What? You’ve Never Watched ‘Shark Tank’?

ABC's reality show featuring entrepreneurs swimming with "Sharks" for capital is must-see TV.

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Does he bite? Of course he does. He's a 'Shark'! But Daymond John can also teach you a lot about how to succeed with your business.

“I’ve never watched Shark Tank before,” said the woman, the owner of a graphic design business.

“What?,” I responded, with the look I must have had on my face when my doctor told me I’d never be six feet tall.

“I’ve never watched Shark Tank,” she repeated.

“What?,” I responded again. “You have to watch Shark Tank! It should be required viewing for all business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs!”

This exchange took place in Las Vegas this past weekend at the 2012 Blogalicious Conference, an annual gathering of multicultural women bloggers and social media enthusiasts. I was there to help get the word out about the 2012-2013 edition of the MillerCoors Urban Entrepreneurs Series (MUES) Business Plan Competition, an opportunity for entrepreneurs to compete for a share of $150,000 in business grants of at least $25,000 each. Black Enterprise is an official media partner of MUES, and I’ve been a national judge for the business plan competition since its inception nearly 12 years ago. At a reception hosted by MUES at Blogalicious12, I described, as I often do, the national round of judging for the MUES business plan contest as Shark Tank before there was a Shark Tank on television, which is what triggered the above exchange.

For those who don’t know, Shark Tank is a reality show on ABC-TV during which ordinary entrepreneurs pitch their business ideas to wealthy ‘Sharks’–including FUBU Founder Daymond John, real estate doyenne Barbara Corcoran, Dallas Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban, and venture capitalist Kevin O’Leary–in hopes of getting them to invest in their respective businesses. The show is extremely entertaining, in part because the Sharks are so brutal when the entrepreneurs and ideas are lacking, and super predatory when it’s a great business opportunity to sink their teeth–and money–into. However, unlike most reality shows, those characteristics add to, not diminish, the realism of the experience. Because one of the hardest things to learn to do, but a critical skill you must have as an entrepreneur seeking capital, is to be smart enough, prepared enough, tough enough and credible enough to talk a person into writing a check, whether for $25,000, $2.5 million or $25 million, to invest in your idea, your business–to invest in you.

Shark Tank does a great job of this, forcing entrepreneurs to defend their business planning (or lack thereof), how they came to their valuation of their business, how much (or little) they’ve personally invested, and even the very viability of the business concept they may have poured their life savings into. Which is exactly what you’ll face when you compete for business grants through a program like MUES, enter elevator pitch competitions now popular at business events (including the Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Conference) or get a chance to meet with small business lenders, angel investors and venture capitalists. The time to learn what you need to do to raise capital and attract investors to your business is before you need the money.

So, entrepreneurs and aspiring business owners: you must watch Shark Tank, if you want to get important clues and examples of how your business looks through the eyes of a potential lender, investor or other source of capital. If you didn’t know, now you know.

I’m happy to report that the owner of the graphics business tweeted to me that she watched Shark Tank for the first time this week.

  • socamom

    I watched Shark Tank for the first time a couple of weeks ago… it is addictive!

    • It is addictive! But it’s also extremely informative! Entrepreneurs need to know how it important it is to have someone really reality-check their ideas–it is often the difference between a failed venture and a billion-dollar business model. You’re boyfriend, mama or best friends may not have the heart to tell you the truth about you and your business. Every entrepreneur needs some “sharks” in their life!


    One of my ALL TIME FAVORITE SHOWS!!! Now THAT’s what you call good, fun, educational TV. It’s like Sesame Street for Entrepreneurs! 🙂

    • “It’s like Sesame Street for Entrepreneurs!” <— LOVE THIS!


        It’s true! That’s why I tune in… I’m entertained AND I’m learning vicariously through THEIR triumphs and tragedies (leaving my own ego still intact for now as I work out the kinks, lol) Heck– I’m still waiting to pitch my idea for the spin-off version for kid entrepreneurs.. “Fish Bowl”. © 2012 <– Don't steal that! LOL! No but seriously, if I could just get Daymond John to mentor me, I'd be happy enough. So far, he's not answering my tweets…lol :- #staytuned

        • “Fish Bowl”. © 2012 sounds like a great idea (I respect other people’s intellectual property)! As far as getting Daymond John to mentor you, you don’t need him to answer you directly to watch, listen and learn from him. Follow his tweets, read his books, visit his web site, and when you can, attend his public appearances and speeches. Learning from his example is more important than getting his direct advice. Also, the more present you are in his world, the more likely he is to notice your persistence and diligence, which is what we mentors look for in a protege. Staying tuned!

          • Haha, I’m joking about you stealing “Fish Bowl” !!:)  I just made that up on the spot (though I do think it is a really good idea!) As far as mentorship, I am definitely in a place where I feel that I need direct, personal advice to fit my specific situation, even with all of the listening, learning, and watching I’ve done so far. I’ve built and accomplished a lot on my own over the past 10 years as an entrepreneur, without the assistance of a mentor. Now I believe that I’ll need a certain amount of advice and guidance in order to strategize properly and take it to the next level. One of my struggles thus far has been “knowing when/how to ask for help”– I’m convinced that NOW is my time, so asking for help is what I’m working on.
            He actually HAS noticed so far (just a few responses here and there, lol)… but I am still interested in engaging in a professional relationship with someone who is as seriously committed to helping me as I am committed to helping myself… (*ahem*) yourself included!
            Thanks for your responses! I appreciate your encouragement.

          • My pleasure! I appreciate you taking the time to share your experiences and views. I pray all the best for your entrepreneurial journey!

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