You're about to read the story of how a pen and a potato bought one guy a house.
Plano native Alex Craig started Potato Parcel, a business founded on the idea that people would want to send potatoes with messages scrawled on them. Six months after he founded it, he sold the business to Riad Bekhit for $42,000. Craig used the money to buy a house.
But there was an opportunity on the horizon that Craig didn't want to miss out on — an appearance on the entrepreneur-focused show Shark Tank. So as part of the agreement, Craig receives $1 of each sale after the business appeared on the show.
Craig and Bekhit wore potato costumes and black sunglasses for the show, but when we spoke to Craig in August 2015, he told us he typically dressed in overalls and spoke in a thick Southern accent while promoting Potato Parcel. Once, his parents advised him to dress in a simple polo for an appearance on the Steve Harvey Show, and the appearance didn't generate many sales.
Craig learned the hard way that his appearance — or shtick — is half of the company's appeal. “[Going on Shark Tank] was really intense. Especially when you’re about to walk out in a potato costume and you realize you might look like a complete jackass on national television."
On Friday, Craig and Bekhit presented Potato Parcel to the five "shark" investors. Craig and Bekhit were seeking $50,000 in exchange for 10 percent equity in the business.
“This is stupid on a stick," shark Mark Cuban said to the two men. "It’s actually stupid on a potato,” Craig retorted.
Craig says he had been trying to earn a spot on Shark Tank for several years prior to Friday night's episode, even emailing Dallas Mavericks owner Cuban about his several different business ventures. "I wish they would have showed the part where Mark told me he remembered me," Craig says.
While Bekhit and Craig were standing before the sharks in their potato costumes and black sunglasses, the five sharks mainly laughed. They laughed when Bekhit said they had plans for retail. They laughed when Bekhit said Craig trained him for the job. They laughed when they saw the actual product.
But the showmen were given a glimmer of hope when Mark Cuban said, “It’s not completely crazy, but in order for this to work, I need to see a path of $100 million in sales.” Bekhit said he thought he could only reach $5 to $10 million.
Cuban eventually passed on the opportunity to invest in Potato Parcel and Craig was disappointed. "If you watch closely, you can see my eyes are always darting back to Cuban." However, Kevin O'Leary offered $50,000 for 10 percent plus a 50 cent royalty for 60 days, which increases to a $1 royalty until it reaches $150,000. Robert Herjavec offered $50,000 for 25 percent equity. Bekhit and Craig eventually chose O'Leary.
Craig said while their segment lasted about 10 minutes, they were in there for about one hour while the sharks fired off questions. "Everyone is asking questions at once. They edited it down to make it look smooth, but really it’s chaos," Craig says.
Craig says he wasn't sure what to expect from the experience, but was hoping for some interest from the sharks. “Before we went in, we had no idea what to even expect. I was hoping we would get an offer just because. ... I thought there was a good chance we could just because our sales were crazy. In 13 months, $200,015 in potato sales. I had a feeling there was going to be a few offers.”
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