The founders of a ‘Shark Tank’ success relied on a key piece of business-school advice to stay calm during the pitch that won them $100,000

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“Shark Tank” is not a good place to be nervous.
source
ABC

  • When she appeared on “Shark Tank” with her husband, Mark Lim, Hanna Lim was incredibly nervous.
  • They were pitching their startup, Lollacup, which produced safer sippy cups for kids.
  • But Mark told Hanna to remember that the investors were their equals, not their superiors, and that alleviated some of her anxiety.

Hanna Lim clearly remembers trying out for “Shark Tank.”

There she was with her husband, Mark Lim, pitching their fledgling startup, Lollacup. The company produced safer sippy cups for kids, though it’s since expanded into other products for infants and toddlers and is now called Lollaland.

“I was literally shaking while holding the sippy cups,” Hanna told me.

By the time they were scheduled to appear on the “Shark Tank” stage, in 2012, Hanna’s nervousness still hadn’t abated.

But as the doors to the tank were opening, Mark said something to Hanna that calmed her down.

“He was like, ‘Listen. We’re here pitching to investors who are essentially our equals. We’re not here for a handout; we’re not here to beg. This is an investment. We’re potentially handing over part of our company that we’ve built.'”

Looking back, Hanna told me, “I think that was very powerful in shaping the way I personally approached the pitch and our 90 minutes of negotiation.” (The “Shark Tank” episodes are edited so that each company only gets a limited amount of air time.)

Mark said he learned that lesson in business school, at the University of California, Los Angeles Anderson School of Management. As part of the program, he and his classmates pitched ideas, concepts, and business plans in front of professors and working venture capitalists.

Interestingly, Mark’s advice to Hanna sounds similar to real-estate mogul and “Shark Tank” investor Barbara Corcoran’s advice to entrepreneurs. As Laura Woods at GOBankingRates reported, Corcoran has told entrepreneurs to remember, “I [the entrepreneur] have just as much right to be here as you [the investor], I’m just as smart as you are. You might not think I’m smart, but I know I’m smart. Guess what, I’ve done a lot. Don’t you dare look down on me.”

Ultimately, the Lims struck a deal with Mark Cuban and Robert Herjavec: $100,000 for 40% of the company. Since then, Lollaland has passed $2 million in sales.

Mark summarized what he learned in business school. “When you’re going into a deal, you keep your eyes forward,” he said. “Not up or down. You’re not looking down on someone, nor are you begging. It’s a two-way exchange.”