Happy Anniversary Shark Tank!
Today marks exactly ONE YEAR since EVERYTHING CHANGED.
July 4th signifies one year since I rolled (yes, “rolled”) my business partner Adrian through the doors of the Shark Tank studio in a KidsCo zorb ball on a mission to wrestle with some of Australia’s greatest business minds and seek the required investment to propel our baby into the future.
Reflecting back on this experience, I really don’t know how I expected the following 12 months to have played out. But I’ve loved the highs and learnt a truckload from the lows along the way.
Winding back to July 3, 2018, the night before our episode went to air; I found myself sitting in a brightly lit hospital room with my beautiful wife soon after the birth of our first baby. The Shark Tank TV ad to tomorrow night’s episode beamed through our 8-inch screen and it was here that for the first time I found myself thinking, “oh boy, what have we done, our pitch went really well in filming, but we are completely in the hands of the editing gods”. They could cut us up to look like absolute peanuts and we’d be screwed.
Appearing on Shark Tank had always been a dream of mine. I was an avid watcher of the show and when I made the decision to hand in my notice at my corporate job where the future was bright, most people, including some of those closest to me said it was a crazy thing to do. But what these same people have taught me above all else is to ‘trust my gut’ and ‘back myself’. My sister in law, who knew these dreams and had always been a thoughtful supporter, bought me a pair of Shark Tank socks a few months before the business was even born.
I remember the day of filming vividly. Adrian and I were in Sydney and arrived at the Fox Studios early in the morning. We were second up to pitch to the sharks and we were strangely calm. We were prepared. We were confident. We were excited. Not only did we manage to make it through the auditions, pass the hour-long one on one psych testing and have the chance to get some real investment into our then lounge room ran business, but we were fulfilling a lifelong dream.
The year prior to getting the call up to appear on Shark Tank is one I look back on with a sense of joy and pride. Since completing school, I have been employed as a nurse, a teacher and up until KidsCo was born, entered the corporate sphere for 3 years. It wasn’t until I had a taste of the corporate world that I truly knew that the extrinsic reward (enhanced finances + perks) provided by work only satisfied me so far. I realized that it was the intrinsically rewarding experiences (purpose, autonomy, mastery) that most positively impacted my life. Experiences like holding the hands of patient’s taking their last breaths who could look back on their life and smile, or seeing the “light bulb moment” in a student’s face when they finally understand a concept they’ve been struggling to grasp. No amount of remuneration can replace these and it was experiences such as these that are credited for awakening a burning desire within me to create something of value and leave a legacy behind.
KidsCo all started in June 2016. We had no customers and subsequently no income for the first 12 months since opening our doors and grinding it out in our lounge rooms. Despite this, we believed in what we were doing and had nuggets of positive feedback on the way that kept us going. Surprisingly and unexpectedly, free-falling and burning through all of our life savings and going income-less was the most liberating 12 months of my life. Something about being ‘all in’ and having the ‘sink or swim’ situation to provide for my recently mortgaged family really spun my dials. I always admired people who pushed themselves to go beyond their comfort zone in the workforce, whether they did or didn’t achieve what they set out to do, and I was finally among them.
I had met Adrian through a mutual friend, and to this day, along with my wife and a few close friends, he is just one of those people I had the most amazing and instant human chemistry with. After a few coffee catch ups and boozy “business meetings” around our passion for kids and creating a better future – we knew we had come up with a unique business idea and an equally unique business partnership. For anyone who knows the west of Melbourne – KidsCo was officially born at Vault Cafe (which we later named our “Coffice” for subsequent meetings) in Yarraville.
Fast-forward a year and we’re standing in the middle of a giant studio, surrounded by lights, cameras and people in black. In front of us sat five intimidating people who had the means to make things go gangbusters for KidsCo. All Adrian and I had to do was not stuff it up.
Now, names are my thing. Rarely, after being introduced to someone, will I forget their name or misname them. When Janine Allis had to correct me in calling her “Naomi”, I felt like a muppet. It wasn’t until I made the same mistake for the third time (thankfully the editing gods only showed it once in the episode) that I was ready to say goodbye to any possibility of investment.
On a side note, goodness me did the tabloids loved my slip of the tongue! It was splashed across several international papers as well as becoming a MEME on social media just to make sure i never forgot the wee brain fade I made on national television.
My most distinct memory in the tank surprised me and it is a lovely personal moment ill remember forever. It happened just after the name incident, where four of the five sharks had said “no” to KidsCo. I took a deep breath, looked up to the ceiling, and thought to myself, “I’m just so happy we did this. We haven’t got the investment, but look where we’re standing, and what we have achieved to get here.” Truly and utterly in my own thoughts having what seemed like an out of body experience.
As I was having this moment to myself, Glen spoke up. He made his first offer. From then on, we blacked out. Something came over me and It was like watching somebody else negotiate for us. Boy oh boy was it exhillirating. Thankfully it worked out and the rest is history.
Prior to Shark Tank airing, KidsCo had received a total of 30 incoming enquiries in our first 24 months of operation. To give even more context, Aida and I would celebrate with a beer or go for lunch every time we received one. The morning after Shark Tank, less than 12 hours after airing in fact, we opened our inbox and saw over 130 enquiries from a mix of working parents and human resource managers from companies looking to get KidsCo in their office.
We couldn’t believe it. It was a true testament to our hard work in preparing for the experience before entering the tank and the amazing efforts of our PR agents at the time.
A year on, and we have a growing team of 10 full and part time employees as well as 170 epic casual school teachers on our books. We have partnered with 65 companies across Australia, and are currently experiencing our biggest school holiday period to date. I am loving every up and down of this roller-coaster of a ride that is start-up life. Massive kudos needs to be said to my amazing, creative and tenacious business partner, as well as every individual that makes up the KidsCo HQ. Work truly doesn’t feel like work when you’re surrounded by incredible individuals who share the same values but with their own quirk to keep things interesting every day.
Upon reflection: I guess I can attribute a lot of the above to our Shark Tank experience which propelled KidsCo as a true disruptor of the Australian vacation care industry. The next 5 years we have our sights firmly set on empowering more parents to raise the next generation of awesome in the national and international arenas. We will continue to employ and develop the great people who join HQ and at some point open a foundation to give back. I know one thing – I’m bloody excited to meet the obstacles head-on and bring this all to life.
If my advice is worth anything, I urge anyone who is thinking about applying for the show or facing a crossroads moment in there life, double down and go for it. Putting yourself out there – even when you can’t control the outcome is where the rare magic is found. I imagine my learnings from the experience are largely different than those people who weren’t portrayed as kindly as we were by producers, but nonetheless, I imagine if they were, I’d say the same thing. That is, “back yourself in and go for it, you’ll miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”.
Thanks for reading and all the best to you on your journey.
Good vibes and Hi 5’s
Click here to watch the episode.