ABC
ABC

15 of the Most Successful Products from Shark Tank

ABC
ABC

Since premiering in 2009, Shark Tank has made a business out of making businesses. The highly-rated ABC series permits entrepreneurs to pitch their product ideas to a panel of potential investors that includes Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, “Queen of QVC” Lori Greiner, and acerbic Kevin O’Leary. Good products find encouragement and investment capital; questionable inventions face withering scorn and a long walk back to the dressing room.

Of the hundreds of items to be featured on the show, a relatively small percentage go on to success. (Many deals, in fact, dry up during the due diligence stage.) Here are 15 of the most successful to come out of the Tank, including several that failed to entice the “Sharks” but still managed to make it big.

1. KODIAK CAKES

A model holds up a box of Kodiak Cakes pancake mix
Kodiak Cakes

It can be hard to break the habit people have reaching for Bisquick pancake mix, but Utah-based Kodiak Cakes is making an impressive effort in that direction. The flour-based mix—which adds more whole grains and protein than your average grocery store offering—was featured on the show in 2013, with owner Joel Clark walking away empty-handed. (He didn’t want to give up more than 10 percent equity.) Bolstered by the attention and supported by health-conscious carb lovers, the company recorded $54 million in revenue in 2017 and is now the fourth largest pancake mix on shelves. You can also find their premade waffles and pancakes in freezer aisles. 

2. READEREST

A model demonstrates the ReadeRest eyeglass clip
ReadeRest

Rick Hopper, a former supervisor at Home Depot, had his eureka moment in 2010 when he found himself misplacing his reading glasses. That frustration led to ReadeREST (“reader rest”), a magnetic pocket filler that allows glasses-wearers to clip their spectacles to their shirt when not in use. Unlike glasses kept loose in a pocket, the clip prevents them from slipping out and crashing to the floor when a person bends over. Hopper accepted an offer from Greiner and subsequently sold $100,000 in product the first time it appeared on QVC. They’ve since done over $27 million in sales.

3. COUSINS MAINE LOBSTER

Cousins Maine Lobster co-founders pose for a photo with Queen Latifah
Cousins Maine Lobster

Hoping to bring an authentic Maine lobster roll experience to the West Coast, cousins Sabin Lomac and Jim Tselikis started their Cousins Maine Lobster food truck in Los Angeles in 2012. That success captured the interest of Shark Tank producers, who invited the two on the show. Shark Barbara Corcoran invested a total of $55,000, which helped facilitate a growing number of the trucks and led to total sales in excess of $20 million. Consumers outside of their vehicle reach can also order live, claw-snapping Maine lobsters from their website.

4. GROOVEBOOK

A screen shot that explains how the GrooveBook app works
GrooveBook

Print isn’t dead—at least, not print-on-demand. GrooveBook, an app that allows users to flag social media photos and request physical prints as part of a customized photo book, appeared on season five of Shark Tank and scored a deal with Mark Cuban and Kevin O’Leary. Prior to their appearance, owners Julie and Brian Whiteman had about 18,000 paid subscribers. Following the broadcast, that number rose to 500,000. In 2015, the company sold for $14.5 million to Shutterfly.

5. SQUATTY POTTY

The Squatty Potty sits next to a toilet
Squatty Potty

A plastic stool meant to facilitate more efficient emptying of the colon, the Squatty Potty made a splash when it was featured on the show in 2014. The company moved than $1 million in product in the 24 hours following broadcast—that was in addition to Greiner’s $500,000 investment. In 2016, the company topped $30 million sales. Creator Bobby Edwards cites his chronically constipated mother, Judy, as being the inspiration.

6. GRACE AND LACE

A model wears a knee and boot accessory from Grace and Lace
Grace and Lace

A 2013 appearance and $175,000 investment by Corcoran led to this women’s accessory business owned by couple Rick and Melissa Hinnant growing from $1 million to over $20 million in sales. The expedited success left the owners scrambling to fill sock orders, which was met with some consternation by customers unhappy with the delays. (“I’m going to burn them,” wrote one impatient buyer.) Most of their orders come via their website, though they have a growing presence in boutique stores.

