Mark Cuban’s Favorite ‘Shark Tank’ Pitches of All Time
AndrisBarbans / Getty Images/iStockphoto
Mark Cuban has been a staple of the “Shark Tank” cast for seasons two through 10, and after sitting on the panel for over 200 episodes, he’s seen his fair share of pitches. While many of these pitches have failed to grab Cuban’s attention — and funds — some entrepreneurs impressed the billionaire investor enough to get him to put his own money on the line to boost their up-and-coming businesses. Keep reading to see some of the most memorable Mark Cuban “Shark Tank” deals — and find out how the companies are doing now.
Bee Free Honee
This vegan honey made from apples caught the interest of not only Cuban but also Barbara Corcoran and guest shark Chris Sacca when founder Katie Sanchez appeared on the show during season seven in 2016. The three sharks collectively invested $210,000 for a 30% stake. As of 2018, Bee Free Honee was on shelves in 3,000 stores — including Sprouts and Whole Foods — and had racked up just under $1 million in sales, Dallas Business Journal reported.
In 2014, during season six of the show, Cuban and Kevin O’Leary struck a deal with Eli and Jen Crane, the husband-and-wife team behind Bottle Breachers — $150,000 for a 20% stake in the company. The company sells custom-engraved bottle openers made from .50-caliber bullets. Sales soared after their “Shark Tank” appearance, with $1 million in sales in the week following the show’s air date, Dallas Business Journal reported. As of 2018, the company had made just under $17 million in sales.
Bruw, a reusable cold brew coffee filter, is the brainchild of Max Feber, a business student who appeared on season 10 of the show at just 18 years old. Feber accepted Cuban’s offer of $50,000 for 30% equity in the company. The episode aired in January 2019, so it remains to be seen how Cuban’s investment will impact the company’s bottom line.
Would you eat a cricket-based protein bar? Cuban bet that many people would when he invested $50,000 for 10% of Chapul, which makes energy bars with protein-rich cricket flour. Founder Pat Crowley appeared on season five in 2014, and since his appearance, he has achieved national distribution and added new flavors and products to his Chapul brand. As of 2017, Chapul was on track to hit $1.5 million in sales, CNBC reported.
Chapul actually isn’t the only cricket-based food Cuban has invested in. In 2017, during season eight, the shark invested $100,000 for 15% equity in Chirps, high-protein snack chips made with cricket flour. By 2018, the brand had expanded to include new products — like cupcakes and cookies — and had racked up good reviews on Amazon. You can also now purchase the chips at 7-Eleven and other mainstream stores, the Gazette Review reported.
These “male hygiene wipes” were created by four longtime friends and roommates, who appeared on the show during season seven in 2015. Cuban invested $300,000 for a 25% stake in the parent company, Dude Products. Since Dude Wipes appeared on “Shark Tank,” the company landed deals with Target and Walgreens and scaled from $250,000 in sales to $3.2 million in sales as of 2017.
Shawnna Feddersen pitched her company, which creates high-fashion women’s fan apparel, to the sharks in 2014. At the time she appeared on the show, Gameday Couture had already reached $1 million in sales. Cuban offered $100,000 for a 30% stake in the company, but his offer came with a condition — Fedderson needed to make women’s fan apparel for his basketball team, the Dallas Mavericks.
Four years after the episode aired, the company was on track to reach $20 million in total sales, Dallas Business Journal reported.
Guardian Bikes With SureStop Braking Technology
After one of the owners’ grandfathers had a near-fatal bike accident in which he was thrown over the handlebars, founders Brian Riley and Kyle Jansen created Guardian Bikes, a line of kids’ bikes that uses their SureStop braking system to apply braking to the rear wheel before the front wheel. During season eight of the show, Cuban invested $500,000 in the company in exchange for 15% of the company, plus the contingencies that the company would meet six- and 12-month goals, and that they would hire an in-house PR professional. Guardian Bikes continues to pursue a mission of making bike riding accident-free.
Who says sippy cups are just for kids? Two moms pitched their idea of a wine glass with a drink-through lid to the sharks on season eight of the show in 2017, and three sharks took the bait: Cuban, Lori Greiner and Robert Herjavec. The investors teamed up to offer $200,000 for a third of the business. The company used the funds for inventory, production runs and to help with cash flow, Forbes reported. Following the airing of Goverre’s episode, the company made half its previous yearly sales in a single weekend.
