Father Figure Before Shark Tank
Father Figure founder Andrew Bentley, from Brooklyn, New York, had a successful career as a Google executive, but like many other people, his life changed completely when he and his wife Betz had their first child. In fact, Andrew’s life began changing even before his son was born, as he found that although there were hundreds of products marketed directly towards women who were soon-to-be moms, there were virtually no products that were created for new dads. Andrew had always wanted to be a father, and felt that parenting companies were somehow devaluing his role,
After his son was born, Andrew went back to work for a while, but eventually, he gave up his high-flying career with Google and became a full-time caregiver to his son. But in between the feeds and diaper changes, he began creating his own impromptu accessories for an active father. After conducting some research with other local fathers, Andrew realized that he wasn’t alone in feeling left out by parenting companies, and as he had enough ideas to launch a clothing company that would provide fathers with clothes designed specifically for them, he turned to Kickstarter to raise funds to launch the Father Figure business.
The Kickstarter campaign ran for 30 days in June 2016, and although it seemed that the $30,000 goal wouldn’t be reached in time, in the last few days a sudden rush of interest saw the campaign succeed with $30,500 in funding from over 340 backers. Andrew arranged for his father-friendly clothes to be made in the US, at a factory in LA, and shortly after fulfilling the initial orders from the Kickstarter campaign, he was contacted by a Shark Tank producer who had seen the campaign. After a rigorous application process, he was finally selected to appear on the show, in just three weeks time, and he embarked on 12 hours of preparation for his pitch every day, with his wife playing the part of Mr. Wonderful. But despite all that preparation, it’s doubtful that she managed to mirror Kevin O’Leary’s reaction to the Father figure business in the tank.
Father Figure On Shark Tank
As any long-time Shark Tank fan knows, there are two ways to guarantee that at least some of the sharks will love your pitch, and they are including either animals or children, in the presentation. After Andrew entered the tank and announced that he was looking for an $80,000 investment in exchange for 15% of the Father Figure business, he briefly explained why he had launched the company. He told the sharks about his belief that parenting companies were not paying enough attention to half of the parents out there, and his discovery that the majority of dads felt the same way, and then he announced the first ever Shark Tank father and baby fashion show.
It wasn’t a huge fashion show, involving only two dads bringing in their babies, but the kids did have the intended effect on some of the sharks. Lori Greiner was quickly reduced to making ‘Aww’ noises, and guest shark Sara Blakely was nothing but smiles and soft cooing sounds. While those two were dissolving from cuteness overload, Kevin O’Leary was steadfastly refusing to even smile. Andrew detailed the fashionable, but functional, design of dad Ezekiel’s shirt, which was not only comfortable for both father and son but complete with a padded shoulder so that young Nazir could rest his head comfortably on Dad’s shoulder. The shirt also came equipped with a loop on the hip, so that Ezekiel could keep his Father Figure bandana burp rag within easy reach.
Next came Fausto, wearing the Father Figure denim Booker shirt, complete with similar soft patches and convenient loops, and Andrew explained the functionality and comfort of it all, while Lori and Sara continued their baby-appreciation session. Mark Cuban only had one question, ‘Are they stunt babies?’ he asked, amazed that so far there had been no tears or noises from the kids, but Andrew wasn’t going to push his luck, and the dads left the tank, with their babies sleeping peacefully against those functional and padded Father Figure shirts, as Andrew began to hand out some samples.
Kevin O’Leary is, of course, immune to emotional manipulation, from babies, animals, and human beings, and it was straight down to business as the babies left the tank. He asked Andrew what the Father Figure clothing range currently consisted of. Andrew told him that the products currently extended to bandanas and T-Shirts, but there was a swaddle in development too. Kevin asked if Andrew had designed the clothes himself, and Andrew confirmed he had.
Andrew told the sharks about being left to look after his son alone for the first time when his wife went back to work. At the time his son was 12 weeks old, and Andrew had found that he could never find the burp rag when he needed it. He had bought a button fastener and attached it to his shirt so that he could keep the rag within easy reach all the time. He had then begun sewing patches to his shirts so that his son’s sensitive skin didn’t suffer when dad was holding him.
Lori Greiner wanted to know how long Andrew had been in business, and how sales had been so far. Andrew told her that Father Figure had been launched 11 months ago, and total sales of $33,000 had been achieved, which impressed the sharks at first. However, after Andrew told the sharks about the Kickstarter campaign, which had resulted in sales of $30,500, the sharks realized that total sales since the campaign had only been $2,500. ‘Do you think the market is telling you something?’ asked Kevin O’Leary, who appeared to be a long way from impressed by now.
Andrew told Kevin that he believed customer validation had been proved by the sudden rush of interest in his Kickstarter campaign. During the last three days of the campaign, over $12,000 worth of orders had flooded in. Andrew had also conducted his own market research, questioning fathers in his local area about clothes for dads, during which he discovered that over 80% of them agreed that parenting companies didn’t supply enough products marketed towards fathers.
