Founder of TOOR
My first interviewee was Junior Desinor, the founder of TOOR. He created padlocks for rental properties, that can be opened by an app. So, the viewer of the house can tour the home without the owner or real estate agent present to physically open the door. He featured on the hit show Shark Tank, asking for $500,000 in exchange for 10% equity in his company. What made this particular episode so remarkable, was that he asked for half a million dollars with ZERO sales. In this interview, we discussed his shark tank experience and the necessary steps he took to become a successful entrepreneur.
“Prior to being on shark tank, I was nominated for one of the top new real estate technologies of the year. Part of the nomination was flying out to New Jersey to the headquarters of the company that nominated us. I prepared so well for the speech, that I found myself presenting memorized facts and information instead of being myself. This was actually the worst presentation of my life, which was actually only a few weeks before my shark tank appearance. So, learning from that experience, I realized the best way to prepare, is to not prepare too much. Now in regards to Shark Tank, the reason why I was able to ask for so much money with no sales, was because our kick starter campaign already generated sales. I was not only able to sell my product to the sharks but I was able to sell me, being confident in my idea and knowing my business very well. Know your topic and understand your business. Yes, I kind of had a business plan, but TOOR was not my first business, so I already knew what having a business was like. Yes, I do think a business plan is a great idea to have, however, anyone can write an awesome business plan with numbers and lofty goals. Yet, having a tangible product that someone can see and feel makes investors feel more secure about investing in your company, because ultimately seeing is believing. If they can see the prototype, touch it, hold it, and analyze it, they are more likely to take your business seriously. Three pieces of advice I would give a potential entrepreneur is to number one make sure you are passionate about your idea. Two, be confident in what you’re selling and understand how your potential customer can benefit from it. Lastly, don’t be afraid of the word no, I’ve been told no plenty of times, but I knew the value of my product could and stuck with it”.
Lee Mallahan III
Tadpole Tape Cutter LLC
Tadpole LLC is a tape cutter that fits on any role of tape and can cut any type of tape on the planet. This product is manufactured and sold worldwide. Tadpole tape cutters are sold in well-known stores such as Ace and Walmart, and Amazon.
The success of Tadpole LLC has allowed our company to grow and expand drastically. We are now tapping into the international markets and selling our products to manufacturers around the world. In fact, we are currently in the stage of creating two new products, related to handy work merchandise, and have been contacted by some major manufacturers who are interested in our upcoming products.
“Creating this product took much time, trial and error and detail oriented observations, but that process is a part of what made this product successful. Yes, I had a business plan. It was my roadmap to understanding the financials of the company and its potential profitability or the lack thereof. I think having a business plan is very important, especially when trying to get funded by banks or other investors. They want to see proof that your business is not only profitable but profitable, with longevity. A business plan is important for the majority of businesses. Again, you have to be able to prove your product or service shows some promise. Without a business plan, it would be hard to show that your business even has an existing market. The advice that I would give to a developing entrepreneur would be, number one: Work, work and work some more. Anyone who sees a successful business has no clue of what goes on behind the work. They see the success at the end. So, you have to be willing to do everything all the time, until the company is so well funded, that you can hire good people at a higher paying level. Number two: Surround yourself with good and intelligent people. There’s nothing wrong with surrounding yourself with people that are more intelligent than you because you can’t know everything. At first, you may have to do everything, but that doesn’t mean you know everything. Acquiring knowledge from others can be the difference between a failing or a very successful business. Number three: Stay true to yourself. Believe in your product and be willing to see it through. You have to work your plan and work it some more, and you’ll start to see the fruits of your labor”.
Creative Play Writer
Will Power has many professions: Actor, Producer, and teacher. He is particularly successful at playwriting. During our interview, we discussed how Will chose playwriting as one of his professions, and how he made himself stand out from the rest of the many well-known playwriters.
“I would consider myself more of a theater artist or a person who is in the genre of performance. The reason why I chose to be involved in theater started when I was very young around the age of 5 and 6, going with my grandparents to shows. I got into a children’s theater company when I was 10 years old and I just really like the way it made me feel and what it can do; it felt right. Theater was always something that was central to who I was. The child theater company that I was a part of put on shows that were political, and related to the socials issues that were going on in the community in which I lived in San Francisco. I would say one thing that makes me different from other playwriters is that I’ve always been encouraged to think differently. The plays I write are different. They’re connected to traditions and they’re accessible, but they’re not a copy of anything. I feel like I’ve been able to key into that. I think this stems from where I’m from and the experiences I had in my neighborhood, which was culturally rich but economically poor. There’s a creative energy in California. It’s very imaginative. I never had a business plan, which I probably should have because they are very important in regards to entrepreneurship. I started off organizing shows with my friends who were in my rap group. As we became more popular, my mother taught me about budgets– like paying the group and taking care of the costs associated with booking shows and traveling. I learned to produce and promote shows and even market in real informal way. The next phase as an artist was to partner with others to produce my work and I learned to speak the language of financials and how to articulate my artistic vision. The advice I would give a developing entrepreneur would be 1. Keep your integrity. If you make a deal with someone stick to it. 2. Don’t let the money take charge, always value relationships with people before the money. Lastly, try to find the gap that your service can fill. Think about what you have to offer and what problem it could potentially solve for many others”.
Brook Haines is a student in the SMU Meadows class Developing an Arts Venture plan. The class is part of the Arts Entrepreneurship program at SMU. This assignment seeks to identify whether creative entrepreneurs begin with business plans and whether they think they are necessary…or not.
The following is Haines’ analysis of the interviews:
I thoroughly enjoyed this interview process. Being able to speak with and receive advice from seasoned entrepreneurs was very enlightening. The entrepreneurs I interviewed were in very different career fields. One is a creator of padlocks targeting real estate agencies. The second, is a creator of a tape cutter, for those who use tape for handy work or other purposes, and the third, is a theater artist. At first, I was slightly nervous about this interview process. My fear was that I wouldn’t be able to find someone, who has impressive entrepreneurial experience to sit down and talk with me. To my surprise, the interview process only took a little research and willingness to ask for participation. Each of them was very receptive to speaking with me.
Even though none of the interviewees had overlapping career paths, all of them strongly emphasized the value of hard work. In short, they said that if you are not willing to put in the extra effort to jump-start your idea, then you’re either not passionate about it or you’re simply lazy, and entrepreneurs are not characterized by laziness. The success of their businesses proved this information to be true.
Something that also caught my attention, throughout this process, was the overlapping advice that I received from class, and what I heard from each of the interviewees. One phrase in particular that I remember hearing was from Junior Desinor, who stated: “seeing is believing”. He was referring to the importance of making a prototype of your product, and how it encourages investors to not only invest money into your product, but it proves to them that you are serious about the idea. Another concept that struck my attention was the importance of an effective team, which we’ve discussed in class numerous times. Mr. Mallahan gave great advice about having a team and taking time to analyze people to see who would be the best fit for the team and who would bring the most value. The team is a representation of the product and the company, a “good” team is a successful team.
Each of the three interviewees gave rich advice. I learned that entrepreneurial ventures in general, regardless of the market that’s being addressed, begins with an idea. Also, one has to be willing to spend numerous amounts of time to turn that passion into a tangible, viable and hopefully scalable product. There are no guarantees in entrepreneurship. You will, at some point, be told no, but your passion for your idea has to surpass the hurt of failures in order to become a reality.
Each interviewee confirmed that making a business plan is good to do, but nothing compares to an entrepreneur who has transformed the words on a business plan into a concrete product.