Who doesn’t dream of being their own boss and having enough money to live comfortably for the rest of their life? The sharks of ABC’s ‘Shark Tank’ have achieved that and then some as some of North America’s most successful self-made businesspeople, with a combined net worth reaching into the billions.
Mark Cuban, Barbara Corcoran, Daymond John, Kevin O’Leary, Lori Greiner and Robert Herjavec aren’t just successful entrepreneurs in their own rights, though, they’re also huge supporters of aspiring entrepreneurs, not only through their investments throughout eleven seasons of the show, but also through the business advice they regularly share. Read on for some the sharks’ biggest secrets of success that just might help your own entrepreneurial dreams come true.
"Learn to Accept Rejection."
Chances are, your first business idea won’t be a smashing success, so it’s important to be able to cope with failure. Speaking on “One on One with Steve Adubato” in 2016, Daymond John emphasized, “Your rejection muscle has to be huge to be anybody that’s successful in anything,” and advised looking on the bright side: “Everything that you get rejected on or doesn’t work is one less thing that you have to try to get to the point of being successful and figuring it out.”
"Be Willing to Put in the Work."
That’s not to say that achieving those goals won’t take work, and that’s especially true when you’re trying to get a new business off the ground. According to Mark Cuban in a 2013 interview with eWomenNetwork, one of the most important things for entrepreneurs is to “Do the work…Sweat equity goes so much further than anything else, but most people are not willing to do the work…You’re going to have to give something up to start a successful company. It just doesn’t come to you. You’ve got to go get it, you’ve got to put in the time, you’ve got to put in the effort.”
"Believe You Have the Right to Be There."
As a young businesswoman in the competitive world of New York City real estate, Barbara Corcoran decided early on to adopt the mantra “I have the right be there” whenever she encountered a situation she had never been in or people with more experience than her, and at the 2012 “UP Experience” event she advised her audience to do the same, telling them, “I have found walking through every door believing that I’m going to go through the door, jump out the window, learn how to fly on the way down…that I’ve always had my best successes.”
Kevin O’Leary, a.k.a Mr. Wonderful, is known as the shark with the most ruthless takedowns of “Shark Tank” hopefuls, but in a 2019 “Ask Mr. Wonderful” video on his YouTube channel he offered an explanation for his blunt behavior that actually makes a lot of sense: “Here’s the way I look at it: business is really binary, black and white, either you make money or you lose money. I would rather just tell the truth all the time. My mother taught me something once: if you always tell the truth, you never have to remember what you said.”
"Don't Forget About the Basics."
The entrepreneurial spirit often comes with big dreams, but letting those dreams obscure reality can be a big mistake that leads people to try to live and work beyond their means. Speaking with “Business Insider” in 2019, Robert Herjavec made the point, “Make sure you have enough cash to pay the rent,” reminding aspiring entrepreneurs that they always need to make sure they take care of the basics first.
"Play to Your Strengths."
Some aspiring entrepreneurs simply try to do too much. In a 2018 interview with Eric Christopher of Entrepreneur.com, Mark Cuban stressed the importance of keeping the focus on what you’re good at, saying, “Knowing your unique advantages, play to that, and your strengths. And focus. You know, what happens is very often people start with an idea, get a little bit of traction, then it gets hard. And when it gets hard, they start looking for other things to do as opposed to playing to their strengths.”
In his Steve Adubato interview, John also acknowledged the need to make confident decisions. “Be decisive,” he said. “Because first of all, you have to make a decision… and you have to live by your decisions no matter what. And if people see that you’re hesitant, no matter what, they’re not going to believe in you.” It’s a crucial idea to keep in mind not only when speaking with potential investors, but also when leading a team.
"Set Realistic Goals."
In another piece of “Ask Mr. Wonderful” advice, Kevin O’Leary offers a tip for effective salespeople that can apply to success in almost any field: “The salespeople that really succeed are able to set targets…and make them. In other words, don’t set targets you can’t achieve…Know exactly your territory, know what your potential is, and don’t overestimate.” If you know how to set realistic goals, it becomes easier to achieve them on a consistent basis.
"Involve the People You Love in Your Work."
