More than a year after appearing on "Shark Tank," StepNpull co-owner and President Mike Sewell still gets animated telling the story of his time on network television.
Sewell, who pitched the foot-operated door opener company on the investment show in April 2021, spoke yesterday at Springfield Business Journal's 12 People You Need to know live interview series. The interview by SBJ Editorial Vice President Eric Olson was held at The Backlot, Alamo Drafthouse Springfield's restaurant and bar.
Amid a rush in sales during the COVID-19 pandemic, Sewell said he and his business partners, Kelly Coddington and Ron Ely, nearly decided not to be on the show because of how busy they were fulfilling orders at the time.
"We were contacted by someone with the ‘Shark Tank’ team," Sewell said of the process that led his team to accept the challenge. "We were so busy at the time. You can't even imagine how crazy it was.
"We decided it was going to be me."
After earning a spot on the TV program, Sewell traveled to Las Vegas to prepare for his pitch. He stayed in his room for several days to quarantine, as pandemic protocols required.
He described the lead-up to the pitch as "very nerve-wracking, as you can imagine."
"I did practice a lot in the room. I wanted to make sure I nailed the pitch," Sewell said. "That was the most important thing. The pitch ... is the first thing you see, the first impression."
During the pitch, Sewell said "Shark Tank" provided an actor to showcase the StepNpull product, which "added a nice element to the presentation."
Following the pitch, the celebrity investors engaged in a bidding battle for a stake in the company, Sewell said. It came down to Kevin O'Leary, aka Mr. Wonderful, and Daymond John.
"That was pretty exciting to have two of the sharks, especially Mr. Wonderful," Sewell said. "Ultimately, we chose Kevin."
After the pitch, Sewell said he "was in shock" from the experience.
"I was so drained. It's emotionally draining to go on there," he said.
O'Leary agreed to invest $300,000 into StepNpull in exchange for a 6% equity stake, according to past reporting.
However, the deal never materialized.
Speaking yesterday, Sewell said his company became one of the estimated 70% of deals reached on the show that never come to fruition.
"Long story short, we never finalized the deal with Kevin," he said.
But, Sewell said, the experience amounted to a lot of positive attention for the company.
"To have the 'Shark Tank' presence … we’re very happy with how it all turned out. It was a great experience," he said.
Sales these days are down from the pandemic – company revenue in 2020 jumped to roughly $7 million, with $1.7 million of that generated in March 2020 alone – but they remain above pre-pandemic levels, Sewell said.
Asked by Olson if Sewell and partners have an exit strategy, he said, "It's worth more now for us to keep it."
But a sale isn't out of the question if the right numbers come up.
"If someone wants to buy it, we would sell it," Sewell said of such a potential deal.
Whataburger launched its second local store; Branson shop Revive Juice and Coffee Bar LLC moved; and a new Monett branch of the Barry-Lawrence Regional Library District opened.