Former Air Force mechanic Tom Burden invented his rubberized nonslip tool mat to help keep his own tools in place on the job and then pitched his invention to the sharks on season nine of the show in 2017. Cuban, Grenier and guest shark Richard Branson were impressed with the product and ended up investing $360,000 for a 30% stake. Grypmat has gone on to be named as one of Time’s 50 best inventions of 2018 and has received other awards too, including the Edison Award and a Core77 Design Award.
This line of professional hair care products for infants scored a $75,000 investment from Cuban for 40% of the business when creator Megan Gage appeared on the show during season four in 2013. The appearance on “Shark Tank” led to a giant leap in sales, which enabled Gage to hire a fulfillment and support team. With Cuban’s investment, Hot Tot has been able to expand to sell in more salons and on Amazon, and to develop partnerships with Canada, the Netherlands and the Middle East, The Business Journals reported.
When Ice Shaker CEO Chris Gronkowski appeared on “Shark Tank” during season nine, all five judges on the panel — including guest judge Alex Rodriguez — wanted a stake in the company, which sells insulated bottles that can hold ice for up to 30 hours. Cuban and Rodriguez ended up going in together, landing on a deal for $150,000 for a 15% stake. Since the show, millions of Ice Shakers have been sold, and the product line expanded to include 15 color variations and reusable straws. It’s also now sold at thousands of GNC stores throughout the U.S.
Cuban thought Ilumi, a line of intelligent LED lightbulbs, was a bright idea and invested $350,000 for 25% of the company during season five of the show in 2013. After “Shark Tank,” the Ilumi team was able to grow from five people to 15, and the product is now available at Best Buy, Home Depot and Amazon.
Cuban invested in this instant fire-starter during season seven of the show in 2016. He teamed up with Greiner to offer $300,000 for 30% of the company, and InstaFire used those funds to get the equipment needed to package the product in-house. It now sells in large chains including Walmart, Target, The Home Depot, Ace, True Value, Gander, Meijers and Lowes.
The Lapel Project
The Lapel Project sells removable lapels that can be attached to any suit jacket or old tuxedo jacket to transform it into a custom tux jacket. Cuban bought into the stylish idea, offering $150,000 for a 30% stake in the company. The company used the investment to hire new staff, boost its e-commerce business and distribute through Amazon, Dallas Business Journal reported. Since appearing on the show during season eight, sales increased by over 1,000%, founder Sebastian Garcia told the journal.
During season three in 2012, husband-and-wife team Hanna and Mark Lim pitched their sippy cup as a safer alternative to the ones currently on the market, with no straw to damage kids’ teeth and a product made fully in the U.S. Cuban and Herjavec teamed up to offer $100,000 for 40% of the company. Since then, the company has expanded to include more infant and toddler products under the Lollaland umbrella and had passed $2 million in sales as of 2018, Business Insider reported.
With the rise of the man-bun came the need for a way for men to tie their hair back. That’s where The Longhairs came in — it’s a company selling “Hair Ties for Guys.” The long-haired men behind the brand, Lindsay Barto and Chris Healy, appeared on “Shark Tank” in 2018 on season nine, and accepted an offer from Cuban for $100,000 for a 20% stake in the business. As of November of that year, The Longhairs was generating $30,000 in revenue a month, the Starter Story blog reported.
LuminAID, the makers of a solar-powered lantern, was created by two young entrepreneurs who pitched their product during season six of the show in 2014. All five sharks on the panel made an offer, but Cuban made the winning bid — he offered $200,000 for 15% equity, along with leading the next round of financing with $300,000. The company has since expanded its product line, and now sells solar-powered phone chargers and custom LuminAIDs as well.
This small, portable floor mat provides a clean space for kids to play wherever they are. The two friend inventors pitched their product on season five of the show, and Cuban and Greiner gave them $100,000 for a 35% equity share in the company. Greiner helped the moms cut down on manufacturing costs, which helped them cut retail costs to an affordable $19.99, Gazette Review reported. The company also expanded its color offerings. You can now buy Monkey Mat on Amazon.