With so much time dedicated to your work, though, it’s hard not to let your personal life suffer. “When you’re an entrepreneur, it’s really a 24/7 thing. There isn’t really work-life balance… It’s not where you can just say ‘it’s 9-to-5, I’m leaving,’” Lori Greiner acknowledged in a 2016 interview for “Young Hollywood.” Her solution? “So, I think the truth is that you should try to involve your family in your business…I try to involve the people I love in what I’m doing, and therefore they’re going to be a part of the journey.”
"Money Doesn't Solve Everything."
In a similar vein, Daymond John argues that having too much money can lead to lazy decision making, and that it’s smarter to treat cash as a limited resource. In his interview with Steve Adubato, he said, “You look at the people out there that are succeeding in life, and they operate with this mentality of broke. They don’t just throw money at things and think that’s going to solve it or that’s going to create something. They have a certain way that they operate and a method of operation they go through step-by-step-by-step to get to the area of where you can hopefully succeed.”
"Pursue Your Passion on the Side."
Sometimes other obligations, like a full-time job that supports your family, make it difficult to wholeheartedly pursue your true passion. In that case, says Kevin O’Leary, “What you should do is work at night and on weekends on something you’re passionate about to find out whether or not it’s going to work before you take the leap…It’s a side hustle until it has enough critical mass for you to jump ship.”
"Separate Work and Personal Life."
That kind of involvement between business and family doesn’t work for everyone, though, and Barbara Corcoran described a completely different approach in a 2016 interview on “Behind the Brand.” “All I can do,” Corcoran said, “is separate my personal life from my business life, and I do that very well, and I do it in a very simple fashion: I don’t take any calls, including from my kids, at work…but when I get home…I take my cell phone and leave it in the hallway…When I’m with my kids I’m 150 percent, when I’m with my work I’m 150 percent…and I’m able to do both much better than trying to blend it like I used to in the old days.”
"Find a Problem and Solve It."
So you now know some of the personal qualities that make for a successful entrepreneur, but how do you develop a successful business idea? Speaking with “Business Insider,” Robert Herjavec offered a great suggestion for a way to start. “Don’t look to start a business, look for a problem,” he said. “The best businesses are ones that find a problem and solve it.”
"Seek Out Honest Opinions."
According to Lori Greiner in a 2014 Forbes interview, one way to identify a problem that needs solving is to actively seek feedback from your desired customers. “I believe in hitting the streets and talking to strangers to truly get an honest opinion,” she said. “It's important you ask the right questions, ones that will be the most helpful in getting accurate feedback to make wise decisions.”
"Build a Community Around Your Business."
With his success in the fashion industry, Daymond John has a slightly different philosophy. His comment to Entrepreneur.com’s Eric Christopher makes it clear that sometimes it’s not about solving an existing problem, but creating a new need and a community around it. "You've got to build a community. Nobody needs to buy anything new in this world. They only buy it because there's some form of community and/or need that you are supplying for them."
"Don't Be Afraid to Say 'No.'"
Robert Herjavec shared with “Business Insider” his own simple strategy that helps him manage his schedule. “Learn to say ‘no,’” he advised. “I’m a pretty nice guy, but if I don’t want to do it, I’m just going to say ‘no.’" There’s only so much time in the day, and taking on too much not only increases stress but also detracts from focus on the most important tasks.
"Don't Overlook the Importance of Publicity."
According to Barbara Corcoran in her comment to Entrepreneur.com in 2018, your business’s differentiating factor can also come from your marketing. "I'd say you need a publicity hook,” she argued. “Some hook, angle or gimmick that grabs the attention unfairly from your competitors.” In a world that’s heavily influenced by viral content, this advice makes a lot of sense.
"Focus on Selling."
Mark Cuban also recognizes the significance of the public facing side of a business. One of his most frequent pieces of advice, including in a 2018 interview with Entrepreneur.com, is to focus on selling, which he claims can help to overcome other shortcomings. “There's never been a business that succeeded without sales. So, if you focus on selling ... if you're able to sell ... and that's something that is one of your core competencies, then you'll be okay."
"Find a Good Balance."
So what’s ultimately more important: the product or the marketing? Lori Greiner perhaps put it best for Entrepreneur.com when she said, “It's a mix, right? Of smart marketing and ingenious product.” Without the right marketing and selling strategy a great product may fail to reach consumers, but on the other hand customers will learn to distrust a great salesperson who fails to deliver a quality product.
"Surround Yourself With the Right People."
