HangEase Before Shark Tank
Entrepreneurs find inspiration for their innovative ideas from many sources, for Ryan Landis, from Plano, Texas, a third grade school project gave him the idea for a time, and money, saving idea that eventually led him on the road to the Shark Tank.
Eight year old Ryan was like most normal boys, in that he would pull his shirts right off of a hanger, and in the process either the hanger or the shirt would be damaged. The school project, which was named ‘Invention Convention’ asked students to go through their own home, find a problem, and invent a solution to that problem. Ryan experimented on the hangers in his own closet and eventually developed a hanger with a unique hinge in the middle. The hinge would allow the hanger to fold up when downwards pressure was applied to it, thereby saving clothes, and the hanger itself from any damage.
Ryan presented his completed project at an exhibition at the school and luck shone on the fortunate young inventor, in the form of a school friends mom, who also happened to run a business that had contacts with large retailers. She managed to assist young Ryan in getting his invention stocked in the retail giant Walmart in 2006, and sales were reasonably successful.
Unfortunately, the pressures of school work soon became a priority for Ryan, and he reluctantly halted all business operations while he finished school. In 2014, the now 19 year old Ryan had finished his education, and hoped to get one of the sharks to bite at the opportunity of partnering with him in the HangEase business. It was with that aim in mind that he entered the Shark Tank in April 2014.
HangEase on Shark Tank
Ryan was hoping to attract an $80,000 investment, in exchange for 30% equity in the HangEase business, when he appeared on the show. He explained to the sharks about the third grade school project, and his inspiration for a collapsible hangar. He told them about the unique design that was ideally suited for a shirt that was pulled off of it, and the ease with which clothes could be put back on.
Likeable Ryan seemed to be coming across to the sharks reasonably well so far, he continued his pitch by briefly mentioning his previous involvement with a major retailer, and the subsequent stagnation of the business while he concentrated on school. He finished by asking which of the sharks was ready to help him bring his childhood dream back to life. It was a well presented pitch, but the sharks didn’t seem overly keen by the interruption to the business.
‘So you’ve had this in your closet for ten years?’ Barbara Corcoran asked, sounding dubious.
Ryan confirmed he had as he handed her a sample, ‘Did you dust these things off’ she asked as she took it.
Robert inquired which large retailer Ryan had been involved with previously. When the young entrepreneur told him it had been Walmart, Robert was surprised, as were the other sharks. Kevin O’Leary looked up suddenly at the revelation, and Barbara seemed to be blinking out a contact lens in astonishment.
Lori was the first to speak. She asked what had happened with Walmart. Ryan began to explain that he had sold 400,000 hangers with the retailer, and Mark Cuban laughed out at the figure.
Robert Herjavec interrupted to ask how HangEase Hangers had even got into Walmart in the first place. Ryan explained about his school friend’s mom, who had great business contacts. He revealed how she had walked through his school hall, as he was displaying his project, and had liked the idea so much she had helped him to get HangEase hangers stocked in the massive chain of stores.
Robert wanted to know what the sales achieved from the association had been. $200,000 Ryan answered, Robert then asked what profits Ryan had made from those sales. Ryan confirmed that he had made about $70,000 at the time, a highly impressive figure for a boy who had been only 8 at the time, and Mark Cuban shot the young entrepreneur an admiring look.
Robert was as impressed by Ryan’s previous accomplishments as Mark Cuban, but he still looked concerned. He couldn’t understand why Walmart had stopped stocking HangEase hangers, if they had sold so successfully. Ryan began to explain that he didn’t believe the hangers had been marketed correctly, but he sounded unsure and unconvincing in his answer.
Lori moved onto the subject of pricing. It was eventually established that Robert’s product was not greatly competitive with conventional hangers, four times as expensive, and more than the usual price of a premium, improved hanger. Lori examined the hanger closely and asked if Ryan had filed for a patent. He confirmed that he had a ‘fully issued’ utility patent on the product.
Lori announced she had another question, and then stated ‘I’ve seen other products like this out there’.
