Paper Box Pilots Before Shark Tank
It’s the holiday season, and all across the country, parents hand over gifts to excited children, but as is usually the case, the recipients of those expensive presents usually find the box far more entertaining within a matter of hours. As all parents know, it’s a common situation during the festive period, but with Paper Box Pilots, it can be an even more entertaining one now, with a way to make any old box a gift in itself.
Brian Cahoon was very familiar with the attraction of large boxes to young children, he had frequently spent time with his son Noah when he was younger, producing designs to turn boxes into ships, cars, planes, or anything else that he could think of. A few years later Noah, now thirteen, remembered what a great time he had with the boxes that his dad had designed, and he made some customized boxes himself, for the benefit of his little brother Milo.
Milo reacted in the same way as all small children, and loved running around inside a box decked out to look like a plane, and that was when Noah had his moment of inspiration. He wondered how many other parents would be prepared to buy stickers that could be placed onto any box, to create an exciting toy for young children – without any batteries ever being required.
He spoke to his dad about the idea, and Brian, who had an entrepreneurial streak of his own, was more than happy to support his sons fledgling business idea. He supplied Noah with a small business loan to get him started and the Paper Box Pilots business was born.
Paper Box Pilots on Shark Tank
When Brian and Noah came into the tank they were hoping to attract a shark to invest $35,000 into their business, they also brought along another board member, five-year old younger brother Milo, who, Brian explained, was the ‘CFO’ of the company, The Chief Fun Officer.
Brian and Noah told the story behind the Paper Box Pilot business, the first boxes Brian had made for young Noah, and Noah’s own efforts for his younger brother. They told the sharks about the amazing attraction that a simple cardboard box could have for all young kids, and the sharks nodded in agreement.
The CFO of the company carried out his role enthusiastically, as he modelled the plane model for the benefit of his audience. Some of the sharks appeared to be melting a little, overwhelmed by the waves of cuteness. Perhaps Noah and Brian noticed a flicker of jealousy in Robert Herjavec’s eye, as they offered him his own box, a racing car, and he eagerly agreed to try it out for himself. After the slightly surreal sight of Robert Herjavec running in circles with a box around his waist had passed, it was chocks away for Milo, busy with his CFO duties he flew out of the tank.
Kevin O’Leary is the shark most suited to the children’s toy industry, the Canadian born businessman originally made his fortune with the sale of The Learning Company, to Mattel in 1999. He had grown the educational software, and family entertainment company into a global brand, and he understands the market for children’s products better than any of his fellow sharks. He was interested in the concept of the product, but he thought it would be better if sold with a plain box to put the stickers on.
Barbara Corcoran inquired about the price and cost of the stickers. Noah answered confidently and in detail, the sharks were impressed with the well-prepared young entrepreneur. Mark Cuban asked about sales, and although the total figure of $7,500 was quite low, the product was very cheap to buy, and required bulk sales to make a decent profit. The business had been launched only eight months ago and Noah pitched it as a solid set-up, growing steadily. The sharks were impressed with his explanation and not put off by previously low sales, this business had potential for huge growth, but only if the market was large enough.
There were more questions from the sharks about sales channels, Noah explained that the stickers were sold in 23 retail outlets, mainly independent toy stores, and there were equal sales online. Barbara Corcoran quizzed Brian about the extent of his involvement in the business. Brian asserted that although he supported Noah fully in his business activities, he left all decisions concerning the future of the company to him alone.
Brian detailed his own ambition to run a business, when he was younger, but the birth of Noah had forced him to take a less risky path, to ensure the best possible upbringing for his son. He had brought Noah up to believe that life was not restricted to one path, he didn’t have to follow a corporate ladder, and he was always encouraged to follow his entrepreneurial ideas.
Kevin repeated his interest in the business, and his belief that a box should be sold with the stickers, he then announced he was prepared to make an offer. He proposed an investment of $35,000, in exchange for a fifty-fifty partnership in the business. He also cautioned Noah that he would have to leave school, to the amusement of the other sharks. Noah didn’t look 100% sure that Kevin was joking and pointed out he was only in the eighth grade. ‘So you miss a few grades’ replied Kevin.
Noah looked pleased to have at least one offer on the table, he thanked Kevin graciously, and inquired if any of the other sharks were prepared to invest in his company.
