The entrepreneurs on Shark Tank often have a show producer to thank for getting them on the show. Whether they have applied, gone to an open casting call, or been recruited, those people behind the scenes decide who gets to pitch the sharks. In the case of Yourself Expression and its young entrepreneurs — brother-sister team Shelby and Gordon Gogulski — they can also thank Rosie O’Donnell.
It’s been long enough now that audiences might forget that O’Donnell came back to The View during the 2014-15 season. Always a creative type, O’Donnell hosted crafting segments. During one taping, Shelby Gogulski and her family were in the audience, with an agenda: to get the hosts to wear some of her interchangeable jewelry pieces. According to The Florida Times-Union, O’Donnell did more than wear the items; she invited the teenager to come back on The View to provide some crafting tips.
— Yourself Expression (@YExpression) February 15, 2016
O’Donnell called out Shark Tank during Shelby’s episode, telling them to “look out for her.” Producers got in touch shortly after that, and the Gogulskis were on their way to pitch their potential investors.
— Yourself Expression (@YExpression) May 5, 2016
And Shelby has quite the business to pitch. She came up with the idea of interchangeable jewelry after her mother refused to give her money for a new pair of stylish boots. According to her blog, her mother balked at the $200 price tag, and Shelby got creative, re-purposing some hair accessories to add some fashion to her existing boots, modeled after the pair she wasn’t allowed to buy. That turned into her first company, Boot Bling. Yourself Expression followed, and she now sells product out of a Florida storefront and online. Shelby, now 16, and Gordon, now 11, share design duties.
While still young, the Gogulski siblings and their parents have shown a real commitment to Yourself Expression. That includes home schooling Shelby so she can get her education and keep up with the demands of the business. Considering one shark, Kevin O’Leary, often asks young entrepreneurs if they will quit school to run the business — joking, of course — the teenager should have a leg up on others who enter the tank.
They have also experienced what many new Shark Tank entrepreneurs go through after their episode airs: a spike in sales. That’s what happened after Shelby’s appearance on The View. While it’s a challenge for any small business, the Yourself Expression team has some inkling of what it’s like.
The sharks on Shelby and Gordon’s panel have been known to invest in youth and in siblings. Barbara Corcoran backed Ry’s Ruffery and Pipcorn, run by a pre-teen and a brother-and-sister duo, respectively. Mark Cuban invested in Simple Sugars, started when Lani Lazzari was a teenager. O’Leary often touts the success of his deal with family-run Wicked Good Cupcakes. Yourself Expression will also pitch to Robert Herjavec and Lori Greiner.
Although Shelby could not tell the Times-Union how things panned out for her and Gordon on Shark Tank, she said there were tears — for some reason or another. Revealing that she’s having difficulty getting some potential business partners to return her calls, however, is perhaps a sign they left without the backing of a shark investor. Although the business is now about two years old, the episode was taped last June — so the company was still in its infancy. The sharks may have been put off by the sheer number of pieces Shelby and Gordon sell: Yourself Expression offers more than 500 backings. The panel often rejects operations that try to sell too many SKUs.
Nonetheless, Shelby is looking forward to the exposure and the boost it will bring to her company.
“‘Shark Tank’ will open up doors that you wouldn’t have a key to.”
Shark Tank airs Friday night at 9 p.m. on ABC.
[Photo by Brian Ach/Getty Images]