Reviver Before Shark Tank
Ben Kusin, from Dallas, Texas, was standing in line at a convenience store sometime in 2007, when he overheard a whispered conversation from the people standing behind him. Smoker Ben was horrified to discover that he apparently ‘smelled like an ashtray’, and quickly left the line to find something to remove the tobacco aroma from his clothes.
Although he discovered a vast array of products to freshen breath, from mints to gum, there was nothing that would freshen his clothes up in the same way. Ben was sure that such a product already existed and began to look for it. After some research he realized that there appeared to be a gap in the market, and that’s when he had his eureka moment.
It was no surprise that Ben was quick to notice a potential business opportunity, he is the oldest son of businessman Gary Kusin, the founder of the video game retailer GameStop, and the former CEO of FedEx Office. Mom Karleen is equally business minded, she owns JK chocolate, which produces premium cookies and chocolate sauces.
After a hefty investment supplied by dad Gary, to fund the four year long development process, Ben eventually launched the Reviver business in 2011, supply freshening clothes wipes that could remove unwanted odors. Ben kept the business within the family when he recruited younger brother Eric, a former buyer at Neiman Marcus, as company president and Chief operating officer.
Ben, who had previously worked as a brand marketer for software giant Electronic Arts, had a great deal of experience launching new products. Soon the start-up was growing steadily and the product range was expanded to include a wipe for pet odors. The entrepreneurs managed to get the new product stocked in Petco stores, but the ambitious Kusin brothers were all too aware of the boost that an appearance on shark Tank could get them, and knew that the partnership of a shark would open up many future sales opportunities. With that in mind, they appeared on Shark Tank in October 2014.
Reviver on Shark Tank
The Kusin brothers were looking for a shark to invest $150,000 in exchange for 5% equity in their business on the show. They ran through their pitch quickly and efficiently, demonstrating the effectiveness of their Reviver wipes on a T-Shirt that had been sealed in a bag with some hamburgers. Lori smelled the pungent shirt, and declared that the aroma of food was completely eradicated after just a few quick wipes with the Reviver product.
Robert Herjavec asked in which retail locations the wipes were stocked, Ben ran through the product line and revealed that about half of the sales had been achieved in 1,200 Petco stores nationwide.
Kevin O’Leary inquired about sales, as he does on virtually every segment, and Ben confirmed that total sales had been $500,000 in under 10 months. The subject moved on to product development, and after admitting that father Gary had invested $2 million to fund the development process, Ben explained about he and his brothers privileged upbringing and entrepreneurial parents, somewhat reluctantly
Robert Herjvec wanted to know what the brothers would use any further investment for. Ben explained that they had a meeting with Walmart that was due to take place in a few months, and they would benefit enormously from the experience that a shark could bring to that all important meeting.
Mark Cuban didn’t see Reviver wipes as a technological breakthrough, instead he viewed them as a ‘formulation’. He asserted his belief that the brothers had called the wipes ‘Technological’ to keep their investor dad happy, and told them he had a lack of belief in the future of the product. With little further explanation, Mark dropped out.
Kevin calculated that sales of $500,000, over 10 months, equated to about $20 in each of the 1,200 retail locations that the wipes were sold at. He asserted that the Reviver product was on the verge of being delisted by Petco, and told Ben and Eric that they needed far more than $500,000 in sales to justify a company valuation of $3 million, and with that, Kevin was out too.
Barbara Corcoran rarely receives disapproving glances from her fellow sharks, but she got several when she announced that she didn’t invest in ‘Rich-kids’ businesses as a matter of principle. Lori looked horrified but Barbara continued, explaining that the best entrepreneurs were always hungry for their next success, and that ambition for growth was usually lacking in those with a secure financial backing. And with that Barbara was out.
The slightly stunned silence was ended by Robert, ‘That’s a bunch of crap’ he opined, and told Barbara that success didn’t care who your dad was.
Lori Greiner was fully in agreement with him, and even more positively for the Reviver business, she loved the product. Instantly perceiving it to be capable of huge sales, she was prepared to make an offer. She would supply the requested $150,000 investment, but in exchange for 15% equity in the business. She stressed the value she would add to the business as a strategic partner, and her ability to get Reviver wipes stocked in multiple large retail chains.
