Tossed from The Tank: The Most Successful Shark Tank Rejects

What does it take to get torn apart by a panel of sharks and still come out on top? Shark Tank recently celebrated 10 years on network television, having long been one of the most watched programs on Friday nights. The reality show gives entrepreneurs the opportunity to pitch their business ideas to a panel of five investors. Many have left the show with the deals they asked for and used the capital to grow their businesses into success stories. 

Not everyone gets a deal, though. Often, business owners walk away from the show with no investment and, presumably, no hope for success. Yet some have persevered without the Sharks and developed very successful companies on their own.

1. Copa di Vino

James Martin was traveling through France when he came across prepackaged wine by the glass. He quickly realized that ready-to-drink, easily portable wine could be a huge business in the U.S., and he was right. 

Martin had already found some success by the time he approached the Sharks for $600,000 in exchange for 30% of his business. He didn’t get the deal he was looking for, but after the episode aired, investors began to appear. 

Shark Tank producers invited him back for a second chance to promote his product, something that hasn’t been offered to any other guest. Again, Martin walked away without a deal, but he still got what he needed. The exposure from the episode resulted in skyrocketing sales. Copa di Vino has sold more than 38 million cups of wine at the time of this writing and can be found in grocery stores all over the country.

2. MealEnders

Weight loss products are a $72.7 billion industry, and Mark Bernstein wanted to get in on it. He had an idea that could make an impact on the waistlines of millions. Bernstein set out to create a product that would work instantly on the mind and mouth to curb food cravings

After some research and development, Bernstein came up with MealEnders, a lozenge that works in two ways. The outer layer is a sweet reward, signaling to the brain that the meal is over. When it is gone, the inner layer resets the taste buds and stops the urge to keep eating. 

Bernstein asked the Sharks for a $350,000 investment in return for 8% of the company, but none of them went for it. After the episode aired, however, Bernstein sold $400,000 worth of his product in three days. 

3. The Lip Bar

Cosmetics company The Lip Bar was started in 2012 in Melissa Butler’s kitchen. She had been making the most of her bachelor’s degree in business finance by working at Barclays on Wall Street, but her path changed when she couldn’t find vegan, all-natural lipstick in vibrant colors. 

Butler took her beauty into her own hands and began mixing natural lipstick at home. She had a vision for a cosmetics company that would embrace all types of beauty. She quit her stock broker job a year later and dove head first into developing her business idea. 

Butler’s main goal of appearing on Shark Tank was to gain exposure. The pitch for a $125,000 investment in return for a 20% stake in the business was turned down by each Shark, but after the show aired, Butler pitched her product to Target. The popular retailer now carries The Lip Bar lipsticks and blushes in 450 of its stores and online.

4. Kodiak Cakes

As a child in 1982, Joel Clark sold bags of his grandfather’s original dry flapjack mix from a wagon in his neighborhood. After returning home from college with a master’s degree in business administration, Clark and his brother Jon launched Kodiak Cakes in 1995. Their pancake, muffin and brownie mixes contain 100% whole grains and are non-GMO. 

The brothers were still bootstrapping their business when they appeared on Shark Tank asking for $500,000 in return for a 10% stake. They turned down two offers for larger percentages of the operation and walked away empty-handed. Six weeks after airing, they had made $1 million in revenue. Kodiak Cakes is now a $100 million a year business and is the most popular pancake mix sold in Target, outselling well-known brands like Aunt Jemima and Bisquick.

5. Ring

Jamie Siminoff was no stranger to business when he started marketing his video doorbell idea. He had studied entrepreneurship in college and applied that knowledge to develop businesses around his inventions. He finally struck gold with the first Wi-Fi video doorbell, a gadget called Doorbot, that he invented to make his wife feel safer at home. In 2012, he started selling them out of his garage. 

When Siminoff appeared on Shark Tank, he asked for a $700,000 investment for 10% of the company. He received only one offer, which he turned down. However, after that episode aired, there was a dramatic increase in revenue. 

Siminoff rebranded his concept and renamed it Ring. In 2015, it caught the attention of Richard Branson, who was eager to invest. Later, Shaquille O’Neill’s endorsement was added to the marketing strategy, and in 2018, Ring was sold to Amazon for $1 billion.

6. The Bouqs Company

There are plenty of floral delivery businesses online to choose from, but they all provide the exact same service. John Tabis dreamed of a floral company that would deliver artisan bouquets straight from the farm. 

Tabis had a B.S. in Finance, an MBA and experience in strategy consulting and marketing when he launched his business venture in 2012. He asked the Sharks for $258,000 for a 3% stake, an offer he didn’t get, and he left the set without an investor. Since the episode aired, however, Tabis’ business has garnered $55 million in financial resources from eager investors and has steadily grown in revenue.

7. Coffee Meets Bagel

The three Kang sisters often heard frustrated comments about dating apps from their friends, and they believed they could come up with something better. Two of the sisters, Dawoon and Arun, had MBAs and successful careers in finance, and the third sister, Soo, had a background in design. 

The sisters launched their dating website Coffee Meets Bagel in 2012 with the promise to match users with quality dates using Facebook. They went on Shark Tank to ask for $500,000 for 5% of their company and received one counter offer for $30 million to sell the whole company. The sisters turned it down. 

After their episode aired, the site rapidly grew to 21 million users. It has continued to attract the attention of investors and singles alike.

8. Chef Big Shake

Shawn Davis, a trained chef and the owner of a catering company, was faced with a challenge. His young daughter had recently become a vegetarian. Still willing to eat some types of seafood, she left her father with few options for dinner. That’s when Davis whipped up an original recipe for a shrimp burger. He believed he had something deserving of a wider audience, so he started Chef Big Shake in his own kitchen. 

Shawn focused on marketing his shrimp burger to restaurants and grocery stores, but he struggled to get real traction. A friend finally turned in a Shark Tank application on his behalf, but when he asked the Sharks for a $200,000 investment in exchange for a 25% stake, nobody was biting. 

The day after airing, Davis was approached by an investor, though, and the funds helped him increase his sales from $30,000 to $5 million in just one year. He now boasts deals with several stores and manages his own chain of chicken restaurants.

Becoming a Shark in Business

One thing all these would-have-been flops have in common when approaching the Sharks was a mind for business, and many were already armed with business degrees. In the end, it was this specialized training that took their businesses to the next level. You can learn the skills and strategies entrepreneurs use every day by earning an online bachelor’s degree in business management. These programs are designed to prepare you to succeed in today’s competitive workforce. The Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration – Management from Illinois College blends a liberal arts education with cutting-edge business practices to prepare you to solve complex problems. Our degree will teach you to think critically, write and speak effectively, work in teams and successfully solve complex problems. Additionally, you’ll study key topics like marketing, financial management, accounting and strategic management.