How Shefit Survived the Shark Tank
Investor: Daymond John
Shark Tank Appearance: Jan. 29, 2016
Deal: $250,000 for a one-third stake in the company
Results: Sales increased from $220,000 over 18 months to more than $1.5 million in 2016.
To prepare for their January 2016 appearance on Shark Tank, Sara Moylan and her husband and business partner, Bob, took a serious look at the long-running ABC business reality show. “We watched every single episode and made a list of every question that the Sharks ever asked,” Sara says. “I read all of the books the Sharks had written and every interview they gave. Then we worked with our mentors on mock interviews. I was determined we were not going to be stumped.”
They weren’t. For more than an hour—later edited down to a nine-minute segment—the Grand Rapids, Michigan, couple adroitly volleyed the scores of questions the five Sharks lobbed at them. When Lori Greiner began voicing concerns about the viability of the patents the Moylans had secured, Sara found herself temporarily rattled. “My confidence was shaken,” she recalls. “I needed to regain control of the situation by putting the conversation on our playing field.” She did just that by talking about the innovations Shefit had introduced into the $3 billion sports bra market.
“Take the business one step at a time. When you have success, there are often a lot of opportunities that pop up and can come at you from every direction.”
Daymond John observed the couple’s unflappability. “Sara and Bob really impressed me,” he says. “They knew their numbers. They were an effective team with defined roles. They kept their composure, and you could clearly feel the passion. It felt like all the puzzle pieces were coming together.” The Moylans prepared for every possible scenario, including the two that John presented. First, he wanted a one-third interest in the company rather than the 25 percent they were offering. Second, he needed an immediate answer. The Moylans were ready with a quick yes.
One thing they weren’t as prepared for was the deluge of orders they received. “We were sitting on an inventory of more than 4,000 items,” Sara says. “Even before we finished our pitch those had been sold. And within the next couple of weeks, we had presold all of the inventory—16,000 units—that were slated to come in at the end of April.”
Far from an overnight success, Shefit has a long history. Sara, a former Miss Michigan Teen USA and Mrs. Michigan America, was a competitor on the fitness circuit. A mother of four daughters, now ages 4 to 13, she had always worn two or three bras during her daily workouts. But when she was breastfeeding her first daughter, even doubling or tripling up on bras didn’t provide sufficient support and security. Unable to find anything on the market that worked, Sara created her own sports bra by hot-gluing layers of fabric together. “It was dreadful and, because of the glue, it fell apart when I washed it,” she says. “But it worked and I found a seamstress who could create something more functional from my prototype.”
Sara and Bob had successful careers in sales, she for medical devices and he in industrial chemicals. She never had any intention of starting a business. That is until Sara started passing out bras to her girlfriends. “Everyone had suggestions on how to make it better,” she says, “and nobody wanted to give the bras back.”
Over the next decade, the Moylans would invest nearly $400,000 in Shefit. By the time Shark Tank invited the couple to audition, they had hundreds of rave reviews online and, to keep up with demand, had moved manufacturing from Los Angeles to an overseas factory. It was taking 18 months to go from placing an order to receiving finished products, and that was hampering their capacity for growth. “We had to streamline the manufacturing process,” Bob says. “With a lot of trial and error, we had picked up the reins and taught ourselves everything we could, but we needed help moving to the next stage.”
The first few weeks after John came on board as an investor, the Moylans conferred with his team almost daily. “They were able to help us with sourcing and liaising with vendors and the factory to speed up manufacturing,” Bob says. “It’s made a dramatic difference. We’ve reduced our turnaround to as little as 60 days.” Now with “serious momentum,” Sara says, “we have a lot of ideas and new launches in the works.”
Meanwhile, John is advising the Moylans to stay focused. “Take the business one step at a time,” he says. “When you have success, there are often a lot of opportunities that pop up and can come at you from every direction. Don’t get me wrong, this is a good problem to have, but you have to be careful of which ones you choose to pursue because they might be distractions. So while they’re all on the road map for the future of the company, it’s important to knock out the tasks at hand.”
This article originally appeared in the April 2017 issue of SUCCESS magazine.