Tailgate N Go Before Shark Tank
Taylor and Kobe Johnson, along with their father, Ron, are avid campers from Grand Junction, Colorado. During one camping trip, they were all set to cook and realized they had forgotten to bring along a spatula. That one missing kitchen tool is what inspired Ron to create a portable, modular outdoor kitchen that would contain everything you could ever need for any kind of outdoor adventure – whether your vehicle was taking you to a campsite, a fishing trip, or a tailgate party.
They designed the kitchen as a modernized “chuck box.” A chuck box is usually a metal container that packs whatever a camper needs to use when cooking away from home – and away from a conventional kitchen.
The Johnsons named their portable kitchen the Tailgate N Go. Made from aircraft aluminum, it’s durable and lightweight. And the Johnsons have thought about every need that may arise on the road. There’s a butterfly latch to keep bears away, a bottle opener, and hooks for towels and trash bags on the outside of the box. Inside, there are many storage compartments, cutting boards, a knife magnet, and a paper towel holder.
Ron designed a patented rail system on which many of the accessories can hang, including a stove burner, griddles, grills, and even a collapsible sink.
Thinking that other campers and tailgaters would be interested in their invention, they took it to trade shows both to sell products and gauge customer reaction. The response was highly favorable. Before appearing on Shark Tank, the Johnsons had sold over 100 kitchens in a period of only 18 months.
Tailgate N Go On Shark Tank
They told Mark, Lori, Kevin, Daymond, and guest shark, Matt Higgins, why they came up with the idea for the product and then demonstrated a setup. The sharks look impressed, as the kitchen did seem to include everything you could ever need.
Daymond asked how much the product retails for. Kobe explained there were three different models: Full-Sized at a $1,500 price point, the “Overlander” for $1,400, and the “River Box” for $1,000. The way the sharks responded you could tell they thought those were some steep prices.
Mark asked what it cost to make. Production costs were $748, $728, and $500 for each of the respective boxes. Ron explained that everything was currently manufactured in Colorado.
Lori was interested to know what was the weight of the items and how much they cost to ship. The largest box weighed 75 pounds and the smallest was 55 pounds, and the shipping cost ranged from $120 – $150. Daymond asked about patents and Ron explained he had two that had to do with the rail system.
Mark asked the Johnsons how much they’d invested and if they had raised any outside capital. Ron told him that he had invested $250,000 of his own money with no outside help.
Kevin then interjected. He wanted to know about the company’s valuation and why it was worth $2.5 million. Ron believed that the patents and the fact that no other company had a product just like theirs was justification for the valuation. Kevin didn’t like that answer.
Taylor said they needed to scale, and Daymond asked how they would use the $250,000. Taylor responded, “Inventory…product.”
Matt then chimed in. He wanted to know if it were possible to bring the prices down given new materials that would make the boxes cheaper to manufacture.
But then Mark piped up. He wanted the Taylors to know how much they achieved, but that he wasn’t into camping – or even glamping – and that was why he was dropping out. It just wasn’t the right fit for him.
Lori then admitted she didn’t know much about tailgating, and that she always wanted to have a good feel for the “landscape” before she invested in a product. She was the second shark to drop out.
Taylor responded to two sharks dropping out by stating that they’ve tripled their sales within the last six months. Kevin wanted them to know that he thought it was a good product but that it wasn’t worth $2.5 million. He called it a cash flow business that sucks up cash as you build inventory. But he did want to pitch his idea – even though he hates camping. He felt it was a product that would fit with his Chef Wonderful line of products. He said he would give the Johnsons the $250,000 as a line of credit (with 10% interest) for 10% of the company and a $100 royalty per unit sold. The other sharks groaned at that offer and the Johnsons didn’t seem very pleased, either. Kevin said he could “blow this up so big on social” and was worried they wouldn’t be able to keep up with the orders.
Matt jumped in next. As a vice-chairman of the Miami Dolphins, he understood the tailgating customer. He thought that tailgaters were so invested in their own set-ups that it would be difficult to find customers. He then said he was out.
Daymond thought they would burn through too much capital trying to improve on the product during this early stage, and that scared him. He was out, as well. Kevin reminded the Johnsons that his offer was still on the table, but the Johnsons were not interested in that deal. Through teary eyes, Taylor conceded that it was a shame because they had worked so hard and they had to walk away. The Johnsons were ready to turn their backs and leave the stage, but Daymond reminded them they could counter – and that’s what they did.
But despite a brief attempt to counter Kevin’s offer, the Johnson’s decided to pitch Matt on a deal because they felt he was the right shark for their product. They started with $250,000 for 20% but Matt wanted a way to get his capital back. Taylor asked if he wanted a royalty and that’s when Kevin said he’d cut his royalty demand to $50 per unit. Matt, deciding he wanted to save the Johnsons from Kevin, said he would make a deal for $250,000 for 20% equity and $50 per unit until he makes his initial investment back. The Johnsons accepted the deal.
Tailgate N Go After Shark Tank
The Johnsons appeared on Shark Tank on October 27, 2019 so it’s still early to get a good feeling about sales trends. Their social media following needs some work, as they have only 1,379 followers on Instagram and 1,507 on Facebook. A visit to their website shows they no longer sell the smallest of the boxes, but offer the full-sized box for $1,550 and the Overlander for $1,450. The other items for sale are the various accessories that can hook onto the rail system, like the sink, griddle, cutting board, stove burner, and grill.
However, it looks like there’s good news on the horizon for the Johnsons. Matt was able to help them complete a licensing deal with the NFL to customize the boxes for the individual NFL teams. That could turn out to be a huge deal for the company.
Unfortunately, the coronavirus has halted efforts to ramp up sales, and they haven’t been able to attend any trade shows. But there’s a lot of potential in customizing portable kitchens – especially, as Matt said, the tailgaters are really invested in their set-ups. They’re also very loyal to their teams. And when you look beyond the NFL, there are other pro sports teams and college teams that have active tailgating fans. The Johnsons sure do look like they’re on their way to achieving many championship seasons.
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