Tara Brown was a San Diego ophthalmologist and mother of two. There was never time to style her naturally curly hair properly, so she typically wore it in a ponytail. The idea for The Sleep Styler came to her when she was working on her daughter’s hair. It had been braided wet the night before, yet still had some wave in it the next day. Tara used yoga mat material to create curlers soft enough to sleep in, used to either straighten or curl hair overnight.
As she developed and refined the concept, Tara realized that she was creating a product that needed to be sewn – which she didn’t know how to do. She was working at her practice three days a week, enrolled in a fashion school, and worked her new business the other four days. With enough knowledge to avoid getting ripped off, she was able to speak intelligently with the manufacturer and produce the product that matched her vision.
Even while still paying off medical school bills for her and her doctor husband, Tara invested over $100,000 of her own money into The Sleep Styler. She was working hard and setting an example for her children. The debt was beginning to accumulate, and Tara worried about how their financial future would affect her children. She hoped the entrepreneurs in the Shark Tank might be able to help take The Sleep Styler to the next level.
The Sleep Styler in the Shark Tank
Shark Tank Season 8 Episode 19
Tara stepped into the Shark Tank with two big, blue curlers in her hair. She told the panel that she was looking for an investment of $75,000 in exchange for a 20% stake in Sleep Styler. A video presentation showed two women getting ready for work in the morning. One had put in The Sleep Styler curlers before going to sleep the night before; the other one had not. The Sleep Styler had dried and styled the first woman’s hair while she slept and was going about her morning routine. The other woman was still working on preparing her hair.
Removing The Sleep Styler curlers and shaking her hair out, Tara then handed out samples of her product. She explained that it was made with yoga mat fabric that dries hair without absorbing the moisture into the fabric. Kevin, who has no use for any hair care products, joked about how long he spends on his hair in the morning. What Kevin really wanted was to hear about the numbers and how sales were going just six months into this business venture.
Tara explained that things had gotten off to a good start, feeling that it signaled serious interest in The Sleep Styler and the potential for great success. She set up a Kickstarter campaign, which met her $10,000 goal in the first 24 hours and finished with $47,000, more than four times Tara’s original goal. She was then able to sell $6,000 of products online.
Robert was impressed with how quickly Tara was able to get her product from idea to sales. He felt that she presented herself and her product in a professional and confident manner. He asked what her profit margins had been to this point. A package of eight Sleep Stylers costs $10 to make and sold for $39.
Robert wondered what Tara would do with the money if she struck a deal with one of the Sharks. She told him that she could invest more of her own money into The Sleep Styler, but was not confident enough in the business world to know she was making the right decisions and dealing with the right people going forward. She wanted the $75,000 investment from one of the Sharks so she could utilize their business expertise, savvy, and connections. A recent appearance at a large beauty expo had created a large amount of interest in The Sleep Styler from influential people in the industry. She was sure she could make deals that would get her product into retail stores but wanted to make sure she made the right decisions at this crucial point in the growth of the business.
Lori loved the product, and though Tara’s idea was ingenious. She could definitely sleep with the soft curlers in her hair overnight and felt millions of other women would too. The “Queen of QVC” envisioned The Sleep Styler as being an ideal product and presentation for a QVC infomercial that would be a big and consistent seller. She offered Tara the $75,000 in exchange for 30% equity in Sleep Styler, but she wanted Tara to agree right then and there.
Kevin cautioned Tara that other offers could be coming, and to wait it out. Lori jokes that Tara should not take advice about a haircare business from a bald man. Tara still took Kevin’s advice to heart and wondered if she could make a counteroffer to Lori instead. Robert told her to go for it; the stage was hers. She asked Lori if she would be willing to take 25% equity instead of the 30% she offered. Lori took a moment to think about it, and is a testament to how confident she was in the product and Tara, she accepted, and the deal was made.
Where Are They Now? The Sleep Styler After Shark Tank
Three weeks after the episode aired, the company that handles all of Lori’s product fulfillment operations took over the daily management of The Sleep Styler. Two sizes of The Sleep Styler are available on the company website, and such retailers as Walmart, Bed Bath & Beyond, and Amazon. Lori regularly features The Sleep Styler on QVC, and the business has taken off as expected.
In six months, sales jumped to an astounding $100 million, and there is no end in sight. In just one year, Tara Brown took an idea she thought of while fixing her daughter’s hair and made it into a multi-million dollar enterprise providing a useful product for millions of working women.
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