Lori Greiner asked if Andrew was still at Google, and he confirmed that he had now left, and was working on the Father Figure business full-time. Spanx CEO Sara Blakely offered some support for the concept when she told Andrew that she had four children under the age of 11, and she loved the idea of paternity wear, but Daymond John was the shark with the greatest experience of the clothing industry, and he wanted to know about manufacturing costs and profit margins.
Andrew revealed that the Booker denim shirt cost $76 to make in total, and it sold for $128, which was something of a shock to Daymond. Careful editing by Shark Tank producers left the rest of that conversation to our imagination, but clearly, the reasonably high price tag was more than the FUBU boss anticipated, and to the other sharks Daymond’s opinion would have carried great weight.
Whatever was discussed about the price of Father Figure products, the mediocre sales figures since the Kickstarter campaign, was enough for Lori Greiner to become the first shark to drop out of the negotiations. She told Andrew that she liked the idea of loops on the shirts, and thought a ‘Tool-belt for babies’ type concept would be a good direction for the business to go in, but although she was offering advice, she wasn’t going to be making an offer, and with that Lori was out.
Mark Cuban was also unimpressed with Father Figure. He believed that although Andrew had got to where he was now in exactly the right way, the products he offered were not necessarily in great demand. Father-friendly products were not a must-have item, and that was the bridge that Andrew had to cross in order to make Father figure succeed, and because of those challenges, Mark was out too.
Two quick rejections may have been bad news for Andrew, but compared to Kevin O’Leary’s dismissal of the Father Figure business, they had been child’s play. Mr. Wonderful told Andrew he didn’t want to give him any encouragement, as ‘There’s nothing here’. Sara Blakely disagreed, but Kevin hadn’t finished. He told Andrew that someone needed to tell him the truth, and he was going to do it. ‘This is a complete waste of your time’ he told the entrepreneur, ‘It’s going to zero’ he added, before dropping out with his opinion made perfectly clear.
Andrew appealed to Daymond John, citing their similar backgrounds, their New York roots, and Daymond’s success in building up FUBU from an apartment in Queens. He described Daymond as his idol, but Daymond had his own issues with Father Figure. He told Andrew that he was the ‘Fashion guy’, and he would lean on a ‘Google guy’ to help him boost sales. If Andrew, as an ex-Google employee, couldn’t achieve decent sales of his own product, it was just too early for Daymond to get involved. And with that Daymond was out too.
Guest shark Sara Blakely had already shown a positive interest in Father Figure, and as the only shark left, she was Andrew’s last hope for a shark partner, but she wasn’t going to make a last-ditch offer to save the day. She told the Father Figure entrepreneur that maternity clothes filled a specific need, as a pregnant women’s body changed, but paternity clothes just didn’t fulfill that function, in fact, she struggled to understand exactly what function they were supposed to fill. She encouraged Andrew to keep thinking about more products he could add to his range, but she had no ideas. And with that Sara was out, leaving Andrew without a deal in the tank.
Father Figure Now in 2018 – The After Shark Tank Update
As soon as Sara had dropped out, Kevin O’Leary was like a bouncer ejecting a drunk from a club. He repeated ‘We’re done, we’re done’ as the other sharks wished Andrew good luck for the future, but Kevin thought that was bad advice. Mr. Wonderful didn’t want Andrew to continue with a business that was, in his eyes, just a waste of time, instead, he wanted him to move onto something that would work.
Kevin O’Leary has a reputation for harsh dismissals of entrepreneurs in the Shark Tank, but that reputation is not entirely accurate. Although he does occasionally dispense entirely with diplomacy when dropping out, which always makes good TV, it’s a rare event when he does have such a negative opinion of a business, and it does usually prove to be correct.
Having said that, Kevin is not infallible, and his prediction that Andrew’s commitment to the Father Figure business will ultimately prove to be a ‘Complete waste of time’ may be incorrect. Andrew’s appearance on Shark Tank did lead to an increase in orders temporarily, and it has led to exposure of the company from a variety of media sources, including The Huffington Post, and from Fatherly.com, who interviewed him a month after his segment first aired.
In the Fatherly interview, Andrew admitted that after so much preparation, failing to secure a deal in the tank had left him feeling empty, but with the hindsight of several months since filming, he considered the end result to be a blessing in disguise. To Andrew, his family life is the center of everything, and with it so entwined in his professional life, entering a partnership with someone who he didn’t know could have altered the perfect balance he has in his life. As far as Andrew sees things, any deal he made in the tank would have carried risks, and although things may have worked out, there are never any guarantees.
The net result was that Andrew got plenty of exposure for Father Figure, and learned a great deal too. He sees his Shark Tank appearance as worthwhile overall, and despite Kevin’s outright dismissal of the business, he continues to sell Father-friendly products from the Father Figure website. He is now offering Baby Shower Bundles, and Paternity packs, oh and that $128 dollar Booker denim shirt? That’s now a slightly more reasonable $98.00, but still quite an outlay for all but the most committed of fathers