Ezpz Before Shark Tank
Necessity is the mother of invention, as Plato so correctly pointed out, and a need for some mealtime order, helped along by her husbands increasing frustration, led Lindsey Laurain from Parker, Colorado to invent her own child-friendly feeding product.
During a typical family mealtime in 2014, as her twin three-year-old boys and their five-year-old brother were happily plastering every exposed surface with a variety of foodstuffs, husband Brad wondered frustratedly why someone couldn’t invent something to ease the mess of young children’s mealtimes. Lindsay did some research and looked for such a product, but when she realized that nothing of the kind was available to consumers, she decided to invent one herself.
Within a matter of months, Lindsay had developed a silicone mat and bowl combination product that could stick, without any type of adhesive or residue to flat surfaces, and she named the invention ‘The Happy Mat’. The original inspiration for the idea had only occurred in March of 2014, but by September of that year, after a successful Kickstarter campaign that had achieved more than double the original funding goal of $35,000, the entrepreneurial mom was able to give up her corporate job and launched the Ezpz business.
She showcased her revolutionary new product at the ABC Kids Expo in Las Vegas that year, and the Happy Mat received a positive reception. She networked with the New York ‘baby gear guy’ Jamie Grayson and found lots of interested customers for her innovative product.
Sales went well, and she was soon in contact with international distributors that could potentially sell millions of units, but she would require funding to boost logistical operations and production capability, in order to meet the distributors schedules. To achieve the funding, she applied to appear on Shark Tank. Her application was accepted and she presented her pitch to the sharks in mid 2015.
Ezpz on Shark Tank
Lindsay’s appearance on the show aired early in 2016 and everything seemed to be going fine until she completed her first sentence. The Ezpz entrepreneur introduced herself and announced that she was offering a 5% stake in her business, in exchange for a huge investment of one million dollars.
‘Wow’ said Robert Herjavec, as Mark Cuban bellowed ‘Damn’. Kevin O’Leary commented ‘Well, thanks for coming’ to make his feelings about a $20 million valuation clear.
Not to be discouraged before she had begun, Lindsay smiled through the interruption and launched into her pitch. She showed the sharks a video of her own three toddlers enjoying a messy breakfast together at home, food was scattered joyfully about in a determined way that many parents would instantly recognize. Robert remarked ‘Your kids are slobs’ but Lindsay revealed that things had improved since then. She presented her invention, the Happy Mat, to the sharks, and demonstrated its impressive suction on a flat surface. She showed the sharks the second video of a far more orderly, and tidy mealtime, with her children using the Happy Mats. Robert Herjavec liked the product and commented it was clever, but as soon as the pitch was finished he wanted to talk about figures.
Lindsay revealed the Happy Mat retailed for $25, and she had a 50% profit margin on each unit, but Kevin O’Leary wanted sales information, units sold not profit margins. He told Lindsay that the sales would need to be ‘phenomenal’ to support such a valuation and pushed her for figures.
Lindsay, perhaps unwisely, disclosed that she had considered coming into the tank with a valuation five times higher, to incredulous looks from the sharks, before revealing that sales in the previous calendar year had been $1.2 million in gross sales.
Kevin didn’t think that was particularly phenomenal, ‘Is that it?’ he said, ‘I’m going to pay sixteen times the sales for a rubber mat with a face on it?’ he continued, less than happy.
Lindsay looked shocked and was temporarily speechless, but she recovered enough to explain that she had recently been at the largest baby products convention in Europe. She asserted that her product had received a great response, and she had begun discussions with 400 international distributors who could facilitate Worldwide sales for the Happy Mat.
Lori inquired if Lindsay had a patent on her product, the entrepreneur admitted that the patent had been applied for, but was currently only pending. Robert interjected that he assumed the patent would be awarded, but Lori shook her head and asserted that the patent process could easily develop differently than planned.
Things were not looking good for Lindsay, and they began to get rapidly worse for the worried looking mom from Colorado. Robert asked what profit Lindsay had made on the $1.2 million in sales, she admitted it had been only 14%, a long way from her earlier claim of a 50% profit margin.
Robert was incredulous, ‘You made $140,000’ he calculated, before asking ‘How do you get to $20 million?’ Lindsay explained that she had estimated the projected sales for the next five years, and valued the business based on those figures.
Robert asked if she could see a problem with that method of calculation, and a flustered looking Lindsay confessed that she couldn’t. Robert Herjavec laughed at the entrepreneur’s answer, somewhat disconcertingly for her. She tried to speak about potential further deals with distributors again but was not making any clear points.
Kevin O’Leary, usually the most vicious of the sharks when faced with an unreasonable valuation seemed to completely lose it. He appeared to seethe with anger as he said ‘I’m trying to be kind before I absolutely eviscerate you!’.
