ABC’s Shark Tank is one of my favorite shows on television. Not only is it wildly entertaining, it actually teaches you a thing or two on business basics. Aspiring entrepreneurs can learn the ABC’s of company valuation, investor pitches, positioning, etc. Great show. Highly recommended.
I was thrilled to connect (via Twitter) with my new friend, Hanna Lim who runs a fantastic company called Lollacup. Hanna and her husband went into The Tank and struck a deal with not one but TWO sharks – Mark Cuban and Robert Herjavec. Oh and by the way, they are a husband & wife team, growing their business and raising their 2 young daughters.
Hanna was kind enough to take some time out of her busy week to answer some questions on entrepreneurship , working with your spouse, work/life balance and surviving in The Tank…
1. Tell us about Lollacup. How did the business come to be? What’s the origin of the name?
The idea for Lollacup came to me when my first daughter was 9-months-old, and I was struggling to get her to drink from a sippy cup. I literally could not find a single toddler cup that she would drink from. I realized that most of the toddler cups out there had fancy spill-proof valves that made it impossible for my 9-month-old to sip and even more challenging for me to clean.
I talked to my husband about my idea for a modern, valve-free straw sippy cup, and he encouraged me to start doing research and work on it from home when I had time. When it came time to name the product and company, we were inspired, once again, by our daughter. As she began to talk, she had trouble saying water, and called it, “lolla,” instead. It was only natural that the cup designed for her be called “lollacup.”
2. What do parents love about your products?
We like to tell parents and customers that Lollacup is not for everyone. Because it has a valve-free straw, it is not entirely spill-proof, so that can be a problem for some families. Fans of the product love that it’s made in the USA with safe materials and that their children are drawn to the fun design of the cup. Parents also love that it is easy for their children to use.
3. What are the pro’s and con’s of being married business partners?
There are several cons to being married business partners, but many more pros. We’ve learned, over the years, how to work together and remain happily married, but there’s no escaping the stresses of entrepreneurship. We risked our life savings on this business, do not have a steady income, and sometimes feel like we are being completely irresponsible by starting a business while raising young children in a bad economy. This job and lifestyle has its ups and downs, but it’s a decision we made and we are trying our best to make ends meet, celebrate each and every victory, and stay focused on the very reason we started the company – our family. Working from home affords us more time with our children and Mark and I can never say we don’t spend enough time together.
4. You are growing a business and have 2 young kids. What do you guys do to try and achieve some work life balance?
We schedule date nights where we go out to dinner, enjoy one another’s company, and do our best not to talk about work. Most nights, we put the girls to bed, and go back to work, but a few nights a week, we force ourselves to have some down time and watch TV together while eating ice cream. We also enjoy getting together with friends, most of whom have children, and spending time with good friends is always a good time.
5. Describe the whole process of appearing on ABC’s Shark Tank?
We went on the Shark Tank website, and found a link that said, “want to be on the show,” followed the instructions, sent the email, and never heard back. One night, we were perusing the site again, and saw that there was an open casting call the very next morning. Luckily we live in the Los Angeles-area, so we arranged for childcare, filled out the 30+ page application that night, and got in line at 7 am the next morning. We didn’t get seen till 2 pm that day, but that was the 30-second pitch that got the ball rolling for us.
Several weeks after the casting call, we got a call from one of the producers that we were in the running for Season 3. Mark and I were ecstatic, but we tried our best to remain level-headed and have no expectations. The producers reminded us, over and over again, that nothing is guaranteed, and you can’t expect to be on TV until you see your face on the screen.
With this in mind, we prepared our unique, 90-second pitch and modeled it after the pitches we had heard on Shark Tank, week after week. We are big fans of the show, so we watched every episode, wrote down the types of questions that were commonly asked, and made sure we were able to answer them.
6. How scary is it to present to The Tank?
Being on the set of Shark Tank felt like a complete blur. It was fast-paced, tense, and extremely stressful. Although our 1 ½ – hour negotiation was edited down to a 10-minute segment, what you saw on TV was exactly how we remember it. The “sharks” asked tough questions, talked over one another (which added to the chaos), and we were pressured to act quickly. I can’t remember the last time I sweat that much.
7. How have Mark Cuban & Robert Herjavec directly effected your business so far?
We have several things in the works with both Mark and Robert, but I’d rather not mention specifics until it all comes to fruition. Overall, both “sharks” have been incredibly accessible, hugely motivational, and offered us priceless business advice as well as access to some amazing resources.
8. What’s the future of Lollacup?
Grow, grow, grow. Taking on investors was exciting, and being on Shark Tank was great publicity, but our real work starts now. We are constantly making improvements to the Lollacup, and we have new product ideas in the works under the brand name, Lollaland.