to build direct-to-consumer businesses,” said shark Kevin O’Leary, otherwise known as “Mr. Wonderful.” “They were forced to do that because a lot of the retail distribution was closed for almost two years. One of the remarkable things about getting on ‘Shark Tank,’ whether you get a deal or not, it reduces your customer acquisition costs to basically zero.”
The awareness alone is an obvious win, according to O’Leary. “Shark Tank” is in its 14th season, and data from Nielsen found that during the 2022 and 2023 broadcast season, an average of 4.4 million people tuned in each week.
“We’re now casting for season 15,” added O’Leary, who is betting on a plethora of beauty and health plays coming in. “I don’t know that for certain because I’m not allowed to see them, but I get a pretty good index of people calling me up from this industry asking how do I apply to get on ‘Shark Tank,’ and most of them are huge brands.”
“Shark Tank” airs on ABC, but episodes are syndicated to CNBC, streamed on Hulu, and uploaded to YouTube, Instagram and TikTok in snippets, attracting millions more viewers. Episodes are also reaired almost daily, so brands can get in front of a demographic they’ve never been exposed to before.
“With ‘Shark Tank,’ we had a platform to reach even more people and bring more awareness to the disparity that melanin-rich skin tones face within beauty,” said Alicia Scott, founder and chief executive officer of Range Beauty, who was offered a deal by “guest shark” Emma Grede.
“We were told the demographic was majority white men and women who were older, around 40-plus, not really who we target our products to,” continued Scott. “So I was nervous. And then, on top of that, I was nervous because we are a dot-com brand, people couldn’t rush out to the stores and try. You have to go to our website and pick out your shade or order our sampler. But we set a goal and we surpassed it the first night.”
Scott’s episode aired in February 2020 and the impact lasted until the end of March 2020. Nopalera made $300,000 in sales in the two weeks after it aired; 54 Thrones sold out of certain items and saw the biggest lift in its five years in business; Bala sold out on Amazon and on their dot-com; Youthforia saw a huge lift in sales and their segment had 8 million views on YouTube eight to 10 days after airing; and Kinfield saw thousands of orders in that first weekend, ending January with 27 times its prior year’s sales.
Mad Rabbit, a skin care line for tattoo care, who inked a deal with Mark Cuban, also saw a strong impact when it aired. The episode went live on a Friday, and through the weekend, they did $400,000 in sales. “Revenue obviously exploded, our email list exploded, our SMS exploded, and our social media gained about 20,000 followers,” said Oliver Zak, cofounder and CEO of Mad Rabbit. “We made a point to raise our seed round right after ‘Shark Tank,’ with the momentum of having Mark Cuban coming into the company with a $500,000 check. We really leveraged that from a business PR perspective to gain momentum in our initial round.”
Mad Rabbit just announced its series A round of $10 million and Cuban invested again alongside Lucas Brand Equity.
Cuban, of all the sharks, has made the majority of deals within the beauty and wellness industry. He also invested in Bala and Youthforia. His immediate interest is peaked to invest when he asks himself, “Why didn’t I think of that?” “[The beauty industry] is a very difficult business. You have to be creative, agile, relentless and love every minute of it,” said Cuban over email. “Few entrepreneurs are cut out for it. They think because gross margins are high, it’s an easy way to make money. They fail to realize that most brands fail.”
Deal or no deal, all the brands that Beauty Inc spoke with agreed that the constant practicing and perfecting of their pitch was worth it for the experience alone. “If you’re training for a race, whether or not you win the race, you’re more fit as a result of the training,” said Max Kislevitz, cofounder of Bala. “We whipped Bala into better shape than it had ever been. We’re now three years removed from it. So we’ve grown since. But the business was so much better off by the end of that process than it was at the start of it. We happened to take a deal that was a value for the business. But even if nobody expressed an interest in Bala, we were in such better shape as a result, even if our airing did ultimately get cut.”
