Doug and Renata Storer, Night Tech Gear Co-Founders
When husband and wife co-founders, Doug and Renata Storer, first came up with the idea for Night Runner Shoe Lights it seemed there wasn’t a day that went by that someone didn’t say “You should be on Shark Tank!”. The journey began in 2013 completely by accident. Doug was training for his fifth marathon one dark early morning and tripped on a pothole and took a dive. He hobbled home with an injury and a new idea! That’s how Night Runner Shoe Lights was born!
What was the Shark Tank experience like?
In a word—intense. Our Night Runner product had only been on the market for 8 months before we stood before the Sharks in Season 8. We knew how fortunate we were to have this opportunity and were determined to make the most of it. We researched all of the questions and business metrics that the Sharks commonly asked other companies on the show. We drilled each other so that we could provide rapid fire responses during the Sharks intense questioning. We felt that no one should know our company better than we do and we were very focused and prepared when we stepped onto the carpet. We knew this was a once in a lifetime opportunity.
How did you make it on the show?
We found out that Shark Tank was holding an Open-Casting call a few hours away in Miami. After a bottle of wine, we came to the conclusion that we had nothing to lose and everything to gain by going for it. On the day of the casting call, the alarm went off at 3:30 am and we headed South for the 4-hour journey to Miami. We almost turned around and went home after we saw countless people cued up in long lines that wrapped around the outside of the convention center, American-Idol style. After waiting for hours in the line we were given an arm-band and told to wait until our number was called.
While we waited with hundreds of other “shark bait” companies, one of the producers was tasked with calming the nerves of the nervous would-be entrepreneurs. In between jokes he would interject fun facts like, “If you don’t hear from us in 2 weeks, don’t call us, you didn’t make-it”, “Don’t make this part of your business plan because over 50,000 companies apply each season to be on Shark Tank and only around 100 make it on the show”.
When we finally got our turn to pitch to a producer, who sat emotionless reviewing our paperwork while we gave our most impassioned pitch which ended with clicking on the shoe lights. For the first time, she looked up at us, looked at the product and it was apparent that she “saw the light”.
We got the call 10 days later that we were going to the next step which involved more paperwork and videos. After several more weeks we finally got the call that we had been waiting for, we were going to Los Angeles for filming.
Are the Sharks really that mean?
While ABC does extensive due diligence on the companies that appear on the show, when you walk into the “Tank” the Sharks know nothing about your company. You have 2 minutes to give your pitch before the barrage of questions start coming at you from all directions. “What are your revenues”, “Do you have a patent”, “What is your cost of customer acquisition” where just a few of the many questions.
If you hesitate or can’t answer the questions, you run the risk of being ridiculed or eaten alive before getting pushed out the door. If you successfully answer the initial questions and they see an opportunity to make money you get a longer swim in the Tank. We were swimming with the Sharks for more than an hour with no blood in the water!
All of our intense preparation paid off. After satisfactorily answering several questions from the Sharks, they made the first offer and then another, and another until a bidding frenzy broke out.
Mr. Wonderful was the biggest surprise. Instead of his trademark, “You are dead to me”, he was the first to make an attractive offer. “I like it. I see broader industrial applications…like mining and security”.
Mark was excited about our plans for a Bluetooth connected version of our lights that provide performance flash alerts. He made another great offer but wanted more equity, “I like the product but know the technology will take some time.”
Lori made three offers and said, “I love it because it’s just a smart product and smart products are what I do.”
Robert also made three offers and pleaded for us to partner with him because we needed someone who “understands and would use the product.”
Barbara was the only Shark to go out early and may have regretted not being part of the feeding frenzy saying at the end, “They really played their hand well”
We never dreamed we’d be lucky enough to get one offer, but having four Sharks fighting to be our partner gave us a tremendous amount of confidence that we had an exciting product and could build a successful business. We accepted Robert Herjavec’s offer of $250,000 for 15% equity plus $100,000 line of credit.
How did Shark Tank change your business?
Shark Tank is this amazing platform that allowed us to take a dream and run it through the gauntlet of the cold cruel business world to see if it could survive. If you survive, having 10 million Shark Tank fans see your product and hear your story is the real prize. After the show aired, our annual revenues quadrupled in the last quarter of the year exceeding what we asked for in the Tank.
How's your business going today?
My wife and I have rebranded the company to Night Tech Gear and we now have a full line of patented safety products for work and play. In the Tank, the Sharks were very interested in our new product for the workplace, Night Shift Shoe Lights. After appearing on Shark Tank, we had a tremendous amount of interest from a diverse array of companies with 24/7 operations including Transit, Parcel Delivery, Construction, Utility, Industrial, Public Safety, Security, Mining, Theme Parks and Military.
It took more than 18 months of product development and testing but we finally introduced Night Shift Shoe Lights in the Fall of 2018. Night Shift mitigates many of the dangers to workers that are inherent in third shift and low-light operations. Attached to the boots or shoes, these “headlights” serve as advanced warning of trip hazards and provide visibility to other vehicles and workers. Night Shift is already in-use by the nation’s largest department of transportation, transit authority and theme park. We even managed to pick up the 2018 Occupational Safety & Health, Best New Product award along the way!
If someone had told us two years ago that our products would be lighting subway tunnels and theme parks and worn in 50 countries around the world we would have politely questioned their sanity.