I was invited to enter SharkTank South Africa by the Awethu Incubation Hub, which I had been a part of for six months. The one thing that convinced me to enter (besides thinking I had thee best products on the market), was that if you had an existing product, you would get funding. Oh my innocence back then kills me. I was certain that the sharks would see, feel and smell the products and fall in love with them. They would understand my retail strategy and they would definitely fund what was going to be a great business. They would be funding a great person who had nothing but passion for her brand.
I had just travelled from North Carolina, USA. This was the first time I had travelled to the United States of America in huge excitement. I stayed for four day and had to rush back home in time for Shark Tank SA. I had submitted a 1 minute video as my entry to the show. My segment of the show was supposed to be shot on the 24 August 2016, but was pushed up by a day. I had to RUSH BACK! I will not talk about my crazy experience flying back from North Carolina to Washington International Airport, but the flight back home was a pleasant 18 hour one. I landed the day before my segment and the next morning had to immediately make my way to the studio for SharkTank South Africa.
The show was shot at Zone 6 Diepkloof, right opposite Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, in Soweto. The venue was easy to find, and they had transformed it so beautifully into a TV studios. The live set looked so professional; exactly the same as the American Shark Tank! I arrived at 10:00 to breakfast, not realising that I was way too early. I only started pitched my business to the judges after 15:00. By 13:00, that jetleg started setting in and my high levels of energy felt like they were being drawn out of my body. I started falling asleep where I was seated. It felt like the pitch that I had practiced over and over in me head and with the team that morning would just disappear into my dreams.
The funny thing about time… it never stops for anyone! Since I had committed and the time to pitch had come, I had to get up and go; I had to pitch my business to the judges. It only dawned on me that I was just about to stand in front of the whole South Africa and pitch. No! In front of the whole of Africa to pitch in a SharkTank on top of that. I was asked to practice my walk through that huge door into the studio! You only get to practice the walk once or twice. After that it’s game time. The judges came in. Then the count down to the cameras rolling started! “5,4,3,2,1… and action!”. I am paraphrasing, but they do count down. The cameras started rolling and I started walking in. My mind was racing. “Don’t trip! DON’T TRIP!” I did it… I walked in perfectly. Now all I had to do was to get the words out of my mind.
My heart beat directly into my ears as the words started comng out of my mouth. I managed to silence the fear and continues speaking. Besides, the judges would definitely invest right… obviously they would. The whole of Africa would see the beginning of my brand from SharkTank and everyone would buy… obviously they would. I was so ready to tell the judges all about my brand, what it meant, who it was created for. All the emotions and my new found confidence was all amazing… all amazing. The pitch went well. I took the products and offered them to the judges to smell and feel. Amazing right? They all pulled pleasant faces, all said it smelt good… but one judge said, it is for skin. I was shocked… did he hear my pitch? What did I not say that would make him think it was for skin? Um!
Then we had question time. And my goodness all the fear came rushing back. Judges were all asking questions at the speed of light, and I could not think clearly. I answered with passion and they would shake their heads. They did not agree that this business was viable. They just thought it was still too small. I was still answering passionately until the judge who thought the products were for skin and not hair said… No.. I am out. In my mind, my optimistic alter-ego just reverted to “it’s ok… it’s just one judge. Don’t worry, the rest will invest”. Then the second judge said nope I am out… then the third and the fourth all said… you are wonderful but your business is not viable! “WHAT! What do you mean not viable. Did you feel and smell this stuff? Do you know who this product is made for? My type of hair. That does not exist on retail shelves”! I finally got to the one person I came to pitch to and he also said… no I am out. Ok I should have just run out… but I didn’t. All I heard deep in my ears was “that” ringing sound! I respectfully thanked the judges for their time and walked out before tears came out… the whole of Africa could not see me crying!
Expect they did! At the exit interview I cried and spoke about what a learning curve this process had been. The judges came outside and congratulated me on a job well done, wished me well with Nilotiqa and that was that. I wiped my tears and drove home happy that I had experienced something most people will not experience in a lifetime. I had conquered a fear most people will not conquer in a lifetime.