The ‘Shark Tank’ Effect: Where Are These Shoe Companies Now?

Solemates
The founders of Solemates turned down a "Shark Tank" offer.
Courtesy of ABC

When up-and-coming footwear brands ISlide and Freshly Picked landed spots on CNBC’s “Shark Tank,” they knew they it could turn out to be a case of sink or swim — or was it?

While both received offers from panel members — ISlide from Robert Herjavec and Freshly Picked from Daymond John — they turned them down. Justin Kettridge, founder of ISlide, rejected the offer on-air, and the deal between Susan Peterson, founder of children’s brand Freshly Picked, ultimately fell through when John renegotiated the terms.

However, the two have no regrets. Exposure on the popular show has helped catapult their businesses. “It was positive experience and publicity even if we didn’t get a deal,” said Kettridge, noting that visits to its website went from 500 a day to 50,000 after the airing.

According to Kettridge, who founded ISlide in 2013 and appeared on the show in 2016, Herjavec’s offer wasn’t strong enough. Since Kettridge said he’d already raised more than a $5 million valuation for the company, Herjavec’s offer of $500,000 for a 20 percent stake devalued the business. “It would not have been fair to our investors,” he said.

ISlide Justin Kettridge, founder of ISlide, on “Shark Tank.” Courtesy of ABC

Business, however, has continued to soar. “We’ve had so many more deals come from the exposure,” said Kettridge, citing retailers such as Neiman Marcus and Lids that have come on board. And the company is now getting into the college licensing game.

In February 2013, husband-and-wife team Lena Phoenix and Steven Sashen, co-founders of Xero Shoes, a collection of natural-movement footwear based on a barefoot-shoe philosophy, received a $400,000 offer from shark Kevin O’Leary for a 50 percent stake in their company. However, said Phoenix, the two believed O’Leary underestimated the value of their company and also walked away from the deal.

Although the couple, who had then been in business for 3.5 years, decided to push forward on their own, the “Shark Tank” appearance proved a positive experience. “It was fantastic for us,” she said. “We got in front of 8 million viewers.”

According to the entrepreneurs, in the week following the 2013 airing of the episode, d 3,000 sandal kits were sold through the company’s website. Since then, business has expanded to also include sales through Amazon, brick-and-mortar and international distributors. While its own ecommerce business remains strong, in 2016, 35 percent of sales were generated from its wholesale and distribution partners.

Today, said Phoenix, company sales have hit $2.7 million, with the line expanded from its original sandals to include athletic looks, causals and a series of boots set to debut this fall.

In order to take the business to the next level, the company recently launched equity crowdfunding. “While it’s taken several years to get to the point where our customer base was large enough to have a successful equity crowdfunding raise, we already have more financial commitments than Kevin O’Leary offered us, at a much more favorable valuation.”

Children’s footwear brands have also had their show moments. Susan Petersen, founder of Freshly Picked, which launched in 2009 as an online business, made her “Shark Tank” appearance in 2014. She struck a deal with John for $150,000 in exchange for a 25 percent share in her company. And like her fellow “Shark Tank” participants, she hasn’t looked back. Following the show, Nordstrom approached the company and the brand picked up celebrity endorsements from Boomer Phelps, Penelope Disick, and the Kardashians.

Daymond John Daymond John of “Shark Tank.” Courtesy of Bombas.

In an interview with FN, Petersen, said, “‘Shark Tank’ has been incredible for our brand. Even though it was one of the most terrifying things, I’ve ever done, I would to it again in a heartbeat. Immediately after the episode aired, we picked up something like 34,000 new followers across our social media platforms.”

Becca Brown, co-founder of footwear accessories brand Solemates, known for its offering of items such as heel protectors, also turned down an offer from Herjavec after the company’s October 2016 appearance on the show.

According to Brown, despite the decision to pass up the offer, the company profited from the experience. “We had an increase in our web traffic and awareness for the brand,” said Brown, referring to the phenomenon as the shark effect.

In addition to the TV exposure, Brown said an alumni community has been created around the show where former participants gather to exchange ideas and partnership opportunities, as well as have the chance to participate in ASD Market Week, a Las Vegas-based venue where stores go to buy a range of high-margin merchandise. A Facebook page has been established for these members.