Entrepreneurs piled into Alter Hall clinging more than posterboards and presentation materials. They also brought dreams of success and self-employment.
Temple University’s Fox School of Business hosted casting associates from the hit ABC show “Shark Tank,” which features self-made millionaires who award mentorship and financial support to budding entrepreneurs in exchange for equity stake in their businesses. More than 170 Temple students, alumni, faculty, and staff applied in the hope that their June 11 pitches would result in selection to appear on a future episode of the show.
“I walked in the room to make my presentation, and I immediately felt so nervous,” said Fox Part-Time MBA student Vinti Singh, who pitched a standing CT scanner for horses that wouldn’t require anesthetization. “I can only wonder what it’s like to deliver a pitch in front of the actual sharks.”
If accepted by “Shark Tank,” Temple entrepreneurs were told they would receive a call from one of the show’s casting associates within two to three weeks.
Casting associates listened to 60-second presentations inside the Steven H. Korman Conference Room, with two Temple entrepreneurs having to deliver their pitches simultaneously and side by side. The associates asked entrepreneurs to reveal both the monetary value they would ask of the Sharks, and to name the Shark with whom they most strongly identified.
Caren Sachs, an associate for the show, told applicants prior to their casting calls that “personality is just as important as your pitch.” She emphasized that “Shark Tank” seeks entrepreneurs who can speak energetically about their businesses, products, and concepts.
Alter Hall’s Undergraduate Commons served as the waiting room for Temple entrepreneurs before their number had been called. Applicants paced the room, rehearsing their talking points and working through their demonstrations.
College of Education alumnus Rich McFillin hoped to sell the casting associates on his Garage Bow Company, which manufactures and sells magnetic red bows that make garage doors decoratively resemble wrapped presents during the holiday season.
“They didn’t throw me any curveballs,” McFillin said of the casting officials. “They asked me questions I knew I had the answers to, and I could tell they were excited, which made me excited, too.”
Joseph Green’s pitch lasted more than five minutes, seemingly attracting the attention of a “Shark Tank” official. The Fox School alumnus is the owner of Affinity Confections, which offers sweet dessert treats in smaller portions. Recently, Green has begun packaging and selling the various sauces and coulees he manufactures using premium ingredients.
“I guess they liked what I had to say,” Green said of his pitch. “I’m looking to expand my products some more, and use any initial investment I would receive for packaging and to continue making a name for ourselves.”
Brandon Study, a Fox School senior majoring in Entrepreneurship, said he felt confident while making his pitch. Temple University “prepares you for moments like this,” he said. “That training is what helps you thrive in crunch-time situations.”
Two days prior to the casting call, Temple’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute (IEI) and Blackstone Launchpad offered a pitch-coaching session open to all entrepreneurs hoping to polish their pitches. Jesse DiLaura, a senior Entrepreneurship major at Fox, arrived at the coaching session to prepare for his pitch. Instead, he worked with fellow Temple entrepreneurs to improve theirs.
“I had rehearsed what I was going to say thousands of times,” he said, “and I thought, ‘If I can help out a fellow entrepreneur who had a question about his or her pitch, why not do what I can?’ I wasn’t planning on being a coach, but I had to speak up and try to get at least one person from Temple on the show.
“People need to know that great things are happening with entrepreneurship at Temple.”
“The IEI was delighted to welcome casting associates from ‘Shark Tank’ to Temple University,” said Ellen Weber, Executive Director of Temple’s IEI. “Choosing Temple as a host for an on-campus casting call validates the IEI’s mission, to provide students, faculty, staff, and alumni entrepreneurs with programs and opportunities to succeed.”