When Robert Herjavec landed a deal with Natural Grip entrepreneur Ashley Drake, Daymond John was none too pleased. As the FUBU mogul told Business Insider back in November 2014, he thought he was the best fit for Drake’s product, which combined his interests in apparel, fitness, and crossfit.
“The deal was apparel-based, it was fitness-based, and Robert beat me out. So I’m sitting there saying to myself, ‘Should I be mad at Robert or should I be mad at myself?’ Because this is a natural layup for me. The person knows my expertise. What didn’t I communicate to that person that made me lose the deal, or what did I say to that person that may have pissed them off?”
John may be interested to know that he wasn’t wrong when he thought that Natural Grip was a good fit for his portfolio. It turns out that Drake came on to Shark Tank hoping to score a deal with him over any of the other sharks. She told Success magazine in December 2015, that she even surprised herself by opting for Herjavec’s deal. At the end of her Shark Tank segment, Drake was left to decide between the two investors.
“Going in, my goal had been to get Daymond, since he’s in the fitness space. But you have to go with your gut, and I felt in the moment that Robert was going to be best for the company. He had a real excitement about our product and the possibility for our growth.”
Shark Tank fans got a glimpse of how that turned out when The Natural Grip was featured on Beyond the Tank. As Drake revealed in an Instagram post, the segment was taped over a year ago, and much has changed. Viewers saw Drake stressed by sales and deciding how to allocate her team members’ time — sales versus manufacturing. During a meeting with Robert, the internet security entrepreneur told the military veteran she was being too hard on herself.
Wow!! What a week this has been for @thenaturalgrip. Thank you for all of your support, emails, orders, phone calls, messages and love during our BTT episode. @BeyondTheTank is a wonderful show that allows the public to see some of the struggles, successes, and situations that companies encounter. It was surreal for us to finally see our episode that was taped over a year ago. Seeing where we were then and comparing it to where we are now is truly a night and day difference. Meeting with @robert_herjavec and getting his feedback, thoughts, and recommendations was invaluable. Without that opportunity we would not be where we are today. I can honestly say that The Natural Grip is a bigger, stronger, more dominant company because of the wisdom and perspective that Robert gave me during our meeting in LA. As a company owner it is difficult to constantly see the bigger picture or even a different perspective because we are always so focused on keeping EVERYTHING up and running. Any entrepreneur will tell you that it is all consuming to be the captain of the ship, while simultaneously they will explain that they wouldn't have it any other way. In one 24 hour period you can think that you are unstoppable, defeated, cash flow poor, conquering the world, and back to stable ground. The emotions are real, the investment is high and the risks get bigger the more successful you become. Here at The Natural Grip we are very grateful to have the team we do. Growing an idea from your kitchen table to the #1 top selling hand protection in the fitness industry does not happen over night and it doesn't happen alone. I want to thank all of our production crew, sales staff, support staff, mentors, suppliers, vendors, distributors, customers, family and friends that have helped us get to where we are today. By no means have we reached the pinnacle of our success, but we are thankful every day for the contribution that everyone in the community has made for us to be where we are today. We are going to keep our heads down and eyes forward as we get ready to take on the @CrossFitGames in Carson! Sincerely, Ashley Drake Owner / CEO The Natural Grip
One key piece of advice Herjavec had for Drake, as shown on Beyond the Tank, was to focus on participating in trade shows. Drake was reluctant because The Natural Grip made little to no profit at those events. Herjavec said most companies lose money at trade shows and that the point is more to develop the brand.
That advice is something Drake has taken to heart. She provided an update on The Natural Grip to Heavy in September 2015, as she was coming up on the one-year anniversary of her November 2014, Shark Tank episode. Drake said selling The Natural Grip within the fitness industry has been a big boost for the company.
“Earlier this year Robert made it a point to tell me that we needed to have a presence at large scale fitness events as a vendor. I have taken his guidance and we are more successful because of it. Opportunities and increased exposure have come our way that we wouldn’t have had if Robert had not encouraged me to take the company to these events.”
She also said getting a Shark Tank investment is just one part of success. Once an entrepreneur takes on an investor, that investor wants to see a return, and running a profitable business is more than a full-time job.
But anyone who wants to nail their Shark Tank pitch might want to follow Drake’s model. She famously brought on an extraordinary athlete who used the product on uneven bars on the stage. But as much as that woman’s athleticism impressed the panel, so did Drake’s confidence and motivation. The famously “mean” shark, Kevin O’Leary, aka, “Mr. Wonderful,” even called her “one motivated cowboy,” and urged his fellow panelists to invest.
That pitch did not come out of nowhere. Drake gave her presentation multiple times in her home, in front of pictures of the sharks. As a result, she told Success, she wasn’t nervous when she pitched on-set.
Shark Tank airs on ABC and CNBC.
[Photo by Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images]