7. BUBBA’S Q

A bottle of Bubba's Q barbeque sauce sits next to a plate of ribs
Bubba's Q

Former NFL player Al “Bubba” Baker pitched his Bubba’s Q boneless ribs to the Tank in 2014, with Shark Daymond John seeing potential in Baker’s signature meat-and-sauce combination and agreeing to invest $300,000 for a 30 percent stake. The company went from doing $154,000 in sales prior to the show to $16 million in 2017. The ribs can be found online, in Costco, on QVC, and were also featured as part of a Carl’s Jr. menu. Baker owns patents on his process, making him the only person able to sell a deboned and cooked rib.

8. TIPSY ELVES

Models sport holiday sweaters from Tipsy Elves
Tipsy Elves

Ugly holiday sweaters might appear to belong only on thrift store shelves, but Tipsy Elves co-founders Nick Morton and Evan Mendelsohn managed to convince Shark Robert Herjavec to invest $100,000 for a 10 percent stake in their business during a 2013 appearance. Peddling the clothing—which feature hideously charming or charmingly hideous designs, depending on your perspective—has paid off for everyone, with sales exceeding $10 million in 2015. Three days before taping the show, Mendelsohn went to Panda Express and found a curious prediction in his fortune cookie: “An investment opportunity will find you.”

9. RING

A Ring doorbell is mounted outside of a house
Ring

The doorbell-camera hybrid Ring recently sold to Amazon for $1.1 billion, but during a 2013 appearance, CEO James Siminoff faced a lineup of Sharks who could barely keep their eyes open. (Only one, O’Leary, even bothered to make an offer.) Mark Cuban later stated that he would decline the opportunity again if given the chance, citing a high valuation as a stumbling block. The Amazon sale also paid off for Shaquille O’Neal, who agreed to be a pitchman for the product in 2016 in exchange for equity.

10. BEDJET

A BedJet device sits next to a mattress
BedJet

Few entrepreneurs have flamed out as spectacularly as former NASA employee Mark Aramli, who appeared on a 2015 episode touting his BedJet, a climate-controlling mattress pad that allows users to adjust to their preferred temperature. The Sharks disagreed with his $2.5 million valuation and $499 price tag. Greiner later tweeted she was “pissed off” by his disposition. No one wanted to get in bed with him, but Aramli got the last laugh with $3 million in sales in the 18 months following the broadcast.

11. COPA DI VINO

A Copa di Vino wine glass is held up
Copa di Vino

It’s rare to score even one opportunity to make a product presentation on Shark Tank: Having two is almost unheard of. Copa Di Vino founder James Martin first appeared in 2011 with his idea for single-serve wine glasses that are sealed to maintain freshness. While he failed to find a partner, Martin still profited from the attention, going from $500,000 to $5 million in sales. That success led to a second invite in 2017. Again, the Sharks were less than fond of his brazen approach to negotiation. (He took sips from his own supply.) But Copa is still doing fine, selling 38 million cups through 2017.

12. SIMPLY FIT BOARD

A model demonstrates the Simply Fit exercise board
Amazon

Resembling something like a skateboard liberated from its wheels, the Simply Fit board is a core balance device meant to strengthen abdominal muscles. In a 2015 appearance, co-founders Gloria Hoffman and Linda Clark convinced Greiner that it was a wise investment, but Greiner felt she had to act fast: Without a patent, copycats would become a problem. Sales went from $575,000 to $9 million in a matter of months, with placement in Home Depot and Walmart locations.

13. CHEF BIG SHAKE

The exterior of the Chef Big Shake restaurant
Chef Big Shake

Who doesn’t crave a juicy, delicious shrimp burger? All the Sharks, apparently, as this seafood offering failed to entice any investment offers when Shawn Davis pitched it in 2012. The exposure quickly led to offscreen offers for funding, however, and his Chef Big Shake banner went from $30,000 to $5 million in sales thanks in part to an expanded menu of chicken, popcorn, and other items. Davis originally formulated the patty for his pescatarian daughter, who is currently back to eating meat.

