This is the first in a three-part article series recounting my experiences on ABC’s Shark Tank, adapted from my new book Pocket Man.  My episode – season 3, episode 7 – was the highest rated up to that point, and is considered to be the most controversial episode in Shark Tank history.  There is an unofficial version posted to YouTube here (while it lasts) and it is available on iTunes.  Well worth the money.  

I am currently planning a tell-all Shark Tank book which follows up on previous contestants and explains to fans of the show some of the hidden dynamics that make Shark Tank so compelling.

How Did I Get On Shark Tank?

As a passionate promoter, founder of a pocket-filled clothing company (SCOTTeVEST) and now an author, it makes perfect sense that I would want to go on ABC’s hit show Shark Tank.  After all, how many entrepreneurs are vying to get on the show and be seen in front of millions of viewers?  The answer: most of them.

A lot of people imagine what it would be like to get on Shark Tank, and this is the most frequently asked question I hear (other than how someone else can get onShark Tank).  This is a brief account about what the months leading up to the airing entailed:

It was the summer of 2011.  My hidden pocket clothing company SCOTTeVESTwas up and running, and the business was growing steadily, adding employees and products regularly.  I felt like we had an opportunity to pursue TEC-Technology Enabled Clothing® as a spin-off company on Shark Tank.  TEC was and is the licensing subsidiary of SCOTTeVEST, and licensing the intellectual property of TEC to other clothing companies was my original intention while developing SCOTTeVEST as a retail brand.

In many ways, I was going back to my roots as an entrepreneur by pursuing Shark Tank.

As an entrepreneur, I already loved the show Shark Tank, so my team and I started to pursue an appearance as an opportunity to grow TEC.  It seemed like it could be a great way to quickly grow the name, the business, and to license TEC to most major apparel brands.

It Started With An Email

My company had occasionally worked with a freelance PR agent named Dina White, and we knew that she had also worked with some people involved with Shark Tank.  We certainly did not get preferential treatment, but we did get two things: the email address of someone at the production company to CC: on our application, and an assurance that my application would at least be seen by one person and not lost in the shuffle.  Sometimes, that’s all you can get.

This application, like the rehearsals to follow, went through many iterations…draft after draft, until I hit “send.”

Everything Begins With… Paperwork

I heard back within minutes that they were at least generally interested, and any time you don’t get a hard NO from the media, it could be a yes.  Actually, sometimes no still means yes if you persist long enough.

There were a lot of hoops to jump through – even initially – and I had a phone interview with Rhett Bachner, a producer from the show.

The questions were pretty generic.  He asked me about myself, about what experiences shaped me, and about how I got the original idea for the product.  It went pretty well, and in my typical fashion, I followed up with supporting materials and emails.

After what felt like five rounds of video submissions, Skype calls and many communications, we got to the point of the contract.  That consisted of a mountain of paperwork that we had to submit.

It turns out that there was something hidden in that mountain of paperwork that even the most die-hard viewers of the show were unlikely to know.  As a former lawyer, I had to take my hat off to the lawyer-liness of this hidden line.

The Shark Tank Secret

At the time of my appearance, there was a rule that was kept secret from the home audience: just for appearing on the show, the producers got 5% of your company or 2% of your profits.  It didn’t matter if one of the Sharks chose to invest in you or not, or whether your segment ever made it on the air or not.  Sign on the dotted line, and you had a 5% partner for life.

This is an incredibly important thing to keep in mind, and it’s something that the viewers at home never knew unless they happened to see the above image in the end credits for the fraction of a second it appeared on screen.  In fact, the line about this percentage was buried on page 28 of the 32 page contract.

Oh, you can’t read the text on that screen shot?  Neither can most people.  Here it is zoomed in:

For the first time since starting SCOTTeVEST, I thought, “Good thing I was a lawyer.”  I’m sure there was at least one mild mannered inventor who missed that language and is still sending them quarterly checks.

No one’s appearance was free.  My appearance was not free.

After over a decade running SCOTTeVEST, we were a thriving business.  I certainly didn’t need any partners on that end, and I wasn’t going to give up 5% of my pocket empire to appear on a TV show.  I could buy commercial time during the show for less money than that.

But, the opportunity to give TEC a proper launch – the opportunity to put the concept behind my patented clothing innovation on display for the whole world – was not something I was going to let slip away.  I was willing to give up 5% of TEC, and I did.

That’s why you never heard me breathe the word “SCOTTeVEST” on Shark Tank.  If I said it while the cameras were rolling – even if they later edited it out before airing – I would owe 5% of my company.

One slip of the tongue and it would be a multi-million dollar mistake… and they knew it.

It scared the $#!+ out of me.

When I discovered the 5% clause, and I was maybe 6 weeks into the process.  Honestly, I felt more than a little duped.  It took some clarification from the producers to ensure us that presenting TEC was not going to jeopardize 5% of SCOTTeVEST.  This part was non-negotiable, and they put the risk of making a mistake squarely on my shoulders.  It was worth the risk.

I found out that I was a semifinalist for the next season’s episodes in mid-June, which meant the second round of forms and a video submission would be due about a month later.  That’s when I went into training.

Practice Makes Perfect

My team and I got to work scripting everything I had to say (the initial pitch to the Sharks) and all sorts of questions and answers that they might throw at me.

I also started my diet.  Whenever filming was going to start, I was determined to look good, feel good and feel like I look good.  Every camera puts ten pounds on me, so I dove right into what I called “the Ambien diet.”  I’d take a prescription sleep pill every night before I had the urge to snack after dinner.  It’s the only thing that works for me.

I worked with my team and with Rhett the producer on my pitch for TEC.  We live-streamed rehearsals.  That way I could get input from contractors who weren’t on site, and I filmed many variations and versions.  Everyone was subject to strong confidentiality agreements.  Part of the application and approval process is to submit videos to Shark Tank so they can judge how you come across on video, and also so they can give you some feedback on refining your pitch.

All in, I spent hundreds of hours practicing for Shark Tank.  I was confident I could answer any question they could ask, but I was terrified about forgetting my pitch… or worse… saying “SCOTTeVEST.”  For a shameless promoter, staying silent about the company I built for years was going to be incredibly difficult.

Patience Is Not My Virtue

Filming was originally supposed to take place in July in Los Angeles, but they added me to the September filming group instead.  I took the time to continue training and continue losing weight.  I went over the pitch again and again, and practiced loading and unloading my vest to demonstrate the TEC system that would be licensed to companies if the Sharks came through for me.

Ultimately, all that training paid off… but what I couldn’t control was the editing.

For even more stories about my approach to business, check out my top-rated book, Pocket Man.

If you want to learn more or just enjoy my “reality show” life, follow me on Facebook.

ABOUT SCOTT JORDAN and SCOTTeVEST

Scott Jordan is the CEO and Founder of SCOTTeVEST, which creates multi-pocket clothing designed to carry electronics. He is the author of Pocket Man: The Unauthorized Autobiography of a Passionate, Personal Promoter.

Read a sample of Scott’s book for more about his experience on Shark Tank and the pocket empire he has built.

Interested in working at SCOTTeVEST? The team is growing and there are several openings available for motivated candidates.  Be sure to send a thank you note!

Follow Scott on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.