Table Jacks Before Shark Tank
Steve Christian, the brains behind Table Jacks, had over twenty years experience in the restaurant business. He had started with one location, the well-respected Tailgate bar & grill in Houston, Texas and had eventually ended up with two additional restaurants in his portfolio.
Running a business involving food can have many stressful elements, poor quality produce, troublesome customers, high staff turnover and long hours. But for Steve Christian, the thing that most annoyed him was wobbly tables. Steve isn’t a man to mess about when the inspiration strikes him. He sold two of his restaurants, and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars designing an innovative and original gadget that slots into the leg of a table, and stabilizes it with the aid of a clever jack-type system.
Steve launched the Table Jacks business in 2011 and over the next two years gradually increased awareness of his product and his customer list. He provided Table Jacks for chains such as Applebee’s and Buffalo Wild Wings, set up approved installers for his product in seven states, and slowly began to increase sales.
As with any start-up company, Table Jacks was operating on a tight budget, and Steve was hoping to gain the assistance of an industry expert in order to develop the modest business, and take it to the next level. An obvious solution came about when Shark Tank held open auditions locally in late 2013. He applied to appear on the show and was accepted. He eventually presented the Table Jacks business to the sharks in March 2014.
Table Jacks on Shark Tank
Steve was hoping to get an investment of $100,000 from the sharks, in exchange for a quarter of his business. He began his pitch by detailing his extensive experience in the restaurant industry, and revealing to the Sharks his pet hate, wobbly tables. He explained that up until now, business owners had been forced to find a napkin, or beer-mat, to fix the problem in the short-term, but the Table jacks product provided an efficient, long-lasting and cost-effective solution to the problem.
Steve demonstrated the foot-operated jack system that would level the table, and ran through the layout of the design. Steve was well-prepared, and explained the slightly confusing installation procedure well for his audience. He finished the pitch by explaining that he had received interest in Table Jacks from many foreign countries, including Guam, although he admitted he didn’t actually know where that was. Steve was a naturally engaging speaker, and his final comment regarding his lack of geographical knowledge hit Kevin O’Leary’s funny-bone, Mr Wonderful exploded into laughter at the remark.
Steve handed out samples as O’Leary laughed. Mark Cuban agreed that wobbly tables were a common problem and asked Steve why it happened so frequently. Steve as usual had a full and detailed explanation for the phenomenon, he revealed that floors themselves were the real problem. Any surface was not 100% level, and over time wooden floors would settle and shift, thereby causing completely level tables to appear off-balance.
Robert Herjavec wanted to know about the sales figures. Steve explained that so far sales had been approximately $200,000 in the two years since the business was launched. After some more probing from the Croatian born shark he detailed his experience in the restaurant industry, the long development process behind Table Jacks, and the personal investment he had made in the company, even to the extent of the two restaurants he had sold to fund the growth of the business.
Kevin O’Leary could see a big problem with the market for the product. It was logistically impossible for Steve to retro-fit every restaurant chair in use with Table Jacks, and in Mr Wonderful’s view, that only left a deal with manufacturers, to install the devices at the production stage, in order for Steve to achieve massive growth in sales.
Steve was more positive about the logistical challenge, he asserted he was already retro-fitting restaurants, one of his installers was working on over 300 tables a week regularly, and business was steadily growing. Steve impressed the sharks with his commitment to increasing sales, by explaining that while waiting to film his segment, he had been going from door-to-door at catering businesses in Venice Beach.
Kevin O’Leary was impressed with Steve, as much as any of the sharks, but was far less positive about the Table Jacks business. Again stating what a huge undertaking Steve had in front of him. Kevin compared the task facing the entrepreneur to the seventh level of hell in Dante’s ‘Inferno’, he told Steve that he didn’t need to hear any more, he was out.
Lori Greiner realized that no-one had actually asked about the cost of the item yet. Steve explained that the retail cost of a table Jack pack was $15, yet cost only $3.50 to produce, it was a good profit margin, but the sharks were still refusing to bite. Robert Herjavec remarked that he agreed with Kevin O’Leary’s opinion that expansion for the business wasn’t feasible in its current format.
Barbara Corcoran asked if Table Jacks worked on all tables. Steve admitted they didn’t, the product was designed for a bar style table that had only one leg, but although there was no equivalent product for four legged tables currently, Steve confidently assured her that he could easily invent one. Barbara admired Steve’s ‘Just do it’ attitude, but the limited suitability of Table Jacks was a major stumbling block for her, and Barbara joined Kevin in dropping out of the negotiations.
