Mom Inventor Gets $50,000 on ‘Shark Tank’
If you were offered $50,000 for a 55% stake in your business on a national TV show, would you take it? Watching Tiffany Krummins mull over the offer from real estate mogul Barbara Corcoran on Sunday night's episode of Shark Tank, it was tough to tell what she was going to decide. But after a tense few minutes, Tiffany decided to go for it, sealing the deal with a hug and getting the funding she needed to start the patenting and prototyping process for her children's medicine dispensing product, Ava the Elephant.
Tiffany, who has worked with special needs children as a nanny for 10 years and also volunteers at a hospital, had the idea for her product a year ago when working with a boy with Down Syndrome who frequently had to take medicine for ear infections. Ava the Elephant was created to making taking medicine fun by having the cartoon elephant speak to the child getting the medicine, squirt the medicine out of her trunk and praise the child afterward.
It's been a busy year for Tiffany -- the Auburn, Georgia, mom developed her idea while she was pregnant and still working. Shortly after her daughter was born in August, she saw a Craigslist post that led her to audition for Shark Tank. She filmed her episode in California in January, and shortly after was diagnosed with cancer, but the 29-year-old inventor-entrepreneur has continued to work on bringing her product to market during surgery, recovery and radiation.
Sunday, when her episode of Shark Tank aired (view the episode on ABC.com), she launched the Ava the Elephant website and started selling her product to the public. And this past week, she took the time to share her story with us...
What was it like to be on Shark Tank?
This show is about as real as reality TV gets -- you are really pitching your business idea to investors, one time, and that's it. You wait until your turn, you go into the set and you stand on camera in front of five very successful people and you have one shot at it. There are no "Can I start overs?" You either ace it or you don't. At that point the investors decide if they have interest in your product. If they do, the negotiations start. They can all turn you down, or two or three of them may be interested and "fight" over the percentages they would get. It's a yes or no thing, not a competition.
What was going through your mind as you received the $50,000 offer on the show? Were you concerned about giving up the majority share?
Honestly, I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. Since the judges were so harsh to so many before me that day filming, I was sure that at any second they were going to let me have it! I was not concerned about giving up the majority share. If I had said no, I could have tried to produce the product myself and would never have sold the amount I will sell with Barbara's know-how, connections and help. I am not a greedy person and wanted to see my product on shelves no matter what I had to give up, and I did not think I could get a better deal.
I knew what kind of business woman Barbara is and knew that she sticks to her guns. I was excited but wanted to think it over before I spoke. I am a very fast talking and thinking person and I had to force myself to stop and think.
How did you finance your business before Shark Tank?
I got creative: I thought my husband would make a great Frankenstein so I asked if he would let me transform him for Halloween & try to win some money in the local contests. I sewed a very large costume, shoes, etc, it took months. We entered two here in Atlanta and won first in one, for $5,000, and second in another, for $500. I used that money to fund the beginning of my product.
I made my first Ava from sponges and fabric. When given the chance to pitch my idea, I made five models out of clay.
What were you able to accomplish with the $50,000 from the show?
I was able to patent, manufacture and bring my product to market with $50,000. That is another plus to having a wonderful mentor like Barbara -- you then have connections that money can't buy. It allows you to save money in a lot of ways. Just the advertising from the show is priceless.
How involved has Barbara been in your business?
She is very involved! She is there when I need help, but never steps on my toes. We talk daily, and she and I have become very fond of each other.
What were the other competitors on the show like?
I met the most creative, amazing people while there. That was the great part about it -- you weren't competing, so everyone became very friendly and supportive. However, we weren't allowed to speak about our business or invention in any way, so none of us knew what the other was doing. Once you pitch, you leave immediately.
What did you do while waiting to present?
I prayed a lot and practiced my pitch a lot. We were all in one huge area and we looked hilarious. We were all pacing around, going over our pitches -- over and over and over again.
How did you find out about Shark Tank, and what was the auditioning process like?
I found the casting call on Craigslist, and the auditioning process was very long. After months of paperwork, and speaking and meeting with producers, I got the final go-ahead about two weeks before I had to fly to California to film.
What are your initial goals for Ava the Elephant?
I tend to dream big so I picture giving an Ava to every sick child in the hospital. The children I worked with are my inspiration and keep me going -- remembering those children in the hospital reminds me of how much I want to be successful and help them one day.
Have you brought on any other people to help manage your business since the show?
We brought on an amazing website designer, Tim, with Out think group. I have been handling everything myself, but now that the show premiered and people are so interested that will change in the near future.
Would you recommend going on Shark Tank to other mom inventors and entrepreneurs?
Yes! In this day and age there are multiple ways to get things going -- if you are given an opportunity like this run with it. But only do it if you really believe in your product. If you would hesitate for one second to purchase your product if it were someone else's then it may not be right.
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