Roominate co-founder Alice Brooks peppered her Shark Tank pitch with a compelling childhood story. When she was eight, she asked Santa Claus for a Barbie. Her parents said no. Instead, she received a saw. As Fast Company notes, it was an example of the experience she had as a youth that other girls perhaps lack, one that encourages an interest in science and engineering. It eventually led her and her fellow Stanford engineering grad, Bettina Chen, to create Roominate. The company goes beyond the traditional dollhouse and allows users to integrate working circuits in their creations.
As Brooks told Parent Map, those early experiences with play can have a great impact on what children choose as their eventual career paths. This reasoning had a heavy influence on Roominate’s product design.
“[W]e really wanted to give them that moment where they hook up a circuit. A lot of them have never put a battery in anything. So being able to put the batteries in and wire up the fan that moves – that’s a really exciting moment.”
Before Brooks and Chen appeared on Shark Tank, as a stand out moment of the season 6 premiere episode, they had already received $85,000 of KickStarter funding and were selling their dollhouses online. As Fast Company points out, the pair seemed to have all the elements for a successful pitch: $1.7 million in sales, a retail presence and a compelling story. The founders were not content to rest on those strengths, however, and studied past Shark Tank episodes before appearing before the investors.
They drilled each other with questions, planned to emphasize their strong sales and were ready with a personal touch. They did what many successful Shark Tank pitchers do and provided each member of the panel with their own, individualized Roominate creation. Their eventual investors, Mark Cuban and Lori Grenier, received a Mavericks basketball court and QVC set, respectively. Cuban’s item was enhanced with his own private plane.
The pitch worked, as Grenier and Cuban invested $500,000 for a 5 percent equity stake. As Bustle notes, Cuban’s investment came with a catch that was a true compliment to Bettina and Chen. The condition was that Cuban’s young daughters could watch them work at Roominate and that the founders would effectively serve as mentors.
The pair told Fast Company that after the Shark Tank episode aired they received an influx of orders through their website, although exact numbers were not yet available. As for Shark Tank, The Hollywood Reporter notes it continues to dominate the Friday-night ratings game, two weeks into the new season.
[Roominate Founders Image: Google]