Ben thanked Lori for her offer, but inquired if any other sharks were interested in a deal. Robert Herjavec seemed undecided, he was deep in thought for a long moment, until Kevin O’Leary harassed him for taking so long to come to a decision. Finally Robert announced that he too would make an offer, the same $150,000 investment, but in exchange for only 10% of the business.
Lori was quick to emphasize the number of large retailers she was in contact with, and assured the Reviver entrepreneurs that she could take them ‘to the top’. Robert Herjavec tried to get a word in, but Lori spoke over him, refusing to let him derail her speech. When she had finished he was determined to remind the brothers that his offer was the most generous of the two.
Ben and Eric held a short whispered conversation until Kevin O’Leary prompted them to make a decision. The brothers reached an unspoken agreement, and Lori, smiling broadly, seemed to know what it was before Ben spoke. He told Lori that he and Eric would love her to ‘join their freshness family’, and the Queen of QVC pumped her fists in celebration, ‘Cha-Ching!’ she exclaimed, as Robert Herjavec looked disappointed.
Reviver Now in 2018 – The After Shark Tank Update
After the show, Ben was keen to put it on the record that Barbara’s remarks were not entirely accurate. He made the point that even though father Gary was rich, he and Eric were not wealthy personally, and suggested Barbara should hold off from calling the brothers ‘rich kids’ for now, at least until their new partnership with the Queen of QVC really did bring them their own financial success.
Barbara herself has defended her opinion in interviews since the segment first aired. She believes that entrepreneurs who are not depending on good business results to keep the wolf from the door, will never be as hungry for success as those who have no choice but to sink or swim. Ben disagrees, he believes that the desire for him and his brother to get out from under their father’s impressive business shadow, and make a success of their own business, gives them the motivation that Barbara believes they lack. As Ben has been quoted as saying in interviews since, there is a World of difference between coming from a wealthy family, and being spoilt.
Ben and Eric’s privileged background certainly isn’t holding the company back, particularly now that Lori Greiner has jumped on board with the brothers. She is fundamentally opposed to Barbara’s opinion and believes that a wealthy family background is irrelevant to the success of an entrepreneur, instead she suggests that having such successful entrepreneurial parents will have prepared Ben and Eric for the trials and challenges ahead, and given them the skills required to minimize the inevitable hiccups that all businesses experience at some time.
The product range has been expanded a little since the Reviver segment first aired. In time for the December 2015 re-airing of the episode, the business brought out new wipes, one specifically for cats, and two others with a slightly more devious purpose. Sparks for Men and Sparks for Women were scented wipes, developed separately for men and women, but they were also infused with pheromones, to attract potential partners.
It was a slightly unusual deviation in strategy for the company, but it seems to have been at least semi-successful. Sparks for Men appears to be selling well, but ladies appear to still be attracting potential partners just fine without the aid of Sparks for Women, as that product was swiftly removed from the company website soon after its launch. Reviver have also branched off into another slightly controversial area. In 2015 they launched a new wipe, endorsed by Tommy Chong, the star of several seventies stoner comedies. The new wipe claims to be able to completely mask the smell of pot, although perhaps wisely, the Kusin brothers have set that particular product up with its own website, independent from the rest of their product line.
Ben and Eric, who now have regular appearances on QVC, have praised their new shark partner, calling her a dynamic addition to the business, with an incredible capacity to get the company moving forward. And it has moved quite a bit forward since the show first aired. Online sales increased by over 400% after the show, and have remained at a higher level ever since. The Reviver wipes are now stocked in Walmart and Walgreens, as well as other retailers, and there are plans to begin supplying them to distributors and retail outlets in Europe.
In a short Youtube video uploaded in late 2015, Ben reveals to other potential applicants how he and Eric prepared for a grilling from the sharks. They would replay episodes of Shark Tank and pause the tape every time the sharks asked a question. They would then answer the question as if it had been asked of them, and found that it was a successful strategy for preparing for a vast range of different inquiries.
No matter what the background of the entrepreneurial brothers is, and regardless of the financial support they received from their business-minded father, it’s clear that Ben and Eric are solidly performing entrepreneurs with plenty of commitment to growing their business Worldwide. Now in 2018, their innovative product, still unchallenged by any similar ones on the market, continues to grow from strength to strength in terms of sales.
The pair can be proud that despite one or two stressful moments in the tank, they have come out of the experience with a dynamic new shark partner, and with Lori’s business expertise and retail connections supporting the business, the sweet smell of success is likely to became increasingly pungent for the entrepreneurial Kusin brothers.