Mark Cuban congratulated Noah on the offer he had received, and called Kevin’s propsal ‘fair’. He didn’t believe he could add as much value to the business as Kevin and with that he was out.
Lori Greiner loved what Noah had achieved so far, particularly the simplicity of the idea, but she didn’t believe the business would be easily scalable. She told Noah to call her in several years to come and work for her, but regretfully she was out too.
Robert Herjavec still seemed hyped from his earlier enjoyment of the cardboard box with car stickers on it, and he told Noah he would match Kevin’s offer, the requested $35,000 in exchange for an equal share in the business. Kevin O’Leary jumped in quickly, detailing his history with Mattel, and the $4 billion deal he struck with them. He stressed his experience in the field, and told Noah the business could pay for his college fees, if he chose Kevin as a partner.
Barbara broke the tension between Robert and Kevin, by putting another option to Noah. She offered $35,000 in exchange for 35% equity, a better deal than the others, and conditional on Noah making Paper Box Pilots stickers appeal to girls too, as well as boys.
This time Robert was quick to jump in, he improved his offer to a $50,000 investment in exchange for 50% equity. ‘The math is the same’ he pointed out, and then claimed, somewhat surprisingly, that he was ‘The Fun Shark’, and the ideal partner for a fun product. I’ve never heard Robert Herjavec called ‘The Fun Shark’ before or since, and Kevin certainly wasn’t going to let Robert’s dubious self-promotion go unchallenged, he asserted that he would add the most value to the company and told Noah it was time to make up his mind.
Noah was slightly overwhelmed from the experience of having three sharks fight it out for a deal with him, he had a quick whispered conversation with his dad. Brian told him to make up his own mind, and choose the mentor he felt was best for the business, Noah didn’t take too long to decide and announced that he would be happy to accept Kevin’s deal.
Kevin was delighted at Noah’s decision, Barbara was considerably less pleased ‘Unbelievable’ she exclaimed.
Paper Box Pilots Now in 2018 – The After Shark Tank Update
Even though Noah had several sharks battling to do a deal with him in the tank, and successfully made a deal with the most formidable shark of all, the Paper Box Pilots business has not made any great strides forward in the year and a half since its first appearance on Shark Tank.
Soon after the show Noah proudly announced, on the company website, that the response to the show had been fantastic, and the business had doubled its total sales within a week of the segment airing, he was full of optimism for the future and revealed that he was ‘ecstatic’ to now have Kevin O’Leary as a partner.
However, even a good result in the Shark Tank does not always guarantee that an entrepreneur has found a meal ticket for life. Brian has admitted that he, and Noah, are aware that such a cheap product is unlikely to ever make them seriously rich, but his original hope, namely to make enough money to put his sons through college, is something he is far more positive about, particularly now that Kevin O’leary’s business expertise is behind the company.
The Paper Box Pilot stickers are sold on Amazon, and of course on the company website, but as of June 2016, the company is still only providing stickers, and has no plans to sell boxes to stick them on in the future. The company website urges customers to recycle old boxes, and even supplies a list of other businesses where they can be bought. It seems a little strange for a business to be promoting sales for other companies, but it appears recycling is a far more important issue for the company, than the increased sales they could achieve selling their own.
The company now produces three sets of stickers, a fire-truck set has been added to the plane and racing-car, and although a fire-truck doesn’t seem particularly aimed at young girls, the Paper Box Pilots website does at least show a young girl using the box. Perhaps the advice from Barbara Corcoran to provide sticker sets for young girls as well as boys did influence that decision, but there are still no products currently available that are specifically aimed at girls.
Since its Shark Tank appearance, the company now provides all three of its sticker sets in a ‘Shark Tank Special’ package, with a slightly improved price tag of $20. With that exception, the business appears to be running at about the same level as before the show. There are company social media pages, mainly on Facebook and Twitter, but they both appear to have been untouched since Mid 2015. There have been some updates, but they don’t push Paper Box Pilot products or the business particularly.
It may well be the case that Noah, who is now aged 15, is concentrating primarily on a more important stage of his education, but as he asserted in a post on the website soon after the show, ‘Now that I have a business, I can’t turn it off’, and with a shark like Kevin O’Leary involved in the business, he would probably be very unwise to try.