14. SCRUB DADDY

A close-up of the Scrub Daddy cleaning sponge
Your Best Digs, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

In what is likely the single biggest nonedible success story to emerge from Shark Tank, inventor Aaron Krause convinced Greiner to invest $200,000 in his smiley-faced sponge. (The mouth is good for cleaning utensils.) But the Scrub Daddy is more than just a vessel to tackle dried-on chili from pans: Rinsed under hot water, it gets pliable enough to use on counters. Run it under cold and it firms up to tackle baked-on messes. Through 2017, Krause has sold more than 10 million sponges and logged $50 million in sales.  

15. DROP STOP

The packaging for the Drop Stop car accessory
Amazon

Is it the greatest invention since the light bulb? Or at least the Snuggie? The Drop Stop is a foam-filled log that fits in the crack between a car seat and the center console. If a passenger drops their car keys or other items in the “Carmuda Triangle,” they will still be within easy reach. Co-founders Marc Newburger and Jeffrey Simon appeared on the show in 2012, secured a deal, and went on to sell 2.4 million Drop Stops for $24 million in revenue.

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Karl Walter, Getty Images
When the FBI Investigated the 'Murder' of Nine Inch Nails's Trent Reznor
Karl Walter, Getty Images
Karl Walter, Getty Images

The two people standing over the body, Michigan State Police detective Paul Wood told the Hard Copy cameras, “had a distinctive-type uniform on. As I recall: black pants, some type of leather jacket with a design on it, and one was wearing combat boots. The other was wearing what looked like patent leather shoes. So if it was a homicide, I was thinking it was possibly a gang-type homicide.”

Wood was describing a puzzling case local police, state police, and eventually the FBI had worked hard to solve for over a year. The mystery began in 1989, when farmer Robert Reed spotted a circular group of objects floating over his farm just outside of rural Burr Oak, Michigan; it turned out to be a cluster of weather balloons attached to a Super 8 camera.

When the camera landed on his property, the surprised farmer didn't develop the footage—he turned it over to the police. Some local farmers had recently gotten into trouble for letting wild marijuana grow on the edges of their properties, and Reed thought the balloons and camera were a possible surveillance technique. But no state or local jurisdictions used such rudimentary methods, so the state police in East Lansing decided to develop the film. What they saw shocked them.

A city street at night; a lifeless male body with a mysterious substance strewn across his face; two black-clad men standing over the body as the camera swirled away up into the sky, with a third individual seen at the edge of the frame running away, seemingly as fast as possible. Michigan police immediately began analyzing the footage for clues, and noticed the lights of Chicago’s elevated train system, which was over 100 miles away.

It was the first clue in what would become a year-long investigation into what they believed was either a cult killing or gang murder. When they solved the “crime” of what they believed was a real-life snuff film, they were more shocked than when the investigation began: The footage was from the music video for “Down In It,” the debut single from industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails, and the supposed dead body was the group's very-much-alive lead singer, Trent Reznor.

 
 

In 1989, Nine Inch Nails was about to release their debut album, Pretty Hate Machine, which would go on to be certified triple platinum in the United States. The record would define the emerging industrial rock sound that Reznor and his rotating cast of bandmates would experiment with throughout the 1990s and even today on albums like The Downward Spiral and The Slip.

The band chose the song “Down In It”—a track with piercing vocals, pulsing electronic drums, sampled sound effects, and twisted nursery rhyme-inspired lyrics—as Pretty Hate Machine's first single. They began working with H-Gun, a Chicago-based multimedia team led by filmmakers Eric Zimmerman and Benjamin Stokes (who had created videos for such bands as Ministry and Revolting Cocks), and sketched out a rough idea for the music video.

Filmed on location among warehouses and parking garages in Chicago, the video was supposed to culminate in a shot with a leather-jacketed Reznor running to the top of a building, while two then-members of the band followed him wearing studded jumpsuits; the video would fade out with an epic floating zoom shot to imply that Reznor's cornstarch-for-blood-covered character had fallen off the building and died in the street. Because the cash-strapped upstarts didn’t have enough money for a fancy crane to achieve the shot for their video, they opted to tie weather balloons to the camera and let it float up from Reznor, who was lying in the street surrounded by his bandmates. They eventually hoped to play the footage backward to get the shot in the final video.

