Shark Tank has done an amazing job of making entrepreneurship look easy. Pitch your idea to millionaires and billionaires, get some cash, get some advice and make your own millions. For the handful of entrepreneurs that get to live this story, it’s a dream.
That story creates a false picture though. For every success on the show, there’s dozens that didn’t work out. If you can’t remember just how many products have been pitched, just browse through all of the shark tank products that have appeared on the show over the years.
Even all of this is a fraction of the number of entrepreneurs that apply for the show. Moreover, that group is an even smaller fraction of the total number of entrepreneurs in the world.
Since the average inventor, creator or business owner will never make it in front of the sharks, what options do you have to find the same level of Shark Tank Success?
Why Were Shark Tank Success Stories Successful?
Before we can talk about finding success, we have to define the ingredients for success.
The Sharks have two huge things to offer, mentorship and capital. These are incredibly valuable and, I would argue, contribute far more to the success of the company than the actual product itself.
Having a great product or idea doesn’t mean anything if you can’t finance it and market it. Many entrepreneurs bootstrap it and learn as they go. That’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just going to take a long time and may be difficult to build the momentum you need to really get off the ground.
However, if you can find someone who’s walked the path before to lead you you can shave months or years off the learning curve. Combine this with proper financing and you’ve got the ingredients for success.
So, as an average entrepreneur, how do you find this?
Pay attention to the next episode of Shark Tank. You’ll likely see several companies openly admit that they don’t need the money. They need an experienced partner to lead them in the next part of their journey.
You shouldn’t need me to tell you that there are thousands of wildly successful people outside of the 5 sharks. Unless you have a really weird niche, there are people within your own industry that are super successful.
These successful people are potential mentors for you. They exist within every industry. If you don’t know any, then you need to get out and network until you find them. Networking is about far more than making sales, it’s also about making connections that you can learn from.
More often than not, these experienced people are more than willing to help you out, you just have to ask. They’re not going to volunteer on their own.
Sure, it can be scary to ask, but what’s the worst that can happen? They say no? Ok. Move on and ask someone else.
You may be surprised that you get more yesses that you expect. Think about it.
If someone saw you as an expert and asked for your advice, would you be put off or flattered? For most, someone seeking your advice and mentorship is an ego boost.
Opportunities for mentorship exist in any industry.
Between mentorship and capital, capital is the easiest by far. The path you take is going to depend on your product, your current situation and your goals.
You you have a product focused on consumers, it’s a little quirky, solves a unique need or has a great story, crowdfunding is a great option. Millions has been raised through crowdfunding. On top of that, you can get a great marketing boost as well.
If your product isn’t a fit for the crowdfunding model, there are a wide array of financing methods that are specifically designed for small businesses.
I’m not an advocate of debt; however, I don’t mind some business debt if it’s used wisely. There should be a specific plan for the funds. That plan should generate enough cash flow to repay the loan on time or early and it should generate a positive ROI.
That may seem silly to say, but I’ve seen plenty of companies that see a big bank balance after their loan is funded and do some really stupid things.
For most, a traditional bank loan won’t be an option. Most startups aren’t bankable. It’s nothing personal, you just don’t meet the underwriting criteria. There are, however, asset based lenders, factors and other forms of alternative financing that are specifically designed for small businesses whose financials aren’t in the best of shape.
Shark Tank isn’t a Magic Button
It’s easy to see these Shark Tank success stories and think that you can’t see the same levels of success on your own. You see stories like Scrub Daddy who barely had $100k in sales when they went on the tank to over $18 million less than a year later. That seems impossible on your own.
However, stories like this happen every day. You just never hear about it. There are millions of successful entrepreneurs in the world that got where they are through hard work and knowing how to leverage the right resources.
You don’t need Shark Tank. Hard work and determination leads to success.