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Advice from ‘Shark Tank’ Veterans

Advice from ‘Shark Tank’ veterans to newest winners: Don’t rest now!

Military Times put out a great article featuring Bottle Breacher, along with other “veteranpreneurs” who won investments in previous episodes of Shark Tank. Veteran-owned startups have made a splash in the tank! Among them:

  • Bottle Breacher. Launched by former SEAL Elijah Crane when he was still in the Navy, Bottle Breachers converts dummy .50 caliber rounds into bottle openers. Cuban and Kevin O’Leary were hooked, teaming up to invest a combined $150,000 for 20 percent of the business.
  • The Natural Grip. Army Capt. Ashley Drake turned a problem with torn and bleeding hands from the pull up bar at her local CrossFit box into a business selling custom-made grip gloves. Self-declared “Sporty Shark” Robert Herjavec bought in with a $100,000 investment for 33 percent of the business.
  • TurboPUP. Former Air Force C-130 pilot Kristina Guerrero wanted a kind of MRE for her dogs. She couldn’t find it in the stores, so she created her own canine meal bars and turned it into a business. Daymond John bit with a $100,000 investment for 35 percent of the business.
  • Stella Valle. Sisters and fellow U.S. Military Academy graduates Ashley Jung and Paige Dellavalle snapped up a $150,000 investment from Cuban and Greiner for 35 percent of their fashion and jewelry company.
  • RuckPack. Marine Maj. Rob Dyer started concocting his own energy drinks downrange when he was serving as a forward air controller for special-ops forces. Those drinks became RuckPack, in which Herjavec invested $150,000 for a 30 percent stake in the business.

“The impact of the ‘Shark Tank’ was unbelievable,” says Bottle Breachers’ Crane, who started the company in 2012 with his wife, Jen, in their garage about a year and half before getting on the show. In those early days they were selling about 175 units on a good day. And then the show aired. And everything exploded. To the tune of more than 1,500 orders a day. “We kept watching and watching the sales roll in. We did approximately $1 million in sales in the week after airing,” he says.

The sudden success, however, brought sudden problems. “We had a three-month back order. This brought a whole lot of stress, adversity, angry customers and a whole lot more. We had to develop new processes, buy new technology and even bring in some outside consultants to get fresh eyes on the problems we were facing.” Bottle Breacher has since become more efficient with advice and mentorship from Kevin O’Leary and Mark Cuban.

For those who just made it through the gauntlet, Ashley Drake says don’t even think about slowing down.

“You think you’ve kind of arrived and you want to take even just a moment and enjoy it a little. You can’t. There will be time for that maybe in five years. My advice is to just keep the pedal to the metal. As quick as it all became great, it can all come crashing down.” “You can do it, if you want it bad enough,” Drake says. You just have to be willing to wake up every day and want to be punched in the face.”

Veterans are great at turning a face punch into opportunity.

“I didn’t know that going in. The business world can seem really scary. I have no business background. But I do have all the tools the Army taught me — leadership, teamwork, the gusto that something has to happen no matter what,” Drake says.

Former SEAL Eli Crane agrees.

Veterans “don’t need a fancy MBA and $60K in debt to succeed. You need to build a team of smarter, more talented people around you. You need to spend more time on your contingency planning than you do on your business plan,” Crane says. “Just like in war, Murphy’s Law is always present, and if you don’t have built-in contingencies, you will fall flat on your face.”

Crane credits much of his success —both in the
Shark Tank and in the wider waters of real-world retail— with building a business that’s also in the business of giving back.

“If cash is king, having a mission is queen,” he says.

“This is so important. The mission is up to you. For us, it is to employ veterans and give back to veteran nonprofits. Not only does it give you one more reason to succeed, but it also helps the team that you have built feel like they are a part of something much bigger than a paycheck.”

Read more on If cash is King, having a mission is Queen!

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