InchBug Before Shark Tank
InchBug founder Brenda Lee Feldman From Austin, Texas was taking her daughter to a Mother’s day out program in 2004 when she was informed that all the childrens cups had to be labelled to avoid mix-ups and the spread of germs. She used a marker pen first of all, but that just washed off, then she used tape, but that just peeled off the cup. It was then that Brenda Lee had her moment of inspiration that eventually led to her creating her first product, the InchBug Orbit Label.
The Orbit Label is an easily attached stretch and release band that fits a number of different containers, and it’s also personalized with the childs name and comes in a variety of colors. The Orbit Label may not have been a product that was going to change the World, but it did make life easier for parents, and with labelled bottles compulsory at most day care centers, the market was far bigger than anyone had realized, in fact the demand for the Orbit Label soon turned Brenda Lee’s life into a hectic rush to meet orders.
Brenda’s husband got involved, and after some early exposure in a national parenting magazine the couple found themselves working up to 20 hour days making, packaging and shipping the Orbit labels, and the sales figures were incredible. By the end of the first twelve months of business sales of $150,000 had been made and by the end of the next year they had grown to $850,000 annually.
After more than a decade of successful business, sales of the Orbit Labels were a steady $2 million per year and Brenda, who already sold a variety of other childrens products under the InchBug company name, had developed her latest innovative idea, The MyDrinky juice box holder, which she hoped to take into retail stores. While visiting family in nearby Houston she noticed in a local paper that Shark Tank was auditioning at Rice University, and having always been a big fan of the show she made an impulse decision to go there. With less than an hour to get to the venue she picked up some of her products from a local store and made a pitch to the shows producers that was completely unprepared, but she was ultimately successful and won a chance to pitch to the Sharks.
InchBug On Shark Tank
Brenda entered the tank looking for a $400,000 investment in exchange for 10% of her ‘Thriving’ childrens products business, InchBug. She began her pitch by showing the Sharks the MyDrinky Juice Box Holder, explaining the kids just love to squeeze juice boxes, and she had a solution that would save all those messy clothes and furnishings when kids get juice just everywhere.
The Sharks laughed at the image as Brenda continued, the MyDrinky was a two piece, adjustable juice box holder that would stop kids squeezing the box, and it was a ‘No Brainer, No Stainer’ for parents. She handed out a few samples for the Sharks to try out for themselves and made a quick reference to Orbit Labels to demonstrate that InchBug wasn’t a ‘one product company’, but no mention was made of the incredible sales history of InchBug just yet.
Brenda ran through a demonstration of how a juice box fitted inside the MyDrinky, it seemed a slightly complicated process but all the Sharks managed it. Barbara Corcoran turned her MyDrinky upside down and seemed surprised that liquid leaded out of the top, but as Kevin pointed out, it didn’t stop leaks, it just stopped a juice box from being squeezed. Barbara didn’t seem too impressed and remarked that ‘kids wouldn’t think of that’.
Brenda quickly moved on to some of the ‘wonderful’ things about the MyDrinky, it adjusted in height and accommodated a large variety of popular juice boxes, but Kevin O’Leary stopped her there. He told her he was thinking the sales of MyDrinky must be wonderful for Brenda to place a $4 million valuation on it. Brenda told the Sharks she had sold approximately $50,000 worth of MyDrinky units, and the Sharks looked far from impressed. Robert Herjavec asked about the Orbit Labels and Brenda mentioned the previous decades worth of sales, which had been worth a whopping $15 million, and finally the Sharks understood the value of InchBug, ‘Why were you even telling us about the Drinky guy?’ Robert asked.
Mark Cuban inquired about the last years sales on Orbit labels and Barbara told him they were about $2 million annually, she also took the opportunity to clear up exactly what she was offering to the Sharks. She ran through a quick history of the last ten years of InchBug and revealed that she was offering a 10% share of the entire InchBug business. The Sharks were clearly interested in the hugely selling Orbit Label and they were impressed with Brenda’s acheivements so far. Kevin told her she was ‘The real deal’, but the Sharks were not so impressed with the MyDrinky.
Kevin described MyDrinky as ‘A dog’ and told Brenda the labels were where the action was. Brenda revealed that due to problems with manufacturers she had experienced problems with keeping inventory on the MyDrinky, and that was partly to blame for the low sales figures.
The Sharks were still mainly interested in the Orbit labels however and Robert Herjavec asked if the $2 million in sales was level or increasing year on year. Brenda told him they were at a ‘slight incline’ but wanted to get the conversation back to the MyDrinky. She told the Sharks that her aim was to get that her product into big retail locations, and from that point on things in the tank began to get sticky for Brenda and InchBug.