The right mentality and business idea can go a long way, but no entrepreneur can do everything on their own. Daymond John stressed to Steve Adubato the importance of building a support system, as well as distancing yourself from detractors. “I think that every single one of us is born thinking like entrepreneurs,” John said, “and it’s the people around us…that sometimes say it can’t be done, it won’t be done, you’re going to embarrass yourself, you’re going to embarrass us, and they take us off that track. It’s up to us to find those people that put us back on.”
"Hold People Accountable."
Part of that support system includes a reliable team of employees, especially as your business grows, but it’s crucial to hold them to a high standard as Robert Herjavec told “Business Insider” in 2019. “Hold other people accountable,” he said. “If it’s your job to do something, it’s not my job to do it for you. So what I learned a long time ago is, hold people accountable to stuff, and don’t be afraid to tell them when they messed up.”
"Be a Good Leader."
Mark Cuban makes it clear that leadership isn’t just about holding your team accountable to tasks, though. It’s also about being able to motivate and connect with people. In a 2019 video for “WIRED” Cuban said, “When I look for leadership, I look for a few things: It’s somebody who can relate to people, someone who can define a vision, someone who is nice, and someone who recognizes it truly comes down to helping people achieve their personal goals and aligning those with the goals of the organization.” This is especially important in a job market where young employees are increasingly seeking careers with companies whose values align with theirs.
"Let Your Work Speak For Itself."
Not all of us are entrepreneurs (at least not yet!), so this advice that Kevin O’Leary shared in a 2014 appearance on CTV’s “The Social” is good to keep in mind for employees hoping to make a good impression and advance in their careers: “I find great employees are ones that know they have to get their job done, don’t make a lot of noise doing it, but everybody starts to understand that they know what they’re doing, and they naturally rise up like cream to the top.”
"Reduce the Stress of People Around You."
One last piece of advice from Mark Cuban’s “WIRED” video stands out: “Be someone who reduces the stress of people around you… I’ll always fire somebody who creates stress, and I’ll always look to keep people and give raises to people who reduce stress.” While he’s speaking specifically about employees here, anyone hoping to be a successful business leader, or even just a decent human being, would also do well to take heed.
"The By-product of Creating Successful Things is Money."
Honorary shark for the day Richard Branson, who has an impressive $5.1 billion net worth as of 2018, expressed his excitement to be included on the show by saying, "I’ve never been interested in making lots of money – I like creating things. I’m always really happy to be involved in anything that helps people’s dreams come true."
Scrub Daddy Scratch-Free Sponge
Aaron Krause turned his Scrub Daddy smiley-faced sponge into one of the most successful Shark Tank products. It reportedly made $50 million in sales in 2017 after selling over 10 million sponges. But what makes this sponge so special? In warm water, it acts just like a regular sponge. But in cold water, it gets firmer so you can get rid of tough-to-remove stains without scratching your pots and pans.
Bubba's Boneless Ribs
Former NFL star Al “Bubba” Baker presented Bubba’s Q Boneless Ribs which included Boneless Baby Back Ribs, Bone-In Baby Back Ribs, Fully Cooked Turkey Wings, and Bubba’s World Famous BBQ Sauce. Basically, this delicious, fall-off-the-bone-tender meat is completely boneless. Not only that but they deliver right to your doorstep. All you have to do is open it, heat it up and serve. It made $16 million in 2017 and is sold at Costco and on QVC.
Wicked Good Cupcakes
A mother and daughter went on the show to pitch their "cupcakes in a jar" idea and called it Wicked Good Cupcakes. Since the show, the cupcakes have gotten a ton of attention and are making about $4.8 million a year. So, clearly, this was a wicked good investment.
Max Gunawan introduced us to his foldable, magnetic-lamp company named Lumio. The concept was modern, durable and obviously lit because Lumio earned Gunawan $3 million in 2015 and a bunch of awards along with it. The multi-functional lamp concealed itself in the form of a book.
Lani Lazzari’s skincare company Simple Sugars was a total hit, and sales went through the roof within 24 hours of the show's premiere. Six weeks later, sales hit $1 million. But what makes Simple Sugars so special is that its all-natural skincare products target customers who have extremely sensitive skin.
Rick Hopper came up with the ReadeRest, a tiny magnetic pocket filler that lets customers clip their glasses to their shirt. That way, the glasses won’t fall out of their pocket and break. Plus, it keeps the glasses somewhere where they can easily grab them when needed. Hopper was probably hopping with excitement after making more than $27 million in sales, with that number only growing each day.
