Human Bobber Before Shark Tank
In 2009, a couple of Florida residents regularly enjoyed their free time on the water with their families. Doug Schultz, from Coconut Creek, and Justin Rietema, from Oakland Park, would put their life jackets on upside down in order to float on the water, and they spent many long hours enjoying a cold beer in their very own float club, but conventional life jackets weren’t designed for the purpose, they were uncomfortable and would try to fly out from under them, so Doug and Justin came up with a better solution.
The pair, both landscape architects, started designing the perfect life jacket for floating, and along the way, they created one that could be worn on different parts of the body for a variety of water-based activities. Eventual they applied for and received, a patent for the Bottoms Up personal flotation device, the World’s first patented multi-functional life vest. It could be worn on the upper body for active water sports or turned upside down and worn like a pair of shorts so the user could enjoy some recreational floating time in the ocean, or comfortably ‘sit’ in the ocean while working on a boat.
In 2011 Doug and Justin formed the H3O Sports company, later renamed the Human Bobber company, in order to promote their original personal floatation device, but there was still one big hurdle they had to pass, getting their invention officially approved by the Coastguard. They worked on growing their business at nights and weekends, while still working full time as landscape architects, and in 2016 they finally received US Coastguard approval for the Human Bobber as a type III flotation aid suitable for rescues in calm waters.
Shark Tank seemed an obvious next step for the Human Bobber duo. Doug and Justin sent off some samples before they attended an open casting call in Miami, but when they got there one producer, who had used the sample Bottoms Up vest, had been so impressed by it that he fast-tracked the application process and the entrepreneurs were scheduled to appear in the tank in mid-2017.
Human Bobber On Shark Tank
Justin and Doug came to the tank wearing the Bottom ups Human Bobber life vest and announced to the sharks that they were looking for an investment of $120,000 in exchange for 15% of their company. Justin started the pitch by explaining that he and Doug were both from Florida, and they loved messing around on the water. Doug continued, telling the sharks that there was nothing better than just floating on the water behind a boat, enjoying a ‘Cold one’, which was something Robert Herjavec completely agreed with.
But Doug told the sharks that inflatables were hard to blow up, and not stable enough, so he and Justin had come up with the idea of a multi-functional flotation device that replaced the need for every other type of floating aid, and could let the user enjoy a beer safely and comfortably while floating on the surface. Justin quickly removed his Human Bobber vest, reversed it and put it on just like a pair of shorts, as Doug explained that sitting in the ocean had never been easier and more comfortable than with the World’s first Coastguard approved multi-functional flotation device.
But Doug and Justin were pitching more than just one product, they suddenly revealed a complete line of personal flotation devices, including the Scuttlebutt, a saddle-shaped device that could be used as a comfortable and steady lounge chair or kayak seat in the water. The pair wrapped up their pitch and had made quite a splash with the sharks, but were they going to sink or swim in the tank?
Kevin O’Leary was the first shark with a question, he had a foam filled chair himself for use on the lake, and he knew such products were usually fairly inexpensive. He asked how much both products cost to manufacture and buy. Doug told him that the Scuttlebutt cost $22.80 to make, and it sold for $65, the Bottoms Up vest cost $27.80 to make and retailed for $90, with all other costs included. The price of Human Bobber products wasn’t super cheap, but Kevin was impressed with the healthy profit margin.
Lori Greiner inquired about sales so far, and Doug revealed that total sales so far had been $63,000 in the last three years. He admitted the sales figures didn’t sound too good, and Mark Cuban agreed they didn’t, but Doug explained that after three years of product development they had a perfect design for the Bottoms Up life vest, but acquiring official approval from the US Coastguards office had been a much longer process in total. Eventually, they had received the seal of approval from the Coastguard in 2016, and from that point on they had begun looking towards a deal with big-box retailers as their next sales strategy.
Mark Cuban saw the biggest problem with the Human Bobber products as being the demonstration of how they were used. He thought a point of purchase display would be needed everywhere the devices were sold, and that would be expensive. Mark suggested that demonstrating how the products would be used would be easiest online, but that would limit the size of the potential customer base. Mark cautioned the Human Bobber entrepreneurs that the worse case scenario for the relatively small company would be a big order from a national retailer that didn’t sell, such an outlay with no immediate return could put them out of business entirely.
Kevin revealed that he spent a lot of time at the lake, drinking wine while sitting on his floating chair, and he admitted he would happily buy a Human Bobber life vest for himself, but he too thought that the utility of the product wouldn’t be immediately obvious to most people. Mark Cuban chipped in at that point, explaining to Doug and Justin that although they were both focused on their product, the customer wouldn’t care about it in the same way they did. Mark told them that making the customer care about the product was the next hurdle to overcome for the company, and Doug agreed that after years of development, what they needed now was a strategic investor to help them move into retail sales.
