'Shark Tank' hears from Extreme Sandbox

‘Shark Tank’: Extreme Sandbox Helps You Play With Heavy Equipment

Most Shark Tank entrepreneurs like to brag about making things small, and high tech — a new battery pack you power by walking; a compact light that inflates into a flotation device in emergency situations; a drone you power with your cell phone. Often, technology products with high valuations dominate the show.

But Tuesday night the sharks will hear a pitch from Extreme Sandbox, which is all about keeping things big and hands-on. The Hastings, Minnesota, company lets people play with construction equipment in a safe and supervised environment. The full experience includes excavator “golfing,” challenges and car-crushing.

Families flock to the attraction, which started in 2012. But founder Randy Stenger told La Crosse Tribune that corporate events are, increasingly, a big part of his business. It costs between $195 and $895 for one person to enjoy the experience for up to six hours, depending on the package.

“I saw a big need in the corporate market for something new and unique. It’s been a big source of growth for the company.”

Companies such as General Mills and 3M have bought Extreme Sandbox’s services, according to Stenger. But the idea started much closer to home, originating with his young son who remarked as they drove past a construction site that it would be fun to play on the equipment. According to the company’s website, Stenger actually has a corporate background — with no experience in construction whatsoever.

Extreme Sandbox appears on 'Shark Tank'
Extreme Sandbox lets everyday people use heavy equipment. (Photo courtesy of Extreme Sandbox/Instagram)

In its short history, Extreme Sandbox has been able to expand, from one location in Minnesota to an additional facility in Pottsboro, Texas, set to open in April, 2016. The Minnesota space has also gotten bigger: from three pieces of equipment to a 10-acre space with a 6,000-square-foot event center and a fire truck, excavator, skid-steer, and bulldozer.

The company acknowledges its partners in the construction industry, promoting it as a career path for young people, according to its website. It also demonstrates respect for the women and men who operate these machines for a living.

“We strongly support the local community and have had the opportunity to partner with Ziegler CAT and other advocates for the construction industry; helping local high schools provide tours and camps for teens exploring the construction industry careers. As much fun as this equipment is to operate, we think our customers ultimately walk away with a greater appreciation for the industry that keeps our economy growing (trust us….it’s tough work!).”

So, how will Extreme Sandbox fare on Shark Tank? Television blog CarterMatt notes that experience adventure companies are a big trend right now, and this seems to fit right in. That trend has been the motivation behind some of Mark Cuban’s Shark Tank investments — Rugged Races and Ten Thirty One Productions among them.

But, as CarterMatt also points out, Extreme Sandbox may be a difficult business to scale. It requires substantial space, investment in equipment, and enough consumers willing to put cash down for the experience.

But regardless of whether or not the sharks bite, Stenger told La Crosse Tribune he was expecting the “Shark Tank effect” to bring an influx of new customers, calling it a “game changer.” He also revealed the best part of his experience was not meeting the multi-millionaires on the panel.

“It was really surreal being on the set itself. My favorite part was being around other entrepreneurs in my boat.”

Shark Tank airs on a special night, Tuesday at 9 pm, before the debut of a new season of Beyond the Tank at 10 pm on ABC.

[Photo courtesy of Extreme Sandbox/Instagram]

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