Busy career women Ashley Thompson and Katherine Thomas came up with MUSH as an easy grab-and-go breakfast — the prepackaged overnight oats require no prep and are meant to be eaten straight from the fridge. The entrepreneurs pitched their product on season nine of the show in 2016 and scored a $300,000 investment from Cuban in exchange for a 10% stake in the business. He also offered an unlimited line of credit to be used to fulfill purchase orders and buy plant equipment. Sales soared following the “Shark Tank” appearance, with millions of dollars in sales annually, and as of 2018, the company was looking to expand its presence across the U.S., Dallas Business Journal reported. The product is now available in regional Whole Foods, CVS and 7-Eleven stores.
Nuts 'N More
In 2013, during season four, Cuban and Herjavec teamed up to invest $250,000 for 35% of Nuts ‘N More, which makes high-protein fortified nut butter. The product — which initially was being sold at a local family bakery — is now available at GNC, The Vitamin Shoppe and Whole Foods. The company also has established deals with Wegmans and Raley’s and expanded its product line to include peanut butter-dipped truffles and peanut powder. Nuts ‘N More has had year-over-year growth of over $1 million each year since its “Shark Tank” appearance, with $30 million in sales total as of 2018, Dallas Business Journal reported.
The food company is one of Cuban’s top five favorite investments of all time, he told Inc.
“I’m always looking for foods that solve my sweet tooth and are healthy. This company fit that bill perfectly,” Cuban told the site.
Power Practical’s first product was the PowerPot, a portable thermoelectric generator that uses heat to generate electricity that can be used to charge devices. That’s the product the company brought to the sharks in 2014 on season five of the show. Cuban made a deal with the founders for $250,000 for a 12% stake in the company, a board seat and 3% in advisory options. The company has since expanded its product line to include outdoor lighting, interior lighting, portable batteries and electric lighters, and it’s sold hundreds of thousands of products to customers in over 100 countries.
Shaan Patel got a perfect score on the SATs and created standardized test prep company Prep Expert to help others do the same. He pitched his company on “Shark Tank” during season seven in 2016, and Cuban invested $250,000 for 20% equity. Following Patel’s appearance on the show, Prep Expert made $3.5 million in revenue and established a licensing deal with Krance Institute to sell Patel’s SAT, ACT and GMAT video courses, Inc. reported. Prep Expert courses are now taught in roughly a dozen locations throughout the U.S., and the company instructs more than 10,000 students a year through its in-person and online courses.
Cuban counts Prep Expert as one of his top five favorite investments of all time, Inc. reported.
“Shaan is incredibly smart and driven,” he told the site. “I have yet to fail working with entrepreneurs who are much smarter than me and who were also grinders. Shaan has done amazingly well so far and I expect great things from him.”
This throwable wireless microphone was designed for students to toss back and forth during classroom activities. Creator Shane Cox brought it to the sharks in 2017 during season nine of the show and landed a $300,000 investment from Cuban, Greiner and guest shark Rohan Oza in exchange for 30% equity. Thanks to the investment, Cox was able to integrate the QBall with Amazon Alexa technology, the Gazette Review reported.
A mother-daughter duo invented this self-massaging acupressure device after 15-year-old Andrea Cao grew tired of giving her mother massages after her nursing shift. Andrea and her mom, Hong, pitched the Q-Flex to the sharks in 2014 on season six of the show and received an investment of $25,000 from Cuban and Corcoran in exchange for 12.5% of the business each. In the year following the episode’s air date, the company made $1.3 million in sales, The San Luis Obispo Tribune reported.
Two military spouses are the brains behind R. Riveter, a line of handmade leather handbags created by a network of military spouses across the country. The company appeared on season seven of the show in 2016 where they accepted a deal of $100,000 for a 20% stake from Cuban. As a result of the “Shark Tank” appearance, sales increased from $300,000 to $2.4 million in 2017, Success reported. By 2018, R. Riveter had increased sales by 1,273% since just two years prior, Shopify reported.
Skin care brand Simple Sugars received a $100,000 investment from Cuban in exchange for 33% of the company. Founder Lani Lazzari appeared on the show during season four of the show in 2013. Prior to Lazzari’s appearance on “Shark Tank,” her line of facial and body scrubs had made $44,000 in sales in seven years; in the two years after the appearance, she made $6 million in sales, Success reported. Cuban checked in on the brand in a 2018 “Beyond the Tank” episode, where Lazzari said her new goal was to become a $30 million business.
