How I Got a Deal on Shark Tank

Mitch Allen appears on ABC’s Shark Tank.

About 40,000 people apply each season; 100 actually make it on air. EO member Mitch Allen is one of them!

Mitch Allen, an Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) member in Fort Worth, is founder and Head Elf of Hire Santa, a service that brings the season to life with thousands of professionally trained Santas worldwide. On December 2, 2018, Mitch pitched the company on ABC’s Shark Tank.

Mitch shared with us the story of this once-in-a-lifetime journey—including how his experiences as an EO member proved invaluable.

As an entrepreneur, I’m drawn to the concept of Shark Tank. There’s the all-important pitch, creative sets, unexpected reactions by five seasoned investors and the possibility of scaling growth fast with a cash infusion and industry connections. It’s like the Super Bowl for entrepreneurs!

I’ve been an entrepreneur all my life–from buying baseball cards, comic books and antique Coke machines when I was young to flipping rental houses in grad school. I currently own several businesses, primarily in the legal and Internet marketing space.

How Hire Santa Started

My latest company, Hire Santa, started at an employee Christmas party in 2008 where I handed out bonuses dressed as Santa Claus. It was such a blast that I did it again in 2009. That year, a family friend asked me to appear for their child as Santa, and it changed everything. Being Santa to children is an unforgettable experience.

One thing led to another and people started to pay me to appear as Santa Claus. I got into it, appearing more frequently, charging more money―and then I ran out of supply. There wasn’t enough of me to do every event, so I started hiring other Santas.

I bought the domain name, created a website and quickly grew the business. It started as a hobby, but by 2014, with the support of my EO Fort Worth “Tamarindo” Forum, it became a real business.

At first, I was reluctant to talk about it, worried some might think it was silly. But it’s just the opposite—it’s an amazing company. We bring love, joy and the Christmas spirit to hundreds of thousands of people each year. I’ve never had a business that brings a smile to people everywhere the way that Hire Santa does.

My Journey to the Tank Begins

In January 2018, inspired by an episode of Shark Tank, I checked the show’s audition schedule and saw an open call one week later in Dallas—just a 40-minute drive away from me.

I went all in. I downloaded the application, crafted my one-minute pitch and waited in line all day at the Dallas Convention Center with 500 other hopeful entrepreneurs. Some had profitable businesses, others had a dream but hadn’t earned a penny. It was fascinating.

When called, I delivered my pitch to one of the six casting associates and thought I connected with him. The fact that I had revenue, a fun service and an interesting story played in my favor. Throughout the process, we were told not to expect a callback, so I was excited when they called less than a week later and sent more paperwork, contracts and extensive nondisclosure agreements.

The next step was to create a 10-minute audition video. So, I called 10 of my local Santas, found a Mrs. Claus, and filmed a video that I was pleased with.

They thanked me, but once again emphasized that most people wouldn’t get a callback.

Shortly thereafter, Hire Santa scored a huge contract with Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s. While I was focusing on that win, the Shark Tank producers called to say that I was moving on to the next round, and would need to put together a real pitch. More contracts arrived, and I was assigned a team of two producers whom I met with every week on conference calls to hone my pitch and get my financial documents in order.

What can you learn from the man who Barbara Corcoran called a “great negotiator”? Mitch Allen offers tips for any entrepreneur who hopes to make it to the Tank in his EO on Inc. article. 

Perfecting My Pitch

This is the part of the Shark Tank process where EO proved invaluable. My Forum and fellow EO members were incredibly helpful and encouraging:

  • Steve Craig, former chapter president of EO Fort Worth, suggested that I use his daughters, Lauren and Ashley Kate, as interns. They analyzed episodes, helped me form and answer possible questions about my business, reached out to former participants, ordered everything for my set, and fact-checked my pitch. Their efforts were extremely helpful.
  • EO Fort Worth was amazingly supportive. They set up mock Shark Tank presentations to challenge my composure and negotiating skills with difficult questions and scenarios.
  • Two Tamarindo Forum members—Jeremy Brandt and John Cornelsen, both former chapter presidents who have served in global EO positions—flew to Los Angeles at their expense to appear on set with me as snowman and Rudolph mascots. This level of support was extraordinary, and I couldn’t have done it without their help.
  • When I landed in Los Angeles to film in September, EO LA organized a fourth mock presentation as my final run-through. Nick Lange donated space and provided a delicious spread to welcome me. The overwhelming encouragement and support not only gave me practice, it also built my confidence.

