Former Shark Tank Contestants Visit SMC
Despite the cold weather and pouring rain, students filed into HSS 165 on the morning of November 29, at Santa Monica College (SMC) main campus ready to soak up some knowledge from three business savvy sharks. SMC’s Rotaract Club was host to Angela Watts, Dr. Edna Ma, and Gary Fleishman, there representing his son Zack Fleishman, all former contestants of the famous ABC television series “Shark Tank.”
The panel kicked off with host Rey Ybarra - producer and author of the multimedia book, “Conversations With Shark Tank Winners," who welcomed the audience. “Thank you so much for joining us on this incredible Southern California rainy morning,” he began. The students chuckled and settled into their seats preparing for an hour-long Q&A with the “Shark Tank” veterans.
Steven Sedky, Club Advisor and organizer of Rotaract Club’s biggest event of the year, acknowledged the goals he had for this event. “Really what I think about is how do we sort of bring a big brand like ‘Shark Tank’... to campus to inspire students, but also to teach them about the real world entrepreneurship?” To accomplish this, the three panelists featured on the television show sat before an audience of over 100 students to share their experiences in business, both on and off the scenes of “Shark Tank.”
“It’s a long road. It’s a marathon for sure, it’s not a sprint,” said Dr. Ma, fifth season contestant of “Shark Tank,” about starting her business. Despite coming out with no offer for her product BareEase, she still believes that participating on “Shark Tank” was the best choice she could have made, due to the amount of offers received from people outside of the show once she was disqualified.
The audience sat listening as she reminisced on her process to prepare for the show. Months and months of preparation, note taking, and analyzing why offers were typically rejected in previous seasons is what Dr. Ma had done to try to ensure the best outcome. However she emphasized the importance of taking risk when it comes to business despite fears, ”I like to think of it as a risk benefit, because what's the worst thing that can happen,” asked Ma.
She walked out with no offer in her hands, but came out triumphant at the end, that's why, “I wanted to share with the students that they have that drive in them, they already took the step to be here present to check into class and do all those things,” explained Dr. Ma about coming in to speak to SMC students.
The room remained silent and attentive throughout the afternoon. Captivated by the stories, many students left the panel feeling enlightened. Josh Whitlock-Brown, a student at SMC noted, “I thought it was really interesting, particularly Gary’s. His [idea] seemed to be something that could revolutionize several different things.” Another student, Justin Lee, said “I think what they were speaking about up there can definitely influence me to become someone that wants to go on ‘Shark Tank’ and pitch their idea.”
Gary Fleishman, there representing his son Zack Fleishman, contestants of season six of the television series, struck a deal with American billionaire Mark Cuban. Their product was the Shark Wheel. Fleishman took something that has been around for years, and re-invented it. Fleishman admits that this invention was an accident. They were originally meaning for a completely different prototype, but instead found that their wheel exceed the speed of a regular wheel. “If you look at a shark’s jaw open up, especially if the jaw is taken out so you can see the jaw-- it's sort of shaped like our shark wheel. Ours is 540 degrees not 360 degrees like a regular wheel,” explained Fleishman about his product. The Shark Wheel has had major success around the world and sales in the millions per year. Fleishman also expressed the importance of taking risks and likes to remember that, “Nobody cares how much you know, until you show how much you care,” and encouraged students to show just how much they care when it comes to business endeavors.
As the afternoon wound down, panelist Watts noted, “We have received a lot of help in the past eight years of our business with different mentors and people giving their time to us, so we think it’s really important to give our time to other aspiring entrepreneurs.” At the end of the night the entrepreneurs took the time to speak with students one on one, and take pictures. “They wanted to ask real questions that came to mind. Not just about getting on the show, and getting the attention from the show, but also practical questions in terms of what is to be an entrepreneur and having and starting your own business,” said Dr. Ma enthusiastically about SMC student engagement at the event. The Rotaract Club plans to keep bringing in contestants from the show to SMC for panels like this where students can interact, and learn about what it takes to be successful in the world of business.