Last month, two Dublin students threw caution to the wind and jumped into The Shark Tank. They came armed with only grand ideas and their wits and faced down five aggressive and highly experienced business professionals.
Based on the ABC reality television program of the same name, the members of the Dublin School Business Club are locked in a fierce competition to obtain real-world experience and advise on what it takes to run a successful business, as well as win the $500 prize. These young entrepreneurs will pitch their inventions and business plans to a panel of potential investors. The panel for this session included: Mr. William Barker, a trustee and former Markem executive; Mr. Timothy Steele, Dublin trustee founder and owner of Microspec; Mr. Richard Gorgan, regional manager of Small Business Development Center in Keene; and Mr. Brian Perkins, Assistant Vice President of TD Bank.
Pan Zhiyu and Will Hamar were the first members to pitch their invention and business plan. Pan presented the GoCharge, a small battery that attaches to your shoe, to capture kinetic energy for charging cell phones. Mr. William Barker, a trustee and former Markem executive, offered Pan $300,000 for 80% ownership of the company. Pan declined. Not to be deterred, Mr. Barker came back with a million dollar offer for the same share. Pan hesitated, but eventually declined. The panelist questioned and critiqued Pan’s business plan, asking hard, economic questions, pursuing logistical questions of manufacturing and costs. In the end, the panelists suggested that Pan continue to work out his profit margins, the legal issues and develop a through marketing plan.
Will Hamar stepped confidently before the panel with his plan for DIME (Dublin Incubator and Mentoring Enterprise) a regional consulting firm to help inventors, local business owners and young entrepreneurs develop their ideas and plan a strong business model. The Sharks went to work poking and prodding Will’s idea, pressing him to tell them what is unique and profitable about his plan.
Mr. Gorgan asked, “How do you attract the kind of business for your expertise?” quickly followed by Mr. Perkins, “My time is quite valuable, so how do you pay the consultants?” Mr. Stelle stated, “The quality of partnership is essential, and so it will need a channel for selecting companies. How do you get the word out on your company?” Mr. Barker rounded out this barrage of questions saying, “Everyone and their brother has an invention or business idea. So how do you plan to attract the good ideas?”
Will respond with each question in turn, never flustered and confident that his plan was a good one. In the end, the panel offered Will the advice to tighten his business model, come up with more hard facts and budget.
It is clear that the Shark tank isn't for everyone, but there is a lot to learn if you have the guts. For the next couple of months, twelve students, accompanied by their advisors, Ms. Jen Whitesel and Mr. John Adams, will hone their plans, refine their pitch, and check their ego at the door, for these guys play for keeps.