I can’t thank Nick, EO LA, EO Fort Worth and, of course, my EO Tamarindo Forum enough for supporting me before, during and after filming.

A Week in Los Angeles

My week in Los Angeles was a blur. I arrived on Monday, 10 September 2018 for the Friday filming. The show puts all of its entrepreneurs in the same hotel, so it was interesting to watch others prepare. I was surprised to learn that everyone who appears on the show is responsible for providing their own set and props―there’s no allowance or stipend.

I feel fortunate that I was likely over-prepared, which kept me calm throughout the week.

My 45 Minutes in the Tank

Mitch Allen appears in the Shark Tank.

On Friday, we went to the studio to film. As I walked down the hall toward the Sharks, I could hardly believe it was happening. When you arrive in front of the Sharks, you’re asked to stand in silence for up to a minute while they set the cameras. If I hadn’t learned this from a former participant, it would have been quite intimidating.

I started my pitch, and everything went smoothly. My ask was a US$200,000 investment for 10 percent of the company. The sharks seemed to enjoy the spectacle of 20 Santas rushing in, bringing each shark a Santa hat to wear.

I was alarmed when four of the five sharks went out fairly early in the 45-minute filming process.

All sleighs led back to Kevin “Mr. Wonderful” O’Leary—the only shark left. He made an awful offer: US$200,000 for 50 percent of my company. I had practiced such scenarios and was grateful for the Victoria Medvec negotiation learning events I’d attended as a member of EO.

It was intense. All of the practice, research and deal scenarios I prepared in advance paid off. Even so, I was less than 30 seconds from walking out without a deal. I had many different strategies, but was not sure how it was going to work out.

I tried to control the room. I didn’t want to be intimidated or overwhelmed. We went back and forth, but couldn’t agree on valuation. (Much of our negotiation was edited out of the segment that aired.) Finally, I countered with a different structure, offering to repay his investment by sharing half the profits up to his US$200,000 investment, and then a 10 percent partnership.

That got Daymond John’s attention. He re-entered the negotiations. So then, I had two Sharks on the line. In the midst of pitting them against each together to improve my deal, Barbara Corcoran interjected, “I’ll do that deal at 10 percent, but you have to decide right now.”

I was thrilled! Barbara is known for giving strong support to the companies she invests in, so she was one of my top partner picks.

I smiled my biggest elfin smile: “Barbara, on behalf of Santa and all the elves at the North Pole, Hire Santa would love to do a deal with you!”

The Big Reveal

I filmed on 14 September 2018, and the episode aired on 2 December 2018. We kept a hefty secret for two-and-a-half months!

The night the episode aired, EO Fort Worth rented a movie theater and we held an epic MyEO event—140 friends and colleagues watched the episode together. My 45-minutes with the Sharks was edited to a nine-minute segment but I got to see moments I didn’t remember, such as Barbara hugging me and saying: “You’re a great negotiator!” What a pleasant surprise.

“When Mitch walked onto the Shark Tank set, he was wildly enthusiastic about his business. All the Santa Clauses that came with him were so jolly and well mannered, someone you would want to invite into your home to make your kids happy. On top of that, Mitch had a great business sense as to why his business was working well and what he had to do to make it even better.” – Shark Barbara Corcoran

Since the episode aired, I’ve been amazed by the massive outpouring of support and good wishes. My wife, Mysti, and I have received hundreds of calls, texts and emails. It’s a humbling experience, and I’m so grateful for every aspect of it.