Kevin O’Leary, usually always the last shark to make an offer, was prepared to take a chance with Human Bobber, and he had an offer to make. Kevin would supply the $120,000 investment, but in exchange, he wanted one-third of the business. Robert Herjavec remarked that it was a good offer, but Doug and Justin looked less than enthralled at giving away 33% of their business. They asked if any other sharks had an offer to make, but Kevin replied that he didn’t think there would be too much competition for his offer, ‘I’m basically paying $120,000 for a life jacket I can float and drink in’ he said, while the other sharks laughed.
Mark Cuban announced that he had his own Amazon exclusives page, and he could include Human Bobber products on that too. Mark also considered that there might be a potential link up with Tower Paddle Boards, who he had partnered with in season three of Shark Tank, back in 2012, but Mark also told the pair that after 71 deals he had made during nine seasons of Shark Tank, he knew the company would need a lot of work. The accounting would be a mess, and he admitted that he was ‘Sick of babysitting’ companies at that level.
Kevin O’Leary asked if the entrepreneurs even had an income statement, and Doug admitted, slightly reluctantly, that currently, it was just a spreadsheet, which got a good laugh out of the sharks, but it proved that Mark’s assessment of the business infrastructure was accurate, and Human Bobber would require a lot of work to prepare for growth. Lori Greiner thought it was all-in or nothing investment opportunity, but for her, the company was just too small and she dropped out. Robert Herjavec thought selling a feature for an existing product would be difficult. He told Doug and Justin that a licensing agreement might be their best strategy, but ultimately he wasn’t interested in investing in the business, and Robert was out too.
Daymond John thought the biggest setback to the company was distribution. The company was too small to be able to make a push into the retail sector to take advantage of his established distribution network, and for that reason, he was also dropping out. ‘You have got one offer on the table’ Lori reminded the entrepreneurs, but Mark Cuban was about to make that a slightly more interesting offer by including himself in it. Mark announced he would ‘Help Kevin’ by promoting Human Bobber products on Amazon exclusives, linking them up with Tower Paddle Boards, and allowing the company to make use of his accounting facilities. In exchange for that, he would take 10% of Kevin’s 33% stake, but he wouldn’t be including a cash investment in the deal, Kevin would have to supply all of the $120,000.
Unsurprisingly, Kevin didn’t enjoy the thought of paying for Mark Cuban’s services, ‘That’s not going to happen’, he responded, ‘In my World everyone pays’. ‘In my World, everyone gets paid’ Mark Cuban shot right back at him. Kevin refused to take less than one-third of the business and turned to the entrepreneurs. He told them that 33% would have to pay for his investment, but another 10% stake would have to come from them to pay for Mark Cuban’s assistance and contacts.
Doug and Justin considered that for a moment, before Doug responded with ‘We appreciate the offer, and as crazy as it might sound…’, and for a moment it seemed as if he and Justin were going to be refusing the deal, but Doug dropped his poker face as he announced they would accept the offer. Despite giving away 43% of the business, they wanted to see Human Bobber go somewhere, and with that new partners Kevin and Mark got up to shake on the deal.
Human Bobber Now in 2018 – The After Shark Tank Update
Immediately after their Shark Tank appearance, Doug and Justin experienced a predictable surge of interest in their Human Bobber products, and enjoyed a 3,800% increase in orders for a week or so after the program first aired, but now they have a long road to increase awareness of the Bottoms Up vest and market it to a wider audience.
Doug and Justin have not committed everything to the business just yet, despite having two shark partners on board. They are both continuing to work full-time as landscape architects, and the day-to-day running of the business is being taken care of by their wives. Kevin O’Leary’s one-third stake in the company will see him help to market the Human Bobber products in the retail sector, while Mark Cuban will end up ‘babysitting’ another small company despite his reservations in the tank.
The potential growth for the Human Bobber company is enormous considering the accredited recognition of their products, with both Coastguard approval and a utility patent awarded to the Bottoms Up life jacket. Although the sharks played it cool in the tank, it’s highly unusual for any of the business experts to invest in a company without full-time owners and a few years of revenue behind it. The interest of not one, but two sharks, clearly indicates that Cuban and O’Leary have big hopes for Human Bobber.
The Human Bobber website offers online retail and wholesale options, and there’s even a Beverage Bobber so that floating fun can be enhanced by knowing that your beer is floating as safely as you are. The ScuttleButt saddle and the Bottoms Up life jacket are both available to buy there, as well as several bundles of products at reduced prices. Doug and Justin also run a Facebook page for the company where they promote a variety of content for fishing enthusiasts, boaters, and people who just love to float around drinking a beer or two.