Recently, 12 jobseeker-customers from the KRA/Norfolk VIEW (Virginia Initiative for Employment not Welfare) Program participated in a creative entrepreneurial “Shark Tank” project…named after the popular television show. The students, from VIEW’s Job Readiness Academy and Resources for Employment and Learning Center programs, were divided into two groups of six, and instructed to invent a product to “pitch” to a group of potential investors…the Sharks, represented by Timothy Carter, KRA Career Agent; Kirk Houston, KRA Instructor; Roniko Richardson-Davis, KRA Career Agent Team Leader; and Gina Tanks, KRA Employment Specialist. To create the new products, the students received instruction in the basics of utilizing entrepreneurial skills; market research; financial analysis, including wholesale and retail pricing; economics; the labor market; and…teamwork.
The “EZ Sudz Gloves” team’s invention contained dishwashing liquid pre-filled in the palm of a glove. The Team explained that their product was cost-effective to produce; biodegradable; sanitary; durable; heat and water resistant; and available in four different sizes. Estimating a unit production cost of $3.00, and a retail price of $6.99, the Team proposed an investment of $50,000 and 25% ownership to the Sharks. After some deliberation, the investors made the Team two offers: #1 – double the investment and ownership…$100,000 and 50%, or #2 – the original proposition. Team EZ Sudz Gloves discussed both offers and accepted offer #2 because they wanted to maintain control of their company.
The “Hush Mouth” team’s invention, a pacifier-retainer harness that helps hold the device in the baby’s mouth, is made of a soft plastic material, and comes with its own case that protects and sanitizes the pacifier. Costing $3.00 to make, and selling for $6.99 in local-area stores, the Team informed the Sharks that in 3 months, they had made a $1,600 profit. So, their proposition was: $50,000 dollars and 35% of the company. In response, the Sharks countered with two offers: #1 – $100,000, 50% ownership, and marketing support to take the product national, or #2 – $500,000…and 90% of the company! After discussing both offers, Team Hush Mouth accepted offer # 1 because they wanted at least half-ownership control of their company.
According to Tiffany Haynes, KRA Lead Instructor, “Both the “Sharks” and the “entrepreneurs” agreed this was a terrific learning experience. One of our VIEW customers, Sarah Rivera, stated that this activity gave her a much better idea of how businesses make money for their owners. In fact, Team EZ Sudz Gloves actually wants to promote their product, and is looking into possible production options; they genuinely see possibilities and benefits in the product. Wouldn’t it be incredible if such a glove actually made it to the marketplace?”