Nichole Powell, founder and CEO of Kinfield, added, “Even if you don’t get a deal, the process of working on your pitch with the producers to make it as snappy and catchy as possible is such a helpful exercise that any brand would benefit from.”
The probability of getting a deal is around two-thirds per 100 entrepreneurs who make it on air each season. But often, deals fall through during due diligence for myriad reasons, sometimes because the founder realizes they can’t give up as much equity as the deal offered.
That said, the sharks are eager to get into the beauty and wellness industry. Although involvement is varied, Bala has fared well working with Cuban and guest shark Maria Sharapova. “We reserve our conversations with the sharks about the bigger questions, whether it be financing, a massive purchase order, or a bigger strategic decision,” said Kislevitz. “But then in a more marketing and PR capacity, they’ve been involved with us at different points in very different ways. Mark was onstage with us at South by Southwest for a panel that was hosted by Tinx. Maria has been in photo shoots and on panels with Natalie at our now-closed pop-up space in SoHo. They’ve made room for us in terms of the brand value that they have.”
When sharing their experience in preparation for the show, all brand founders said the entire process, from applying to the first airing, is about eight to 12 months. “It’s a very, very, very long process and then you tape and who knows when you air,” said Sandra Velasquez, founder and ceo of Nopalera. “I filmed in July 2022 and aired in January 2023 and that’s a huge chunk of time. So I would recommend it as long as you’re prepared to have a part-time job.”
The same can be said for Youthforia founder Fiona Co Chan’s experience. “In our life cycle of Youthforia, we were six months into launching when someone from ‘Shark Tank’ reached out to us about going on the show,” she said. “So we were really tiny. The process was over a year of my life from when I first talked to producers to us airing. So a lot has gone on in the world of Youthforia since then.”
Still, each of these brands agreed it’s worth going on “Shark Tank.” “A lot of people are going to purchase from you that night you air,” said Christina Funke Tegbe, founder and CEO of 54 Thrones. “For us, not everyone needed a hand cream, but when you’re on the show, the audience buys into the founder and they want to support you, especially if they believe in you and you’re really compelling. So you will get onetime customers that want to support who may not need your product.”
During the airing, Funke Tegbe watched it alongside her community and streamed it via Instagram Live. “We were the last brand to air on the show,” she added. “As soon as I walked on and I said my brand’s name, I saw the watchers on our IGLive shoot up because people were on their phones and thought to look us up and go on our live. And as I was talking, the Shopify ringer was just going and going and going on our site, purchasing and purchasing.”
Founders are told about three weeks before their episodes will go live and need to be prepared for the onslaught of orders that most likely will come in. Prior to her episode, Velasquez was told to launch on Amazon. “Some of my founder friends who had been on the show warned me in advance that we should be on Amazon because America is going to go there,” she said. “So in advance, I launched on Amazon quietly and sales were 50/50, 3,000 on Amazon and 3,000 orders on our website.”
Natalie Holloway, cofounder of Bala, noted, “Having ‘As seen on Shark Tank’ in our Instagram bio gives that automatic credibility, especially on Amazon. It’s a search term. If you type in ‘Shark Tank’ brands, you will easily find us.”
After going on the show, Funke Tegbe heard from retailers, venture capitalists and angel investors. Her direct messages and emails were flooded with all types of people who wanted to support the brand and had a business proposition. Vasquez also heard from investors who congratulated her for not taking a deal and diluting her valuation. “A lot of investors that I was talking to last year reached out,” she said. “It makes you top-of-mind. But the biggest thing was the huge boost in sales, visibility and exposure to mass America. It’s like being on ‘American Idol.’ You’re always going to say you were on ‘American Idol.’”
How the application process works
To apply for “Shark Tank,” brands can submit a short application on the show’s website. If interested, a producer then reaches out to schedule a call for an interview, which doesn’t always guarantee a spot on the show. Casting directors at “Shark Tank” are also known to contact brands that they want to see apply, yet they still have to go through the standard application process.
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