Instead, the Windy City lived up to its name and quickly whisked the balloons and camera away. With Reznor playing dead and his bandmates looking down at him, only one of the filmmakers noticed. He tried to chase down the runaway camera—which captured his pursuit—but it was lost, forcing them to finish shooting the rest of the video and release it without the planned shot from the missing footage in September of 1989.

Meanwhile, unbeknownst to the band, a drama involving their lost camera was unfolding in southwest Michigan. Police there eventually involved the Chicago police, whose detectives determined that the footage had been filmed in an alley in the city's Fulton River District. After Chicago authorities found no homicide reports matching the footage for the neighborhood and that particular time frame, they handed the video over to the FBI, whose pathologists reportedly said that, based on the substance on the individual, the body in the video was rotting.

 
 

The "substance" in question was actually the result of the low-quality film and the color of the cornstarch on the singer’s face, which had also been incorporated into the press photos for Pretty Hate Machine. It was a nod to the band's early live shows, in which Reznor would spew cornstarch and chocolate syrup on his band members and the audience. “It looks really great under the lights, grungey, a sort of anti-Bon Jovi and the whole glamour thing,” Reznor said in a 1991 interview.

With no other easy options, and in order to generate any leads that might help them identify the victim seen in the video, the authorities distributed flyers to Chicago schools asking if anyone knew any details behind the strange “killing.”

The tactic worked. A local art student was watching MTV in 1991 and saw the distinctive video for “Down In It,” which reminded him of one of the flyers he had seen at school. He contacted the Chicago police to tip them off to who their supposed "murder victim" really was. Nine Inch Nails’s manager was notified, and he told Reznor and the filmmakers what had really happened to their lost footage.

“It’s interesting that our top federal agency, the Federal Bureau of [Investigation], couldn’t crack the Super 8 code,” co-director Zimmerman said in an interview. As for Wood and any embarrassment law enforcement had after the investigation: “I thought it was our duty, one way or the other, to determine what was on that film,” he said.

“My initial reaction was that it was really funny that something could be that blown out of proportion with this many people worked up about it,” Reznor said, and later told an interviewer, “There was talk that I would have to appear and talk to prove that I was alive.” Even though—in the eyes of state, local, and federal authorities—he was reportedly dead for over a year, Reznor didn’t seem to be bothered by it: “Somebody at the FBI had been watching too much Hitchcock or David Lynch or something,” he reasoned.

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Courtesy of Park Circus and MGM
West Side Story Is Returning to Theaters This Weekend
Courtesy of Park Circus and MGM
Courtesy of Park Circus and MGM

As Chris Pratt and a gang of prehistoric creatures get ready to face off against some animated superheroes for this weekend’s box office dominance, an old rivalry is brewing once again on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. West Side Story—Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins’s classic big-screen rendering of Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim’s Broadway musical—is returning to cinemas for the first time in nearly 30 years.

As part of TCM’s Big Screen Classics Series, West Side Story will have special screening engagements at more than 600 theaters across the country on Sunday, June 24 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. If you can’t make it this weekend, encores will screen at the same time on Wednesday, June 27. The film—which is being re-released courtesy of TCM, Fathom Events, Park Circus, and Metro Goldwyn Mayer—will be presented in its original widescreen format, and include its original mid-film intermission. (Though its 2.5-hour runtime is practically standard nowadays, that wasn’t the case a half-century ago.) The screening will include an introduction and some post-credit commentary by TCM’s Ben Mankiewicz.

West Side Story, which was named Best Picture of 1961, is a musical retelling of Romeo and Juliet that sees star-crossed lovers Maria (Natalie Wood) and Tony (Richard Beymer) navigate the challenges of immigration, racial tension, and inner-city life in mid-century Manhattan—but with lots of singing and dancing. In addition to being named Best Picture, the beloved film took home another nine Oscars, including Best Director, Best Supporting Actor and Actress (for George Chakiris and Rita Moreno, respectively), and Best Music—obviously.

To find out if West Side Story is screening near you, and to purchase tickets, visit Fathom Events’s website.

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