When then 13-year-old Andrea Cao pitched on Shark Tank alongside her mother Hong, the teenager impressed Mark Cuban with her sales drive. Cao had sold 800 units of her family’s product, the acupressure device Q-Flex, by going door-to-door to massage businesses. The company got an investment from Cuban and Barbara Corcoran, who each paid $12,500 for 12.5 percent of the company. Corcoran was recently on hand to provide some in-person consultation with the mother-daughter team on a new episode of Beyond the Tank.
But as Q-Flex has grown, Andrea and Hong have proved themselves to be hard-working, ambitious, and smart business people. As their hometown paper, the San Luis Obispo Tribune reported, they put some of their Q-Flex profits into a horse ranch where Andrea, a budding equestrian herself, has a management role. The pair also rent out two houses on the ranch. During the Beyond the Tank episode, Andrea presented Corcoran with two checks — one for her, one for Cuban — to pay back their investments.
Hong, a former software engineer and nurse whose muscle pain inspired the creation of Q-Flex, now works for the company full-time. Since Shark Tank, they have achieved $1.3 million in sales. They also received a patent on Q-Flex — something that the sharks questioned was even possible when the Caos originally pitched their business.
Andrea is a member of the San Luis Obispo chapter of the Future Farmers of America (FFA). It’s helped develop her horsemanship skills and think of ways that animals could benefit from Q-Flex. Anna Bates, the FFA advisor at San Luis Obispo High School, spoke highly of the now 15-year-old entrepreneur to FFA New Horizons magazine.
“Andrea is very mature and has a strong work ethic. She has a lot of ideas for the future combining her Q-Flex invention and possible uses for the animal industry. I think participating in marketing plan or [agricultural] sales could be FFA contests up her alley. I have enjoyed seeing her develop her technical knowledge in vet science and seeing the diversity of her hands-on skill set in many career technical education areas.”
Andrea sees a future as a horse trainer, after getting a degree from Stanford University, which is currently her goal. The installment of Beyond the Tank revealed that Andrea, Hong, and Andrea’s grandparents all co-habit in San Luis Obispo. At the time of the update, the young company was still attempting to fill back orders and was piecing the product together in the Caos’ garage — with the grandparents as committed hands-on manufacturers.
But viewers might reasonably assume things have changed since the taping of the Beyond the Tank segment. Corcoran spoke with Forbes in June 2015, one year ago, about the products she’d have featured on the program. Q-Flex was one of them. During the episode, the Caos were seen dealing with one of their immediate issues — quality control and production — and weighing whether to use a fulfillment facility lined up by Mark Cuban in Dallas.
As much as they have gotten advice and assistance from Cuban and Corcoran, the Caos have reached out within their own community for support in running the business. The Tribune reported that the Q-Flex team joined the Cal Poly Business Development Center, which has offered guidance in sales, marketing and accounting.
But Q-Flex also has the ongoing support of all the sharks, not just Cuban and Corcoran, as their live tweets from Friday night’s Beyond the Tank demonstrated.
— Barbara Corcoran (@BarbaraCorcoran) June 4, 2016
— Kevin O’Leary (@kevinolearytv) June 4, 2016
— Daymond John (@TheSharkDaymond) June 4, 2016
Beyond the Tank airs on ABC. Shark Tank airs in reruns on ABC and on CNBC throughout the summer.
[Photo by Janette Pellegrini/Getty Images]