Lori Phegan received offers from all the sharks, but Naomi Simson’s was a “no-brainer”. Picture: Network 10
Lori Phegan received offers from all the sharks, but Naomi Simson’s was a “no-brainer”. Picture: Network 10

Brutal reality of $250k Shark Tank win

It seems so straightforward: come up with a business idea, appear on Shark Tank - and watch yourself become a millionaire overnight.

But it turns out the reality of an appearance on the hit show is far removed from that glamorous fantasy.

Just ask Lori Phegan who made her Shark Tank debut a year ago.

The mum-of-two pitched her business, The Inappropriate Gift Co - which sells hilarious, swear word-laden novelty products like mugs, stationery and cards - and received offers from all of the sharks during the season four premiere last May.

Ms Phegan went with Red Balloon founder Naomi Simson's staggering $250,000 investment offer in exchange for a 25 per cent stake, which left her "completely gobsmacked".

But once the cameras stopped rolling, reality set in.

Lori Phegan appeared on Shark Tank one year ago. Picture: Network Ten
Lori Phegan appeared on Shark Tank one year ago. Picture: Network Ten

In a recent post on the popular business networking Facebook group, Like Minded B****es Drinking Wine, Ms Phegan shared some surprising insights into life after Shark Tank.

"It's been 12 months since we appeared on Shark Tank … we have had a great journey but I would like to worry you (or reassure) you all that hard work is still needed regardless of TV exposure," she wrote.

"There is no such thing as an overnight success … keep plugging away … it's the small consistent effort that gets you the wins, not the bright lights.

Lori Phegan said she was inspired by Naomi Simson. Picture: Supplied
Lori Phegan said she was inspired by Naomi Simson. Picture: Supplied

"That's why you have to love what you are doing and not be doing it because you think it will give you an income. I'm still trying to clear credit cards."

Ms Phegan told news.com.au she had ultimately rejected Ms Simson's offer, instead opting for a year-long mentorship in order to retain control of her business.

She said Shark Tank had been a "game changer" - but it was not "a fast route to flying at the front of the plane" like many people believe.

… but she said it wasn’t the ‘golden goose’ many thought it was. Picture: Network Ten
… but she said it wasn’t the ‘golden goose’ many thought it was. Picture: Network Ten

"People assume if you get a deal (on the show) you are going to be a huge success and, to be fair, a lot of people do, especially those with intellectual property like an invention," she said.

"Those guys are the ones that end up being millionaires - but if you don't have that … all it does is put a spotlight on your business for a set amount of time, and you have to make the most of that.

"It does put the spotlight on you, but it's not the golden goose."

Before Ms Phegan's appearance on the show, the company would have up to 30 people on its website at a time.

As the show aired that skyrocketed up to 6700, and in the weeks that followed, sales went up by a whopping 500 per cent - before calming down again.

"Sales have continued to stay up compared to prior to Shark Tank, but it's not growing 500 per cent month-on-month," Ms Phegan said.

She said the increase in traffic and sales meant the company was "growing steadily" - which has forced her to work "smarter rather than harder".

These days, a lot of jobs are outsourced out of necessity, with some aspects of the business becoming automated to save time.

Lori Phegan swapped her $250,000 investment offer for a 12-month mentorship with Red Balloon founder Naomi Simson. Picture: Network Ten
Lori Phegan swapped her $250,000 investment offer for a 12-month mentorship with Red Balloon founder Naomi Simson. Picture: Network Ten

Ms Phegan had some words of advice for other budding entrepreneurs.

"You're going to have good and bad days - it doesn't matter if you go on Shark Tank or how many dollars you have in the bank, entrepreneurship is a massive rollercoaster," she said.

"You have to really enjoy what you're doing - if you're just there to make some money, it's going to be a hard road because you'll probably lose money before you make it."

THE COMPANY

The Inappropriate Gift Co was inspired by Ms Phegan's search for a present for her brother who has the same "sarcastic, inappropriate sense of humour" she has.

She decided there was a gap in the market for funny, novelty gifts, and three months later, in October 2016, the business officially launched.

Back then, there were "four or five" products available, but that has now soared to 250.

The company is launching in the US and also has a warehouse in the UK, and Ms Phegan and her husband Ben now work on the business full-time - Ms Phegan as CEO or "chief expletive officer" and her husband serving as GOD or "global operations director".

When Ms Phegan appeared on Shark Tank last year, the company was valued at $1 million after having sold 23,600 products to 9600 customers across 36 different countries and raking in $470,000 in sales at that point.

When the episode went to air, Ms Phegan was predicting a turnover of $3 million the following year and $20 million in three years, telling the sharks she wanted her business to "be the global home of inappropriate gifts".

Since then, the company has continued to grow - although Ms Phegan said it was the "small, consistent effort" that made the difference rather than the glamour of a TV appearance.

Continue the conversation @carey_alexis | alexis.carey@news.com.au



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