- Company: PDX Pet Design
- Product: High-end grooming and pet products for cats
- Owners: Tara and Jason O’Mara
- Asking Price: $300,000 for 15% equity
- Final Deal: No Deal
- Sharks Who Took The Bait: None
- Season/Episode: Season 8, Episode 12
If you saw the greatest hits episode from the most recent season of Shark Tank, you probably recall seeing a very bizarre, surreal product called the Licki Brush. Perhaps, like me, the image of Robert Herjavac holding a giant rubber brush in his mouth and attempting to groom a housecat with his own tongue is burned indelibly into your mind’s eye. Perhaps, like me, you became fascinated almost instantaneously by this archetypal moment of Shark Tank debauchery and knew you had to explore the company in more depth. One thing led to another, and soon you were watching Jimmy Kimmel’s viral tweet about the Licki Brush Kickstarter campaign and absentmindedly scrawling #lickibrush in lipstick on your bathroom mirror. If cats and cat products that bespeak a certain psychotic level of loneliness are your wheelhouse, you’re on the right blog. Read on to learn more about this kooky pet product brand, and where they are now.
Cat Ears Are Always A Great Sign
First into the tank on this episode – the 12th episode of Season 8 – the two owners of PDX Pet Design stride onto the stage dressed in adorable headsets with fluffy cat ears poking out from the headband. This is surely a sign of greatness to come.
Tara and Jason O’Mara are the founders of PDX Pet Design, and they’re seeking $300,000 for a 15% stake in their company. “Jason and I are from the generation that was raised with computers,” says Tara, her innate nerdiness gleaming somehow from both her eyes and the fuzzy ears atop her head. “We met online, we got married, and you know what happens next.” They adopted more cats, of course.
Disappointed with the quality and longevity of most pet products on the market, Tara and Jason envisioned a pet product company that would make lasting products designed not only to entertain your cat but to improve your kitty’s lifestyle, improving your relationship with your cat in the process.
Their first product, Shru, is a smart toy that keeps kitty entertained at home while you’re out for the day. It’s an oddly comforting product, simple and sleek in its design: just a small white egg with a feather attached that mimics a small animal’s natural motion – thereby helping to ignite your kitty’s inner tiger.
So far, so good. Their next product, though, is where things start to go off the rails.
“There’s evidence to suggest that your cat thinks you’re just a really big cat, not a human,” says Tara. (A fact which just happens to be one of this reporter’s favorite cat facts.) Grooming is very important to cats and strengthens their intimate bonds, so they see no reason why human owners should be left out of the process. Jason ducks behind the product display and scoops a black and white kitty for the purposes of demonstrating. The camera pans to the sharks, who have begun narrowing their eyes and giving the presenters quizzical looks. Nobody is quite willing to admit where this is headed.
“With the Licki brush, you can finally lick your cat like a mama cat licks her young,” says Tara. In a gesture that conveys both his own deep shame and a more global embarrassment for all humanity, Mark Cuban is seen closing his eyes and putting his face in his palm.
“You’re not going to stick that in your mouth, are you?” says Kevin.
“Oh, yeah,” says Tara, before promptly doing so, and administering a few truly bizarre, disgusting licks to the kitty’s backside.
At this point, the sharks are heard groaning, screaming, and whimpering in mixed disgust and pain. “Oh, they’re freaks!” says Daymond John, as if a lightbulb has suddenly lit up above his head and made sense of the world.
The bidding, we can safely assume, is going to be a catastrophe.
Running the Numbers
While Jason passes out samples to the incredulous sharks, Robert explores new levels of his own self-loathing. “I hate myself so much right now,” he says, after a few licks of the Licki brush. Mark and Kevin, meanwhile, dig into the numbers.
- Current valuation: $2 million
- Total sales to-date: $250,000 of SHRU; and $52,000 worth of Licki Brush
- Retail price: For SHRU – $119; for Licki – $19-24
- Projected annual sales for current year: $180,000
The sharks are stunned at the retail price for the company’s seemingly budget-friendly cat toys. “It has a computer inside,” says Tara, playing solid defense. Plus, with five other product designs in the works, Jason and Tara have every intention of maintaining their brand’s buzzworthy, internet-happy virality. “We know how to talk to people on the internet about cats,” says Tara. Before starting PDX Pet Design, Jason was an electrical engineer and Tara was pursuing a PhD in neuroscience at the University of Waterloo, Kevin’s old alma mater.
“Are you a Canadian?” says Kevin.
“I sure am,” says Tara.
“I’m going to make sure they throw you out of the country.”
Lori makes a valid point right off the bat, reminding people of the danger in seeing virality as more valuable than it really is. “Everybody wants to go viral. And you say you went viral. But you sold only $250K on the Shru, and $52K on the brush. If you’re really going viral, your sales should be higher.” And with that, Lori drops out.
Robert drops out next, agreeing with Lori. “Sales aren’t there. I’m out.”
Mark Cuban, as usual, has the most insightful take and the most helpful advice, doled out as he drops out with class. (In case you can’t tell, Mark Cuban, I love you.) “This is clearly more than a business for you – it’s part of your personality. You’ve had fun with it, you’ve owned it. You’re looking for a big break. But you didn’t price it as a big break.” The other sharks are seen nodding in agreement.
“If you had come in saying, believe in us, asking for 50 grand for 20% of the company, we all grow together – I think we’d all be in. But 300K? That’s too much. For those reasons, I’m out.”
Daymond is second-to-last to drop out, referencing the overvaluation and encouraging the pair to work it out for themselves.
Mr. Wonderful himself (Kevin) is last to drop out, saying that he worries about the valuation and what people will think of his sanity.
Final Deal: No Deal
Where Are They Now?
PDX Pet Design has come a long way from its laughingstock origins and its humble Kickstarter campaign. Amazingly, they are still open and fully operational, as of July 2020.
The brand maintains a lively social media presence, amplified by legions of buzzing fans and lots of engagement – just take a look at their Instagram, Twitter and Facebook pages to see recent updates, cat facts, and cute, Instagram-approved shots of snoozing kitties.
Jason and Tara still attend CatCon each year – yes, that’s a real thing, and apparently it’s where “cat culture and pop culture converge.”
The PDX Pet Design full product line now includes:
- SHRU Intelligent Cat Companion ($119)
- Licki Brush ($25)
- SHRU feather and tail attachments ($6 each)
While the Licki Brush may have been one of the strangest pitches in the history of Shark Tank, it’s definitely not a failure. The brand is still going strong, and for now, at least, PDX remains a serious contender in the niche market of boutique pet grooming products. All products are currently available to purchase online directly through the PDX Pet Design website.
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