Lori Greiner was full of admiration for Steve, and the Table Jacks business. She commented that anyone prepared to sell door-to-door was destined for success, but she couldn’t see a huge market for the product. Lori believed that Steve had invented a ‘clever solution’ to a problem that wasn’t that much of a major one, and because of that, she was out too.
Robert Herjavec repeated his doubts about the expansion of the business, he told Steve that he faced a long difficult journey in front of him, he also asserted that he had little interest in the restaurant industry personally, and with that he dropped out, leaving Mark Cuban as Steve’s final hope in the tank.
The Table Jacks entrepreneur made a last-minute appeal to his fellow Texan. He explained that if he could get just one shark behind him, to help him get past the ‘gatekeepers’ in companies, those who prevented him from pitching his idea to the right people, then he would be able to expand the business enormously.
Mark was the most enthusiastic of all the sharks about Steve himself. He complimented his personal skills and incredible commitment in going door-to-door, but unfortunately he didn’t seem quite as impressed with the Table Jack opportunity. Mark told Steve that he wasn’t ready to invest $100,000 in the company, although he didn’t offer a specific reason for the rejection.
Steve had a full house of doubtful sharks who had unanimously rejected his business, but when he left the tank it was to a chorus of good wishes for the future from all the sharks. On this occasion the problem for the sharks had been centered around the market for the product, rather than the businessman behind it.
Table Jacks Now in 2018 – The After Shark Tank Update
Steve was philosophical immediately after filming, undeterred at the sharks rejection of his business, he expressed a wish that they suffer through the horrors of a wobbly table as they ate dinner that night. He asserted that any shark unfortunate enough to experience such a stroke of misfortune, would be sure to be thinking about Table Jacks for the rest of their life.
As the sharks had pointed out in the tank, the ability to achieve bulk sales with Table Jacks could only come about through direct collaborations with table manufacturers. With the increased costs that Table Jacks would add to any table, Steve Christian is unlikely to convince a major table producer to join him in making the restaurant business a more steady experience, particularly without the help of a Shark business partner. For a man prepared to sell his innovative product door to door whilst waiting to appear in front of the sharks, it’s no surprise that this knowledge has not reduced his enthusiasm for the business one bit.
Sales of Table Jacks rose sharply after the segment first aired, Steve described the effect of the show as ‘A free multimillion-dollar infomercial’ and revealed he was up for two days answering emails and phone calls about the product in the immediate aftermath. Those first inquiries led to more company successes. Landry’s, the Texas-based restaurant chain have begun installing Table Jacks in all their locations, and Fuddruckers, the World famous Hamburger franchise with over 180 locations, are in talks with him to secure an installation agreement for their premises.
Steve has also revealed that Mark Cuban had an additional reason for not partnering with his fellow Texan, the Dallas Mavericks owner was concerned about a possible conflict of interest, but he was impressed enough with Steve’s enthusiasm to assist him in gaining more contacts within the catering industry.
Table Jacks has a fully updated online presence, Steve ensures that Facebook and Twitter accounts are updated daily, and the Table Jacks Website is currently offering a Table Jacks Starter Kit for the special price of $12.99. There are detailed instructions on the website covering everything from installation of the product to a comprehensive list of certified installers, who now cover eight separate states, as well as Ontario and Victoria in Canada.
Not only does Steve maintain such comprehensive online updates, he also finds time to upload the occasional video to Youtube, offering advice on installing Table Jacks, displaying the benefits of his product, and offering the odd bit of professional advice to fellow restaurateurs.
Apart from running his still thriving restaurant, maintaining the Table Jacks presence and still somehow being an all round awesome guy, Steve still manages to squeeze in development of a number of new projects, he is currently working on improving Trash-cans, with a side project involving improved slicing devices for vegetables.
We will all have to wait for further details on those two potentially revolutionary ideas, but in 2016 Steve has brought out another finished product. The Chill Bucket is a filter based cooler that can hold up to six bottles, and uses a combination of three innovative ideas to keep beverages cold for up to six hours.
He may have had an unsteady time in front of the sharks, but Steve Christian is unlikely to stop inventing new and original products any time soon, some people are just born to be inventors. The Table Jacks entrepreneur is one of the most productive and well-balanced innovators that the sharks ever met in the tank, and that really is on the level.