I won’t sleep on the sidewalk for just anything. I do have standards, you know. But sleep on the sidewalk I did. Right between the couple with the neoprene lunch boxes that convert into placemats and the lady with the pop-top jewelry.
The couple to my left had flown up from Miami. They already had a successful product and a 5 star rating on Amazon. They were hoping to get on Shark Tank, the hit ABC reality show to increase their exposure. My line neighbor on my right was confident that her aluminum can jewelry was so new and unique that she was going to be the next big thing. She was just as sweet as she could be.
Then there was me. What brought me here? Sleeping on the sidewalk in a beach chair at 3am in Greenville, North Carolina? I’ll tell you the Interstate didn’t take me to Greenville. It was a two lane road through towns that had rolled up their sidewalks at 10pm.
There are four types of people
In life there are optimists, pessimists, cynics, and realists. I’ve come to find I’m some crazy combination of the four.
The optimist says: “I’ve got a great product that is a big hit, with the right guidance and backing, we could go national.”
The pessimist has read the statistics: According to Karen Ano, with Hearst Publications, “Of the more than 35,000 people who now try out each season, fewer than 150 make into the tank.” And then of those 150 countless numbers end up on the cutting room floor and never make it on television.
The cynic in me says, “It’s all about casting the right combination of people and products. It’s a tv show first and foremost, not just about the ideas with the most potential.”
And the realist says, “There’s a snowball’s chance in hell, but I’ve got to take the shot.”
So there I was. Sleeping on a sidewalk waiting for a wristband so I could take my turn pitching to a member of casting for Shark Tank. I could go into my amazing ability to create conditions in which I can sleep in any environment, but that might make you insomniacs jealous…so I’ll back track a little.
Shark Tank calls Cookie Text
April 2013: my cell phone rings and I let it go to voicemail. I listen and it’s a gal from Shark Tank wanting to talk to me about Cookie Text, LLC. So I call her back, she interviews me on the phone then proceeds to send me the full application via email. The full 29 page application and the 10 minute video requirement. I did it all (with a lot of help and support from my friends). I made a special trip to FedEx it within their 7 day window. Then I waited.
I never heard a word.
Shark Tank Emails Cookie Text
Fast forward one year to April 2014: I get an email. A different person in casting had seen an old email exchange and sent an email asking if I was still interested. Of course. So she calls me and again I interview on the phone, complete the mega-application, submit a video, and even send sample products. I thought I’d submitted a great package. (Again, within their timeline.)
Again: I never heard a word back from them.
Shark Tank Open Casting Call
I follow Shark Tank on Twitter and Instagram. I knew they did some filming in June. In my mind if I’d been selected from the April application I’d have been in L.A. in June. So amidst the social media I noticed the open casting call in Greenville, North Carolina. For those that don’t know, Cookie Text is based in Yorktown, Virginia, and at the time I didn’t even know there was a Greenville, North Carolina. Thanks to Google Maps I figured out it was just 3 hours away.
So I filled out my third application, this one graciously much more brief. I knew it would be my last time. I also knew I had to go to Greenville. I had to see this through.
Maybe it was the statistics that sent me: if they get 35,000 applications, did anyone even look at mine? I had to make sure I’d been seen. I knew once I’d been seen, that if the answer was no, I could accept the no. I just couldn’t accept the ‘who knows’?
So I arrived in the line about 2 a.m. I offered the extra two chairs in the back of my “Cookie Cruiser” to a couple of nearby folks who were sitting on the pavement…and then I dozed. Well, I dozed between trips to the port-a-pot (though I felt calm, clearly my bladder was nervous)…I arrived as one of the first 25. By the dawn’s early light the line snaked down the block and around the corner, with the end further than I could see. I kept thinking of the guy that walks down the street at the end of the movie Pretty Woman saying, “What’s yo’ Dream?”
Into the Shark Tank…foyer
Finally, wristbands were distributed, I switched from flip-flops to heels, and it was time to enter the building. We went right up the stairs to a beautiful waiting area where we were briefed by a casting director. He told us they’d call our number. We had a minute, but not exactly a minute, they weren’t going to cut us off at 61 seconds. He told us a lot of other stuff too, like this was the most obscure town they’d been to, but the attendance was as good as Seattle or Austin.
Then I waited for my number to be called. It wasn’t long. I was only #21. There were about 6 people from casting working at once. Each had his or her own table and the applicant walked up to the next available table when it was his or her turn, so it moved very quickly.
My number was called. I got my stuff together and quickly the next available casting person was ready for me to give my pitch. And…she recognized me and CookieText® cookie cakes. She was the one that called me in April, that I routed my application to when I sent it to California. So the optimist says, “That’s good my product and I are memorable.”
The Takeaway from my swim with the sharks
But there was the realist: The part of me that most needed to attend the casting call. The part of me that needed to see this pursuit to the end. The part that knew, when I walked back to the Cookie Cruiser, that I wouldn’t be getting a call to head to L.A.
I was a little sad. But I was more proud and relieved than sad. I was proud I followed through to my finish line. And let me be abundantly clear. It was my Shark Tank finish line, not my Cookie Text finish line. Sure, Shark Tank would have been cool, as much for me as everyone who knows and loves the company and brand, but it’s not the only way to make all our Cookie Text dreams come true. It’s one of hundreds of routes to success. I’d drawn my line in the sand. If I went to Greenville and still didn’t get a call, I was letting go of that route.
Lots of my pride and belief comes from the love of you all, the customers and fans, so you gotta know that means the world to me. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
I heard today on MarieTV (if you are in business and haven’t tuned in, check her out her website www.marieforleo.com) that failure and success aren’t necessarily different paths. They are often the same path. Success is just further down the road. So down the road I go.
I had to see Shark Tank through, and I’m very glad I did. But a ‘no’ from them isn’t a no to CookieText® cookie cakes. I firmly believe in the products, the concept, and the brand. Maybe most importantly on this long road, I still believe in myself.