Speaking of my wife: Every entrepreneur knows how hard it can be on our spouses; we ask so much of them because we’re “on” all the time. Mysti always goes the extra mile. In addition to watching and analyzing every episode with me, she has always kept our entire household running, which enables me to follow my dreams. She didn’t even complain that we were apart on our 20th wedding anniversary, which was the Wednesday I was in L.A. for filming while she stayed in Texas to take care of our children. She deserves a ton of credit for any success I have.

Post Tank

In the days since the episode aired, I’ve received hundreds of emails from people who want to hire Santa. We’re totally booked for 2018, but look forward to the exciting options Barbara’s investment will provide as we work to implement a new scheduling and calendaring process to organize hundreds of gigs in dozens of locations in one management platform.

Estimates put the publicity value from a Shark Tank appearance as equivalent to US$1 million in public relations. Our company couldn’t possibly get that much publicity any other way. From the number of emails I’ve received in the days since the episode aired, I can attest to the power of that exposure, which will help us for years to come.

Mitch Allen and his family at the EO Fort Worth watch event.

The Power of Experience Share

One reason I was able to succeed on the show is due to the power of experience share that EO models. By reaching out to people who’d appeared on the show, I gained valuable insights and strategies. I might not have understood the value in shared experiences if I weren’t immersed in Gestalt learning via my EO Forum, the Entrepreneurial Masters Program, and other one-of-a-kind EO learning opportunities.

Hearing what somebody else has gone through and how they navigated the challenges and unexpected twists life and business often bring can help significantly along our journey: I’m living proof.

The post How I Got a Deal on Shark Tank appeared first on Octane Blog – The official blog of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization.

Not Yet Up on Influencer Marketing? Start Here

Written for EO by James Scott, a marketer and co-founder of Essay Supply.

Today, influencer marketing is one of the most effective tools for building brand loyalty and boosting sales in a short time period. If you have never worked with social media celebrities before, now’s the time to learn how to make influencer marketing work for you.

1. Make posts look like honest reviews

“If you want your marketing campaign to bring positive results, posts should read 100% naturally,” states Amanda Sparks, a chief marketer at ResumesCentre. Social media users follow the influencers’ profiles to find interesting content, not for intrusive ads. Avoid direct promotion and create posts that look like truthful reviews written by the digital celebrities.

Take a look at the following post published by a travel blogger Luisa Arriola. This text appears to be a personal opinion about the place she visited and truly loved. Even without any sales language, the post led her followers to check out Hostel Vista Verde.

2. Teach and educate your target audience

Christopher K. Mercer, a digital marketing specialist and CEO at Citatior, says, “Users really appreciate the influencers who share lifehacks and useful tips with their audience. So, it’s a good idea to ask an influencer to show and explain how to use your product. Followers will likely view this piece of content not as an advertisement, but as advice or a ‘how-to.’”

3. Incorporate ads subtly

Mention your product in a way that most users will not even notice that it’s actually an ad. The name of your product should become an essential part of the piece of content. Too hard to do? Turn to the pros. Writers at Upwork, OnlineWritersRating or PeoplePerHour can help you.

But if you want to learn how to use this copywriting technique by yourself, review the following post published by popular food blogger, Dennis Prescott. Neither the text nor photo looks too promotional. When Dennis talks about the summer backyard party with his friends and mentions about the grilled hot dogs and beer, every word of the post sounds natural.

4. Or … advertise openly

In rare cases, when it’s a fact that the influencer used your product and liked it, it’s OK to embrace the advertising. However, do so only if you are sure that your target audience will accept it positively. “If there is a risk that an obvious ad will result in hundreds of the negative comments and dislikes, you should give up this idea,” says Natalie Andersen, a CEO at GetGoodGrade.

Let’s analyze a sponsored post by BrighterWhite, where Malu Trevejo openly demonstrates a product she used. As a rule, this kind of promotions doesn’t work well, but it brought excellent results in this case. The trick here is that the singer’s followers are mainly teenagers, who tend to accept ads on social media more readily.