Even for Kevin, it was a strong statement, and Lindsay was visibly shocked at his aggression, she exclaimed ‘Oh my gosh, be nice, I’ll explain’ with pacifying hands raised before she launched into a nervous rundown of the stores that were stocking her product.
She mentioned the chain baby store Buy Buy Baby as one of her customers and Lori inquired about that. Lindsay quickly back tracked and admitted that she wasn’t quite in Buy Buy Baby yet
There was more pressure on Lindsay to follow, Kevin pinned her down on projected sales for the next year, and she confidently claimed they would grow enormously, to $10 million. Kevin doubted the accuracy of her projections and she looked even more uncertain of her figures.
Robert Herjavec had heard enough, he thought Lindsay was hopelessly optimistic, uncertain of her figures, and ‘all over the map’, with little explanation, he dropped out.
Lori Greiner followed Robert’s lead, and dropped out too, explaining the high valuation was her main concern.
Kevin O’Leary surprised everyone next, including Lindsay, by offering her exactly the deal she had asked for, 5% equity in the company in exchange for $1 million. But he attached conditions to the offer. If the business didn’t achieve the $10 million in sales Lindsay had claimed she would make, his slice of the company would increase to 20%. The deal was also dependent on the Happy Mat being awarded the pending patent.
Lindsay seemed to be considering the offer deeply, it was hard to tell, she still seemed shell-shocked from the bashing the sharks had given her. But Barbara Corcoran had an alternative offer, she too would supply the requested amount for 5% equity, but she would pay the $1 million in four equal yearly installments, again dependent on Lindsay achieving both the patent and her projected sales for each of the four years.
Lindsay was unable to make a decision, she was unimpressed with the offers, and the sharks’ comparatively low valuation of her business, she eventually declined them both, and left the tank, as well as five amazed sharks, behind her.
Ezpz Now in 2018 – The After Shark Tank Update
Immediately after her appearance, Lindsay explained that the deals offered to her ‘Didn’t feel right’ but was unable to elaborate why. When asked if she would have changed anything about her pitch she eventually said that she wouldn’t have given her company as high of a valuation.
Mark Cuban has discussed Shark Tank ‘Gold Diggers’ both on and off the show in the past, those who give their company an unreasonably high valuation, in order to gain from the interest that an appearance on the show will undoubtedly create, without any real intention of striking a deal with the sharks.
In the past, he and his fellow sharks have berated applicants who they have suspected of such time wasting. But Lindsay, who fits the profile of a Shark Tank gold digger well, wasn’t ever placed under suspicion of being one by any of the sharks. Her optimism and belief in her product were as impressive as its innovation and originality, but her presence in the Tank was far below that standard. Although she may have refused Kevin O’Leary’s offer, that did after all give her exactly the deal she had wanted, based on the sales that she projected for the future, she may have done so because she was ‘inflating’ the projected sales figures in order to secure a deal, and Kevin had effectively called her bluff.
Other Shark Tank contestants, who have clearly been mostly interested in the free publicity that an appearance will attract, have been far more proud of their segment on the show. They say all publicity is good publicity no matter what the eventual result of the negotiations, or the attitude of the sharks towards them. Lindsay, perhaps tellingly, makes no mention of her Shark Tank appearance on either the company website, or any of her rich in content, and regularly updated social media pages. Her surprise at the Sharks attitude towards her seemed completely genuine, at times she appeared shocked almost speechless at their assessment of her personal qualities, and her optimistic sales projections.
The suspicion I’m left with, as a long time fan of Shark Tank, is that Lindsay was unprepared for her segment, and her commitment to the business didn’t extend to comprehensive research on the sharks themselves. Any entrepreneur with knowledge of the sharks would know how they would react to such a high valuation, yet Lindsay was amazed at their objection to it. She was caught out in misleading statements several times by the sharks and seemed completely unprepared for the detailed cross-examination that the sharks commonly dish out to uncertain investments.
Even without promoting her appearance, the publicity has benefited the business enormously since the show aired, although the international distribution that she referred to is not complete yet, it has begun, with Happy Mats now being distributed to a few European countries. The mats are still available at Bed, Bath & Beyond and also online at Amazon. With over one thousand reviews and rated 4.5/5 stars, it appears that customers are very happy with Lindsay’s product. You can also stay up to date with the business by following their Twitter account, @ezpzfun, or Instagram, @ezpzfun. As well as their personal blog page located on the business webpage www.ezpzfun.com.
Whatever the innovative and enthusiastic Lindsay Laurain does next, perhaps she should consider employing someone to assist her with her future pitches, and maybe the next deal will be a little more easy peasy for her to decide on.