Shark Tank as a Business Doing Good? I’ll Bite

Since it’s still technically the weekend (and I don’t want to break my own rule about posting on Sundays), I’m going to write about something fun.  More specifically, one of my favorite feel-good shows on television. No, not Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. I’m talking about Shark Tank.

Doesn’t it make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside?

Shark Tank is like American Idol for entrepreneurs. Five rich, powerful, connected and self-made investors (aka, the “sharks”) listen to entrepreneurs from countless different backgrounds and industries make their sales pitch. If the entrepreneurs are successful negotiators, the sharks invest their own time and money to growing the business. If not….they’re out! You can watch the show on Hulu or Fridays ABC 8/7 Central.

While the show is great entertainment , I would take it a step further to naming it as my choice for this week’s Business Doing Good. Here are the three reasons Shark Tank inspires me (and, yes, Kevin O’Leary, one of them is making money!).

3. Good entrepreneurs come in all sorts of packages.

I was originally going to say anyone can be a successful entrepreneur, but that’s not really true.  Successful entrepreneurs need drive, persistence, passion, work ethic and all sorts of other qualities.  However, there is no “ideal entrepreneur”.  I’ve seen the show invest in a previous Goldman-Sachs employee selling water bottles and a veteran flight attendant with a child-travel system. One minute, a man who is almost laughed out for his odd-looking nasal filters , the next he receives a $4 million offer after revealing his numbers.  Not anyone can be a successful entrepreneur, but the people who are come from all different places in life with all sorts of ideas.

2. The entrepreneurs can’t really lose.

Shark Tank allows an alternative way of funding for people other investors or banks might turn away while also offering guidance and connections to budding entrepreneurs. Not to mention seeing their face and product on television. But out of all the entrepreneurs that pitch in the shark tank, only a few go into closing (the actual number is not available as far as I could find).  However, even if the entrepreneurs walk off the show without a deal, many of them still benefit through advice and publicity.

Take Jeff Cohen of Granola Gourmet.

Aka this guy.

Though rejected by the sharks in 2009 for his healthy energy bar business, Cohen now supplies Wholefoods Market and Safeway.  While Cohen credits his success to “working harder” after being rejected by the sharks, the publicity he received also probably helped. According to a fascinating study by Wharton Professor Jonah Berger, negative publicity can greatly benefit a brand that isn’t normally on people’s radar. Even if the business gets slaughtered in the shark tank, the entrepreneur still receives high-caliber advice and incredible amount of publicity. This is one show that it is literally impossible to lose, which brings me to my last point….

1. Win/Win/Win/Win

As I discuss before, Shark Tank benefits participating entrepreneurs whether they win or lose. It provides people working for ABC a show to market and run (which employs marketers, film crew, set constructionists etc.).  The investors get increased publicity, self-branding and the opportunity to make money from investments. And the viewers like me? Besides increased business literacy? We get inspired.

Thanks for reading! Lindsey Kirchoff

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