5. Review every post

Don’t allow an influencer to create and publish a post without your permission. Check the quality of content and make sure that it presents your brand in the most favorable light.

Moreover, you are responsible to proofread the text. Do it with the help of popular grammar checkers like Grammarly and Scribens or professional editing services like FlashEssay.

If you want to run an influencer marketing campaign successfully, start with learning the right editorial techniques. After that, find an influencer who actively communicates with your target audience and has loyal followers. Then, craft your content and create a buzz!

james scott Essay SupplyJames Scott is a marketer and co-founder of Essay Supply. He specializes in targeting, branding and SEO.

The post Not Yet Up on Influencer Marketing? Start Here appeared first on Octane Blog – The official blog of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization.

9 Ways Entrepreneurs Are Like Superheroes

entrepreneurs are today's superheroes

A version of this article originally appeared on the EO Melbourne blog. The content has been edited and reprinted here with permission.

Stories of entrepreneurs overcoming early obstacles and ultimately achieving success on their journey can be found on every blog or business site. And these tales leave many of us thinking, “Wow! They did all that?” Some people even regard today’s entrepreneurs as modern day heroes or, even, superheroes.

With superhero movies debuting regularly on the big screen, it’s natural to make the comparison. After all, those caped crusaders and masked heroes may have awesome moves and incredible powers, they are essentially hardworking individuals overcoming challenges in often unexpected and bold ways.

Let’s take a closer look at the characteristics of superheroes and spot the parallels with entrepreneurs.

1. Superheroes often start as underdogs.

Even heroes get bullied and experience hardships early in their lives. It’s when they experience being at the bottom that they set their sights for the top. It’s also when they realize the shared pain of so many others.

For superheroes—and entrepreneurs—it’s often this early suffering that ignites a passionate drive to help others and save the world. It motivates them to push forward and reach for their dreams—to leap without looking.

2. Superheroes must learn to master their power.

Upon discovering the power they hold, superheroes don’t jump up immediately and start saving the world. In fact, one of the biggest challenges for young superheroes is learning to control their power and wield it for good. They inevitably make missteps and must continue refining their understanding of superpowers.

Likewise, having a super idea, a super personality or a super brain for business does not make you a successful entrepreneur. Growing a business takes time, and continuous learning. Patience truly is a virtue for both superhero and entrepreneur.

3. Symbols are significant.

Superman wears his red cape. Captain America carries his shield. Batman dons his mask. These signature looks let others identify them easily.

Without a doubt, branding is important in building your reputation. It helps people identify and connect with your personality, product and services. Particularly in today’s visually focused world, marketing matters. Keep your look—whether it’s a signature color or logo—consistent across platforms to establish your brand and attract followers.

4. Responsibilities, responsibilities, responsibilities.

“With great power comes great responsibility,” Peter Parker’s uncle Ben said in the Spiderman movie. Being a superhero is no joke! You will work round the clock, and must reply to even the most harrowing calls for help. Hardworking superheroes often sacrifice their family, friends and loved ones. Plus, their superpowers have limits. Ultimately, their powers are intended for the good of others and not for selfish gains.

Consider everything that entrepreneurs are juggling! Besides running a company—and the leadership, strategy, sales and downright hard work that business requires—there’s family, friends, networking and personal interests. For entrepreneurs, work is life and life is work. Many are so passionate about their business that they sacrifice their personal lives and even their health.

Striving for the balance of responsibilities in all aspects of your life becomes critical to the long-term viability and wellness of both your business and your self.

5. Heroes save the world, but they also need to be saved.

Superheroes save lives. They fight crimes. They rescue those in need. But, they often have a sidekick or at least a little help from their superhero friends.

Despite their powers, superheroes often need a hero themselves.

Leading a company can be a lonely position. The responsibility to run a successful business and support employees can be impossible to bear. Remember: Behind every successful entrepreneur is a family, a loved one or, if you’re lucky, a network of other entrepreneurs who provide support and advice.

