It is every small business owners’ dream – to gain national attention and have access to a bevy of investment funds. And what better way to do it than as a contestant on ABC’s Shark Tank, ABC’s reality TV show that features selected entrepreneurs pitching their businesses to a panel of judges – The Sharks. The show’s premise is akin to that of the Canadian show, Dragons’ Den.
So when Liette Tousignant and Kelly Krake, owners and founders of the Calgary based company, Under the Roof Decorating Inc. (UTR), found out about the show’s open audition taking place in Los Angeles in May of 2013, they jumped at the chance to participate. And they were prepared to do whatever it took to get noticed. “We camped out overnight on the street in L.A. to guarantee us an interview with a pre-screening judge,” recalls Tousignant, noting that only the first 500 people to arrive were interviewed. “We definitely wanted to get there early and camping out worked. We were number 63 in line.”
“We camped out overnight on the street in L.A. to guarantee us an interview with a pre-screening judge”, says Liette shown here at the back of the line.
Liette and Kelly had one minute to pitch their business and products. UTR is a product development, design, sales and marketing company that also offers a multitude of decorating tips, ideas and how tos through its website, blog and Facebook page. One of its most popular products, the Hang & Level, a cutting edge, easy to use picture hanging tool, has transformed the way people hang pictures and art. “Part way through our presentation, the judge interrupted and said that he loved our products and especially the fact that we had sales,” says Kelly, adding that the judge turned out to be one of the executive producers of the show. “He then told us that we were on the show. Of course, we were beyond excited.”
Only the first 500 people to arrive were interviewed. Here’s Kelly showing off his Shark Tank bracelet, we were number 63 in line.
But that is when the process became complicated. Even though UTR has a U.S. based arm and distributes and sells their products in the U.S. at large retailers such as The Home Depot, Target, Walmart, Ace Hardware and Bed, Bath & Beyond, the show’s executives decided that because Liette and Kelly are Canadian citizens, they couldn’t participate on the U.S. based show. The decision came after several weeks of legal negotiations and endless paperwork. “We offered to move to the U.S. but to no avail,” says Liette. “As you can imagine we were beyond disappointed. Shark Tank would have been the perfect platform to raise awareness of our products.”
Although the story doesn’t have a Hollywood ending, Liette and Kelly are thankful for the experience. “We’re extremely proud of what we have accomplished and the fact that we wowed, dazzled and convinced the interviewing judge that we were Shark Tank material.”
“Unfortunately no Hollywood ending”, says Liette.
The couple will be avidly watching the show’s season premiere which airs Friday, Sept. 20 on ABC with a touch of disappointment, but also with excitement. “Of course we will be thinking that it could have been us, but we look forward to watching another great season.”
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