Cuban told Inc. that Simple Sugars is one of his top five favorite investments: “I always have a soft spot for entrepreneurs from my hometown of Pittsburgh,” he said. “I saw Lani, who was 19 at the time as a ‘mini-me.’ She hustled, was always selling and always thinking of new ways to make her customers happier.”
Handheld surfboard company Slyde Handboards received an investment of $200,000 from Cuban and guest shark Ashton Kutcher for 22% of the company during its appearance on season seven of the show in 2016. As of 2018, the watersport company was bringing in $80,000 a month in revenue, the Starter Story blog reported.
Slyde is also among Cuban’s top five favorite “Shark Tank” products.
“I liked the spirit of the entrepreneurs,” he told Inc. “I saw they had bootstrapped the company, and I think that people are always looking for new and inexpensive ways to have fun.”
The veteran-created jewelry line sparked the attention of Cuban and Greiner during its 2013 appearance on season four of the show. The sharks invested $150,000 for a 35% stake in the company. Founders Paige Dellavalle and Ashley Dellavalle Jung used the investment to expand the product line to include necklaces, bracelets, earrings and rings, and it’s since been picked up by major retailers including Mark and Graham and Nordstrom, Dallas Business Journal reported. The company grew from $50,000 in sales to seven-figure revenues.
The Style Club
The Style Club’s apparel and accessories spread messages of female empowerment, and founder Hilary Novelle has been able to scale the company’s product line and distribution thanks to her 2016 appearance on season eight of “Shark Tank.” During the show, Cuban gave Novelle a deal for $500,000 in exchange for a 20% stake in The Style Club. The investment allowed the company to grow from selling baseball caps to also selling shirts, jeans, hoodies, backpacks and more, and Novelle reached distribution deals with Walmart, Forever 21 and American Eagle, The Business Journals reported.
A soggy sub sandwich during a fishing trip inspired husband-and-wife team Adam and Desire Hallard to create SubSafe, a waterproof floatable sandwich container. They appeared on season 10 of the show in February 2019 and received an investment from Cuban and guest shark Charles Barkley of $100,000 for 25% of the company. Cuban and Barkley advised that the company should use the investment toward marketing efforts. After the show, SubSafe landed a deal with Bed Bath & Beyond and is now available at Florida Wawa stores, 2paragraphs reported.
Tower Paddle Boards
Paddleboarding was rising in popularity when Stephan Aarstol appeared on season three of “Shark Tank” in 2012 to pitch his stand-up surfboard company. Cuban was the only shark to offer an investment — he gave Aarstol $150,000 for 30% — but that investment has paid off. Tower Paddle Boards has made $30 million in sales as of 2018, Dallas Business Journal reported. The company expanded to include other beach lifestyle products, including sunglasses, surfboards and snorkels, and it also publishes a twice-weekly beach lifestyle publication, Tower Magazine. In 2017, it opened its first retail store/studio space/corporate office in San Diego.
Cuban saw potential when the other sharks didn’t, and Tower Paddle Boards has turned into one of his five favorite investments of all time, Inc. reported.
“I invested because Stephan had an SEO business that he had previously been very successful with and sold,” Cuban told the site. “I thought that he could take over the paddle board niche and leverage his SEO experience to do it.”
Twist It Up
This might look like a mini tennis racket, but it’s actually a comb created by entrepreneur Noel Durity to create loose or defined curls in Afrocentric hair. Durity pitched it to the sharks in 2018 on season 10 of the show and landed a deal with Cuban and Daymond John for a $225,000 investment in exchange for a 25% kickback. According to the company’s website, it’s now the No. 1 twist comb in the world.
Mom-of-two Theresa Fraijo came up with her Veggie Mama frozen fruit and vegetable bars as a way to get her kids to eat more vegetables. She pitched her kid-friendly frozen treats to the sharks on season five of the show and scored a deal with Cuban and Corcoran. The two investors gave Fraijo $75,000 in exchange for a 20% stake in the company. Since the show, the Veggie Mama brand has pivoted from selling frozen snacks to selling plant-based supplements and drink mixes that are meant to detox the body.
Click through to find out where wealthy people like Oprah and Mark Cuban were in their 20s.
More on Making Money