Investor: Lori Greiner
Shark Tank Appearance: May 3, 2017
Deal: $75,000 for a 25 percent stake
Results: Sales increased from $75,000 to $45 million.
For many entrepreneurs, their time in the Shark Tank seems like an eternity. Not for Tara Brown, creator of The Sleep Styler.
Brown had not been in the Tank for 20 minutes before reaching an agreement with Lori Greiner. “The producers told me it was the shortest time in the Tank,” Brown says, “I don’t know if it was the fastest deal. I felt like it was over in an instant.”
Greiner, whose Shark Tank investments include Scrub Daddy, the biggest success story in the ABC business reality show’s eight-year history, says she instantly knew that The Sleep Styler—hair rollers made of memory foam and yoga towel fabric that dry and style your hair while you sleep—was another “hero product.”
“I also knew I would really be able to help Tara get this product out on the market in a fast and all-encompassing way where The Sleep Styler would become a household name within a year,” Greiner says. “Within five minutes of watching Tara pitch, I had already visualized a great plan in my mind.”
Some of Greiner’s enthusiasm was fueled by Brown’s background. She’s the mother of two young children and maintains a busy practice as an ophthalmologist. The idea for The Sleep Styler had come to her one morning when she unfurled her daughter’s hair from the braid she had put in wet the night before and discovered it had held its curl perfectly. Here was the solution, Brown realized, to busy women devoting as much as an hour a day to blow-drying their hair and still not being happy with the results.
The only problem was that Brown had no experience in putting together the kind of prototype she had in mind. “I knew I needed to create a product that was sewn,” she says. “As someone who does a lot of ocular plastic surgery I knew how to sew people’s faces,” but she didn’t know a thing about sewing fabric. So she enrolled in fashion school, squeezing in classes between her duties as a physician and a parent. Within a semester she was able to speak knowledgeably to her manufacturer about things like seam allowances and serged edges as she went through some 20 iterations of the prototype. She launched a Kickstarter campaign in July 2016 and hit her $10,000 goal in 12 hours, going on to raise $47,000 by the end of the campaign’s 30 days.
Greiner saw that Brown would be unstoppable in making The Sleep Styler a sensation. “I could tell that she was an extreme type-A person,” Greiner says. In that way, Brown reminded Greiner of herself. “I’m constantly saying to Tara, ‘We think just the same. You’re a lot like me.’ Because of these similarities, it’s easy for me to know where Tara’s coming from. I really understand her, and we get along great.”
Greiner says the product was totally in her wheelhouse. “I felt this would be a perfect infomercial product and that I could shoot a test for a two-minute spot quickly and, if successful, I could take a lot of the work off Tara’s hands.
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“Many entrepreneurs have a great idea but also a busy life,” Greiner continues. “I try to assess the situation and the person when considering an offer. I knew with Tara, I had all the know-how, experience, ability and connections to come in and explode the brand if she wanted. It’s my favorite thing to do. She was feeling very overwhelmed, though totally capable and doing a great job. I could tell she wanted a semblance of a normal life back.”
“Many entrepreneurs have a great idea but also a busy life.”
Since Brown’s brief appearance in the Tank, everything has continued moving at warp speed. Just three weeks after the episode aired, AllStar, the logistics and fulfillment company that handles many of Greiner’s products, took over the day-to-day management of The Sleep Styler. Still, as the product prepares for its rollout in Wal-Mart and Bed Bath & Beyond stores at the end of the summer, Brown says she hasn’t exercised or cooked in months and her once lovingly tended garden is filled with weeds. But she does make sure to schedule “times that are special and that count” with her family.
“A year ago, I couldn’t imagine my life would change the way it has,” Brown says. “It’s surreal, but I have no complaints.”
This article originally appeared in the September 2017 issue of SUCCESS magazine.