6. It’s not just the cape that makes superheroes fly.

Sure, some superheroes can fly. But it’s not just their cape that helps them defy the force of gravity. Wind propels them upward and helps them soar like a bird.

The most well-known entrepreneurs attribute much of their success to an effective team that helps them achieve their goals. Hiring the right staff members is one of the many obstacles early-stage entrepreneurs must tackle. However, once they’ve placed the right people in the right roles, they can achieve goals by leaps and bounds.

7. For every superhero, there is a villain.

There’s no hero without a villain. Villains wreak havoc and create chaos for humanity. They add excitement to the story, and they also keep the superhero busy!

In business, “villains” create a dent in a brand or a venture. They compete for clients or employees. The smartest entrepreneurs will learn from these enemies and build their business in spite of the competition. It’s these villains who help mould your business and also develop your leadership and business savvy.

8. Joining a league is an “in” thing.

There’s the Justice League, the Avengers and the X-Men. We love it when heroes band together to fight a greater evil. There’s strength in numbers—and the more diverse powers they can pool, the stronger they become.

At some point in their journey, business owners realize the benefit of being with like-minded individuals who can relate to their struggles. Inevitably, mature entrepreneurs wish they’d realized the value of learning from others earlier in their journey.

For thousands of entrepreneurs across the globe, the Entrepreneurs’ Organization is this band of brothers and sisters who support and guide each other. Members emphasize the many ways that EO enriches their business and personal lives. 

9. The battle is endless.

As long as there is evil in this world, superheroes are here to stay. Their mission is ongoing.

Most entrepreneurs say that the challenges never stop. Once you’ve figured out one aspect of business, another challenge—or opportunity to learn—crops up. Thus growth is ongoing. For every victory, there is a new goal.

According to Christopher Reeve, the American actor who portrayed the role of Superman, “A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.” For many entrepreneurs, this characterization probably sounds very familiar.

Are you a superhero entrepreneur looking for your league? Check out why entrepreneurs join EO.


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Leadership Training Like No Other

EO’s Regional Leadership Academies (RLA) are offered across the globe and provide EO member leaders insights and education under the guidance of world-class facilitators. RLA focuses on leading in diversity, recognizing that leadership is about leading diverse teams from multiple countries, races, cultures, languages and styles.

With a limited number of attendees in each class and a fully immersive format, attendees are pushed beyond their comfort zones and graduate with skills to change their lives for the better.

We asked Jason Lind (pictured at left), an RLA graduate from EO Cape Town, about his experience in this groundbreaking program.

Why did you apply for the program?

It was an opportunity to engage with global EO members in my home town. The challenge of interacting with such a diverse range of nationalities and people is out of my normal routine, and I was looking to challenge myself and learn from the experience.

What surprised you about the program?

Every single moment of the course surprised me. I went with an open mind and no expectations, and I was completely blown away.

The tone for the event was set the first morning with an incredible visit to the Pollsmoor prison facility in Tokai, Cape Town, where Nelson Mandela stayed in the final years of his sentence. The energy and engagement that followed brought incredible value to the course.

What was the highlight of the program for you?

The course itself is the highlight. The RLA package comes together as a complete experience. There were fun moments and interesting learning, but the course sits as a highlight of my year and that is thanks to all the elements that the RLA team bring to the event.

From the content and the calibre of those delivering the content, to the activities and social spaces provided to encourage all attendees to engage with each other, RLA is by far the best EO experience I have had the privilege of attending.

I am super excited, as I am sure it is just the start of my EO leadership journey.

What were your key take-aways?

Taking action makes a difference. Whether it is taking action to create new habits for personal or business growth, or taking action to build a better world, it starts with each one of us. Putting one foot in front of the other with determination to reach our goals will get us there. We just need to take the first steps.

Also, the power of proper scheduling is something I try to make use of daily now. It helps me to focus on the important goals in my life effectively.

