Swimming with the Sharks: My Experience on Shark Tank

Appearing on “Shark Tank” was a dream come true as both a fan of the show and as an entrepreneur trying to grow a business. We got involved in the show so quickly that it’s funny to look back on now. We didn’t exactly follow the traditional process for getting on the show; I was just waiting an episode on TV and the idea hit me – this would be a great opportunity for Wine & Design. I grabbed my laptop and fired off an email to the producers about our company and how hard we’ve worked to build it. The next thing we knew, we were flying to Los Angeles to meet with the Sharks.

The biggest challenge we faced in our whole Shark Tank experience was a race against the clock. Because we didn’t get involved through the typical application process, we had to hustle to prepare all the materials we needed in order to be part of the show. We had to put together an application video and draft a more structured pitch in just a few weeks, while still preparing outfits, gathering props, hiring our model and other preparations we didn’t really think about when the process got started.

We were really nervous going into the taping. One of our main business goals right now is to grow the company and scale up. Our team has been very successful in growing the company without a lot of outside input so far – in just six years we’ve grown from our original location to more than 75 studios across 15 states.  To get where we want to go, however, we’re interested in getting insight and advice from someone with experience growing a business like ours. That’s where our desire to partner with one of the Sharks came in. Aside from the business aspect, we were also looking forward to having a little fun and presenting the Sharks with a small taste of the Wine & Design experience.

Going into the show, Kevin O’Leary was at the top of our Shark wish list because of his partnerships and experience in the wine and bridal industries. We also thought Barbara Corcoran would have been a good partner because she has great franchise experience and would fit in well with our majority-female leadership team and franchisees. When you watch the show, it looks like everything happens very quickly with entrepreneurs making their pitch and the Sharks either making offers or getting out within a 10-minute segment, but in reality they spent around 90 minutes really grilling us on our business model and projected growth.

After a fun, bachelorette party-style painting session – complete with wine and a nude male model! – we got down to business. In the end, we got offers from both Robert Herjavec and Kevin. We gave both offers careful consideration before going with Kevin’s.  Robert was looking for a little more equity in the company than we were willing to sell, and we really felt like Wine & Design would benefit from partnering with Kevin. We asked what he thought he could do for us and we really liked what he had to say about leveraging his knowledge of the wine industry and his insight in social media marketing. We came into the show looking for $500,000 in exchange for 10 percent of the company, but after talking through the financial details with the Sharks, we realized we were valuing the company based on future projects and not our current situation. In the end, we accepted $150,000 for 10 percent.

Working with Kevin has been great so far – they don’t call him Mr. Wonderful for nothing. We’ve had some great conversations with our brand team about potential partnerships, and he’s been able to provide great advice and feedback on a variety of great advice, even in some areas we weren’t expecting. He and his team have been very supportive, and we’re really happy with our decision because of the potential we see to accelerate our growth with him.

About Harriet Mills

Harriet Mills is CEO and Co-Founder of Wine & Design. Starting her business after being laid off from her corporate job with a new four-month old, Harriet’s main inspiration to begin Wine & Design was to build a career that provided the flexibility needed to maintain a healthy work-life balance and fun, family-focused atmosphere that left plenty of room to be a successful entrepreneur and mom. Since creating her first Wine & Design studio in 2010, franchising came only so naturally as the artists hired at the studio, wanted to start their own. Today, Harriet prides 77 Wine & Design studios across 16 states in the nation. She has been awarded with the Triangle Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 in 2016 and was seen on Season 8’s finale of Shark Tank. Harriet continues to lead the paint and sip industry with her unrelenting drive, market savvy personality and innate business instincts.


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