Swimming with 'Shark's
ABC’s “Shark Tank” puts entrepreneurs in front of five investors. They get a chance to pitch their product and the investors, or “sharks” grill them and will invest if they like what they hear. Peachtree City residents Darryl Lenz and her husband, Randy, pitched their product, the “Ride On Carry On” in a recent episode and got what exactly what they were asking for, a 25 percent equity in the business for an investment of $50,000. The shark that liked the idea was Barbara Corcoran.
“I can see these things selling like hot cakes,” she said after hearing about the product.
Darryl, a flight attendant for 27 years, came up with the idea when her now teenage son was two years old. The Ride On Carry On is a folding chair that straps on to a roll on suitcase and folds flat so that it can fit in the overhead bin. Children ages 8 months to five years old sit in the chair, strap in and go for a fun ride through the airport. The product has been safety tested in the U.S. and Europe and wins fans each time someone is spotted using one.
Darryl and Randy created a few prototypes and sat on the idea for awhile as they looked into what it would cost to get a patent. Eventually, they got the patent, found a manufacturer and began selling the product on-line and in catalogs. Since they started selling the Ride On Carry On in 2002, they have sold 20,000 of them. Just last year they sold 2,000. It has garnered attention in magazines like Time and Business Week and has appeared on television programs like “Good Morning America” and now, “Shark Tank,” but the Lenz’s feel that now is the time to go to the next level. Corcoran agreed, stating on the show that she felt the couple needed marketing help more than anything.
“The show was a big boost,” Darryl said in an interview after their episode aired. “I’ve never seen anything like it.” They got 7,000 hits on their web site (www.rideoncarryon.com) the night of “Shark Tank” and shipped out 500 Ride On Carry On’s in four days after the episode ran.
Corcoran called The Lenz’s after their segment aired and told them they had done a great job. “You just had 12 minutes of time on prime time television. Imagine what that’s worth.”
The Lenz’s filmed their segment back in October of 2010. They had applied to be on the show after the first season and hadn’t heard anything. In September of last year a producer had called and said they had seen the product while on vacation and wanted to see if they were interested in being on the show. Darryl and Randy went out to Los Angeles with their daughter, Kendall, and spent four days with 50 other people vying for a spot on the show. Each team has a producing team that helps them prepare for their pitch. Darryl said it was great to have someone cheering them on, especially considering how nerve-racking the process was.
“The biggest fear was going blank in front of the sharks,” Darryl said. “It was intimidating.”
Adding to the stress was the fact that while the segment only lasted 12 minutes on television, they actually taped for 45 minutes and the sharks had a lot of questions and statements that got edited out.
Darryl added that she was very impressed with all of the other entrepreneurs she met and their products. “And there we were with just our little chair,” she joked.
Since the taping in October, the Lenz’s have been working with Corcoran and preparing for when the episode aired. They upgraded their website, found a new manufacturer and are working on marketing. The hope is for the Ride On Carry On to find its way into major retail in the United States.
At the end of their segment on “Shark Tank,” Darryl stated that they were “excited to make a deal, but were also excited for the kids who would now have fun traveling through the airport.”
Prior to “Shark Tank,” the Lenz’s knew they had a great product but were afraid that many people still didn’t know about it. That is no longer a problem.