With Season Four of ABC’s Shark Tank all wrapped up, some entrepreneurs aren’t just waiting for Season Five to start. In fact, some are trying to secure themselves a spot in the famous Shark Tank by trying their luck (and their pitches) in front of casting directors at Shark Tank auditions nationwide. We recently sat down to chat with Justin Jacobson, founder and owner of Chicago-based event production firm Platinum Events, to learn more about what it takes to get a shot in the tank:
ITST: Justin, can you tell me a little about your company?
JJ: Sure. I own Platinum Events, a nationwide strategic marketing and event production firm. We handle product launches and basically any type of event where a company would need to get a product or brand out to the mass consumer market. Our slogan is, “we get your brand in peoples hands.” I actually started the company in 2005, but we really started to become stronger nationally in 2010. Right now we do events in New York, Chicago, Miami, and LA. We have a 5000 sq. foot warehouse in Chicago that holds our house lighting, staging, sound, AV, and all the essentials to produce an event. Currently, we have a team of about 10.
ITST: Why did you want to try out for ST?
JJ: I’m an avid watcher of the show and I noticed that a lot of the contestants on the show have products. We’re at a point right now where we want to hire more, and take our company to an even broader audience. We figured that by potentially being on the show, we could even help brands that had been on the show to launch their products. We could produce their events and launches, once we have the investors’ help.
ITST: Have you worked with any past Shark Tank entrepreneurs?
JJ: We haven’t yet worked with any contestants yet, but we’re definitely open to it.
ITST: Before auditioning, did you have a valuation on your company?
JJ: We asked for $200,000 in exchange for 20% — they seemed to think it was a pretty fair valuation. One woman in line wanted $1M for 10% and she didn’t even have a product yet.
ITST: How did you arrive at the valuation?
JJ: My company has been in business for almost 10 years now, so we based it on our annual gross sales, combined with our assets. We have a lot of events and clients booked 6 months to 2 years in advance, we have solid and steady annual growth, and we combined that with our assets and cash flow.
ITST: So tell me about what the process is like, auditioning for the show.
JJ: We started at Shedd Aquarium around 9am, and there was a line already. I was number 233 of the 500 selected. It was long and hot Chicago day, meanwhile I stood in line wearing my suit and tie. I didn’t see any casting agents until about 4pm.
When I was in line, there were 3 previous contestants walking up and down the line trying to sell their products: the Rabbi with the cupping device for music, cat drawing guy, and the money cologne guy.
JJ: When you got into the casting room, it was a room with 3 casting directors and each director had two 6-ft tables set up. Basically you and one other person pitched one after the other. Each casting director had two people to see. You have a few minutes to set up whatever it was you wanted to show. I set up pamphlets and business cards and an iPad showcasing some of our most recent events with clients like Nike and Allstate Insurance. Once we were all set up, the casting directors were very nice, and they basically pointed at me and asked for my pitch.
ITST: Were you nervous?
JJ: Well I had basically spent the entire waiting process reciting my pitch verbatim. [laughs]
ITST: And how’d it go?
JJ: It went well– I had the casting director laughing. I always like to use a little humor when pitching because it kinda relaxes the client a little bit. I basically explained how out company can produce multiple events nationwide, and they seemed to take a liking to it.