Ryan appeared to be visibly shocked for a few brief moments, but he pulled himself together enough to answer ‘Really?’. To be honest, he didn’t seem incredibly shocked at the news of potentially competitive products, in violation of his copyright, he appeared more disheartened that Lori knew about them.
The young entrepreneur asserted that he had ‘done a bunch’ of research into hangers, yet had never seen any similar products, but the other sharks were beginning to agree with Lori. Mark Cuban could remember an identical device to the HangEase system on luggage bags, Ryan could only nod as he listened, unable to find a reasonable answer for the Texan billionaire.
Robert took some of the heat away, he asked for clarification on what exactly made the hanger so unique. Ryan explained that the hinged middle of the product, had been specifically designed to be ideal for a downward pulling motion, and that was how many people took shirts from a hanger. Mark Cuban backed Ryan up on that, admitting that he too pulled shirts from his closet in exactly the same way.
Kevin O’Leary had been uncharacteristically quiet so far in the tank, and that usually signals great interest or apathy from Mr Wonderful. It appeared to be apathy this time, as he explained he couldn’t understand why retailers, or individuals would bother buying the hanger, he couldn’t see the need for it.
Mark Cuban again defended Ryan’s interests, he explained to Kevin, from his own personal experience, that shirts pulled from a conventional hanger could damage clothes on display, or the hangers themselves. Lori agreed, calling it a ‘common problem’, but she also made another reference to the ‘many other other similar’ products she had seen before.
Robert Herjavec cracked a quick joke about Mark Cuban being a slob, and Ryan gave him a smile in response, but that was the only smile that Robert produced. The shark continued by quickly explaining that he didn’t see the application of the product, and he was out. Ryan thanked him politely for his time, but the next rejection was less friendly.
Kevin O’Leary asserted that Ryan didn’t have a chance of survival with the HangEase hanger, due to its expensive price tag. He continued by explaining that he didn’t see the purpose of the hanger, and concluded by revealing that the whole thing ‘Bores the crap out of me’. Lori made a small noise of horror at Kevin’s direct speaking, before he confirmed ‘I’m out’, completely unnecessarily.
Barbara Corcoran was no fan of businesses that had undergone a period of rest. She had previous experience with such companies. She had found their founders lacking in their former passion, and had not achieved success with the businesses, and for those reasons she was out too.
Mark Cuban and Lori Greiner remained, and they were both interested in the HangEase product, but they were also both concerned about other competing products, and whether Ryan’s claim to have a patent protected product was fully justified. Barbara suggested that they make a contingency deal
Lori still seemed undecided, but Mark got things rolling. He offered Ryan the requested $80,000 in exchange for 30% equity in the business, but the deal would be contingent on patent verification. Mark asserted he would be more than happy to include Lori in the deal if she wished to join them.
Lori thought for a long while, as Ryan almost wilted under the pressure. She eventually agreed to the joint deal, saying to Ryan ‘I think you deserve a chance’. The young entrepreneur quickly accepted, smiling with relief.
HangEase Now in 2022 – The After Shark Tank Update
The company is no longer in business as of 2022. In fact, they never even updated their website following their appearance on Shark Tank, which is surprising given how enthusiastic the entrepreneur was about the product. Their official Facebook page was also shut down sometime in 2015 and they weren’t active on any other social media platforms.
Given all that, it’s likely that their deal with Mark and Lori never went through. The exact reason we’ll never know, but one thing’s for sure—there’s not a single trace of HangEase left anywhere. Was the product a scam? Probably not. They did manufacture tons of hangers, after all. Our best guess is that they probably ran into some financial difficulties that prevented them from taking the company further. If anything, that would make sense seeing as how they never received the $80,000 investment from the sharks.
What’s Ryan up to now? According to his LinkedIn page, he’s been working as a senior assistant buyer for men’s activewear at JCPenney since September 2021. Prior to that, he worked as a buyer for men’s accessories. And from 2016 to 2019, he worked as a senior merchandise planner for luxury sportswear as part of the Neiman Marcus Group.