Kevin was immediately moaning like a disembodied spirit at the mere mention of retail, Barbara and Mark Cuban both began to describe the huge workload and many problems connected with getting a new product into stores. Kevin couldn’t understand why Brenda would even consider it after building up a successful business online with the Orbit Labels, ‘I hate Drinkypoo in retail, that sucks!’ he exclaimed, just to make his opinion of the strategy crystal clear. He told Brenda that she should focus on building the Label business online, but she told him she wanted to capitalize on the previous success of Orbit Labels by launching her new product with loyal customers already behind the business, she also revealed she was already in talks with big box stores to get the product located in retail locations.
Robert Herjavec admitted that Brenda had a steady $2 million annual revenue coming in and that she was ‘Living the dream’ with Orbit Labels, but retail was a huge undertaking, far too much work for him, and he was dropping out. Brenda took the news well, but she must have noticed that none of the sharks were very keen on the retail idea. Mark Cuban was quick to drop out too, telling Brenda that she was ‘Killing it’, but her ambition to go into the whole new World of retail was not a good plan.
Barbara Corcoran believed that the whole appeal of a juice box was the simplicity of it. She told Brenda that the MyDrinky took the process and made it just far too complicated and because of that it was a fundamentally flawed concept in her opinion. Barbara believed Brenda had her eye ‘On the wrong ball’ and for that reason she was out too.Brenda made a spirited defense of the MyDrinky, asserting that she knew it could succeed, but Lori too was unimpressed with it. She thought that if something worked you should stay with it, and she clearly believed that with great sales and good profitability year after year, Brenda should keep all her focus on the Orbit Labels, she wished Brenda the best of luck but Lori was out too.
With only Kevin O’Leary left things looked less than hopeful for an Inchbug deal, but Mr Wonderful had a surprise for everyone. He clearly saw a company with $2 million annual sales as a safe investment, and he had an offer to make. Kevin would supply the $400,000, and in return receive a $1 per unit royalty on Orbit Label sales until $1.2 million, three times the investment, had been repaid. The royalties would then stop but he would be left with a 5% stake in InchBug.
Barbara wasn’t impressed, ‘That’s an offer from a pig’ she told Brenda, and the InchBug founder didn’t appear too impressed with it either. She asked Kevin how he would help her and he asserted he would put Brenda in contact with his social media team, and help promote Inchbug in various forms of media, but Barbara interrupted him by once again pointing out what a large return was required on the investment. The two sharks tussled briefly, Barbara called Kevin a greedy man, and he responded by implying that Barbara wasn’t good at deals because she wasn’t good with numbers.
Before the Shark fight got too heated Brenda jumped in by asking what Kevin would do to help with her retail plans, but Kevin wasn’t going to help there, in fact he suddenly announced a condition to his offer, it was dependent on InchBug not going into retail with the MyDrinky, and Brenda’s face fell. She mentioned her plans for a wholesale arm of InchBug, but Kevin wasn’t going to budge. Eventually when pushed for an answer Brenda had to decline the offer, and with that she was out of the tank without a deal.
InchBug Now in 2018 – The After Shark Tank Update
After filming Brenda asserted that MyDrinky was going to be wildly successful in retail, and she believed that Kevin O’Leary had lost out on a great deal in the tank, but the Sharks for once were all in agreement that retail was a bad choice for the InchBug business. Barbara Corcoran opined that Brenda had been doing the same thing for a decade and now she was bored, Kevin agreed completely, ‘Now she’s bored and she’s going to blow a million bucks’ he said, sounding just a little sad at the thought of all that wasted money. Lori Grenier was the lone dissenting voice, ‘She’s clever, she’ll make it work’.
The InchBug business was an unusual proposition for the Sharks, far removed from a make or break pitch, Brenda Lee Feldman had already achieved a considerable level of success without their help, and instead was looking for the business expertise of the Sharks to make the difficult journey into retail. Although the Sharks were all interested in taking a percentage of the healthy and reliable profits from the Orbit Label side of the business, the concept of the MyDrinky met with little approval from them, and even though Brenda’s business abilities never came under any scrutiny from the Sharks, they believed her strategy was unwise and sure to lower the profit margins of the InchBug business.
Although Brenda walked out of the Shark Tank without a Shark Partner, she enjoyed record online orders in the week after the segment was first aired, not only for Orbit Labels, but also a considerable amount of customers who not only defended the MyDrinky, but bought it too. Sales have remained at a higher level singe the show and MyDrinky sales are continuing to increase to at a modest rate.
Without the pressures of financial problems, Brenda Lee Feldman and Inchbug not only continue to reap the benefits of the huge on-going Orbit Label sales, the company and it’s determined founder have begun the process of making MyDrinky available to retail customers too. Nationwide Childrens chain Buy Buy Baby took the product on in twenty one of its stores earlier this year and the MyDrinky is also available online, through the InchBug website, and on Amazon and other online stores.