The Squatty Potty is a plastic stool you put under your feet so you can get into an ideal squatting position and poop easier. It became a major hit and, according to Mental Floss, the company made $1 million in less than 24 hours after the episode that featured this product aired.
Cousins Maine Lobster
Cousins Jim Tselikis and Sabin Lomac came up with the Cousins Maine Lobster food truck to bring the Maine lobster experience to people on the West Coast. Their sales hit more than $20 million, and now we can all order live Maine lobsters directly from their site.
Grace and Lace
Rick and Melissa Hinnant pitched their Grace and Lace company, which makes clothing, lace extenders for dresses, and skirts and boot cuffs that make it seem like you have socks under your boots. Their business grew from $1 million to more than $20 million in sales after their appearance on "Shark Tank."
Tipsy Elves feature ugly sweater designs that are just perfect for those traditional ugly Christmas sweaters we do every year. But their site has other novelty clothing that’s obviously appealed to customers, because the business enjoyed more than $10 million in sales in 2015. Who knew ugliness could be so lucrative?
Owner Joel Clark came up with Kodiak Cakes. Think of it as a flour-based mix with proteins and whole grains, so you can make yourself more nutritious waffles and pancakes. Clark didn’t get sharks to invest in his idea, but he did get tons of attention. In 2017, he earned $54 million in sales and now Kodiak Cakes is the fourth-largest pancake mix on store shelves.
The GrooveBook app lets users print photos from their phone and turn them into a customized monthly photo book for $3.99 a month plus free shipping. After appearing on "Shark Tank," the company’s subscribers jumped to 500,000. In 2015, they sold the company to Shutterfly for $14.5 million.
CEO James Siminoff didn’t get a single investor when he presented the Ring. The device is a doorbell and a camera which is great for homeowner security. In 2018, Siminoff sold the Ring to Amazon for $1.1 billion. Amazon also paid former NBA star Shaquille O’Neal to be the spokesperson for the Ring. Guess you could say the Ring was a slam dunk.
The Drop Stop is a foam-filled log that you stick in the crack between your car seat and center console. That way, if you drop something, it won’t vanish into the abyss. Since their appearance on Shark Tank, the Drop Stop co-founders have sold 2.4 million Drop Stop products and made $24 million in the process.
Bombas makes extra-long staple cotton socks that are breathable and extra cushiony to make them comfy. They even come with a blister tab. The founders said they made $400,000 in sock sales four days after their TV appearance. And in 2017, they made $50 million, according to Business Insider.
Veronica Perlongo and Maria Curcio came up with the perfect way to detect and prevent bed bugs. It’s basically a glue trap that lures and traps bed bugs until they meet their maker. Since appearing on the show, BuggyBeds availability jumped from 60 to 350 Home Depot stores. They’re also sold at Burlington Coat Factory and ship to other countries too.
Ten Thirty One Productions
Ten Thirty One Productions is more of a service and not an actual product. Melissa Carbone pitched her horror entertainment company, which creates and produces live attractions in the horror genre. Since her appearance on the show, Carbone has brought her frightening attractions to cities like Dallas and New York. They made $3 million in 2014 alone.
Charles Yim came up with the Breathometer, a device that turned any smartphone into a breathalyzer for people to test their own blood-alcohol levels. The product was sold at Walmart and Best Buy and reportedly made approximately $5 million in sales. Ultimately, though, its measurements proved inaccurate, and the FTC shut down the product.
Mark Aramli, a former NASA employee, introduced a climate-controlled mattress pad that allows you to pick the perfect temp for you to rest. None of the sharks wanted to get into bed with this guy, but he still ended up earning $3 million in sales during the 18 months that followed his episode.
Copa Di Vino
James Martin didn’t get an investor for his single-serve, sealed-for-freshness wine glasses. But the attention he got from his Copa Di Vino made his sales jump from $500,000 to $5 million. In 2017, he sold 38 million cups.
Simply Fit Board
Co-founders Gloria Hoffman and Linda Clark came up with this sort of a skateboard without wheels, which is really a core balance device designed to strengthen ab muscles. The Simply Fit Board was sold at Walmart and Home Depot. Within a matter of months, sales went from $575,000 to $9 million.