How has RLA impacted you as an entrepreneur?

RLA allowed me to truly be a part of the global EO community. Seeing the global picture and experiencing how learning and working together can make a difference in the world has inspired me to take action in my own community.

I am in the early phases of creating better communication and channels among various stakeholders in the ex-offenders and reintegration space, to help make our communities and cities safer and more positive.

I’m working on this with the support of other RLA participants. Knowing my peers stand behind me has motivated me to lead a project that can make a real difference in the lives of people that need our help, guidance and inspiration.

EO members can learn more about the project from our MyEO group.

EO is a collection of like-minded entrepreneurs focused on business growth, personal development and community engagement. Learn what 13,000+ entrepreneurs are experiencing as members of EO.


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How 5 Expert Entrepreneurs View Success and Failure

While there is no how-to guide for navigating the successes and failures you’ll face as an entrepreneur, there is plenty of brilliant advice and insights to be gained from individuals who have survived their own setbacks and gone on to thrive.

What can you learn from the stories of five entrepreneurs who share their stories on setbacks, challenges and unexpected opportunities? Read on to find out!

1. Bruce Eckfeldt

Business coach and EO New York member, Bruce Eckfeldt, has grown his professional consulting firm into a highly successful business. As part of this growth, Bruce recognized even the best-laid plans don’t guarantee success.

Check out Bruce’s article, Not All Bad Outcomes Are The Result of Bad Decisions, Here’s Why, and use his outcome-decision matrix to analyze your own actions and results. 

By analyzing both success and failure, you can better understand what was a bad decision, bad timing, bad execution—or simply bad luck.

2. Lisa Sugar

Lisa Sugar’s part-time pop culture hobby grew into the wildly popular media outlet, PopSugar. Transitioning from her full-time advertising agency career, Lisa took a risk that paid off: Today, PopSugar reaches one in two American millennial females and has offices in five major cities.

“You have to start small,” she said in a 2016 interview with the LA Times. “A lot of people think you’re supposed to do these things overnight and see success, but you have to be patient.” These are words to remember, especially on those days victory feels like it’s been out of reach for too long. 

To hear more of Lisa’s words of advice, listen to her on Wonder, the EO podcast focused on women entrepreneurs.

3. Hal Elrod

At 20 years old, Hal Elrod was hit by a drunk driver, considered clinically dead for 6 minutes and then told he would never walk again. Later, he ran a 52-mile ultra-marathon. At 37-years-old, Hal’s organs began shutting down due to an aggressive form of leukemia. One year later, Hal is cancer-free and healthy.

Now a bestselling author and international speaker, Hal is a treasure trove of inspiration in the face of challenges, and speaks extensively on how the right mindset can influence your success.

Listen to him speak on an EO 360° episode to find out how his morning routine prepares him to face his day. This episode will leave you with an overflow of hope.

4. Michel Kripalani

When is failure not a failure at all? When it leads to something greater.

President and CEO of Oceanhouse Media, Michel Kripalani, had committed to writing a book before his fiftieth birthday. As his deadline drew closer, he had to face the reality that he hadn’t written a single page.   

That’s when this EO San Diego had a breakthrough idea.

In his article, The Unsung Power of Establishing Audacious Goals (Even if You Fail), Michel explores how focusing his unique talents ultimately led to success—even if his initial goal went unmet.

Perhaps your last failure was only setting you on the right course.

5. Arianna Huffington

Long before the birth of her media empire or the sale of the Huffington Post for US$300 million, Arianna Huffington’s second book was rejected by 36 publishers, leaving her to question her future as a writer.

Throughout success and failure, however, she turned to her mother’s advice. “My mother used to call failure a stepping-stone to success, as opposed to the opposite of success,” she recalled in a 2013 Inc. article. “When you frame failure that way, it changes dramatically what you’re willing to do, how you’re willing to invent, and the risks you’ll take.”

Entrepreneurs like Arianna Huffington remind us that it just might be your 37th attempt that leads to success—or something even better.

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