Before Shark Tank – ReadeREST and Rick Hopper
While Rick Hopper didn’t get a pre-show segment on Shark Tank, he filled in the gaps in an August 2015 interview with Startup Dallas. Like many other entrepreneurs, he had humble beginnings. Rick tells stories of annual trips to replace the previous year’s worn out pair of sneakers, working with his hands, and never getting a college degree. However, his creative spirit was greater than his hardship. From a young age, he constructed monoliths with Lincoln Logs and ERECTOR sets. Carrying this into adulthood, he began working in window paneling and spent his time-off building furniture for his young family. After a window business’ rocky end in the late 2000s, ReadeREST was Rick’s second attempt to take his creativity to market.
Blessed with perfect vision for most of his life, as he got older, Rick didn’t like dealing with the hassle of reading glasses. His solution was the first iteration of ReadeREST, a glasses holder combining a bent paper clip and a few magnets. The product worked perfectly for what it was: he never lost or dropped his glasses again. They even stayed secure when he took a fall on an electric skateboard and broke his shoulder. His little invention slowly became a real product and business. Friends began asking where they could buy the ReadeREST, and Rick took this as his opportunity. He traveled across the west coast and attended trade shows to find his market. The paper clip became stainless steel. The piece of scrap metal used as a back piece became a powerful neodymium magnet. Rick was still making them by hand when his friends begged him to look into Shark Tank. It took nine months of pleading before he decided to take the plunge.
During Shark Tank
Rick stumbled into the Shark Tank – literally. He took a fall on the edge of the carpet. What Kevin O’Leary
called “bad theatre,” Rick called showmanship. Not to be defeated, he hopped onto his feet and launched his pitch. Rick was seeking one hundred fifty thousand dollars in exchange for fifteen percent of his company, a one million dollar valuation. According to Rick, ReadeREST solves problems for the everyday consumer, like dropping glasses in the toilet, stretching out collars, and ugly “granny chains.” He didn’t intend to sell it until some friends expressed interest, after which he sold sixty-five thousand dollars of product in test markets. Unfortunately, he ran out of inventory and needed an investment from the sharks to take ReadeREST into mass production.
Saving arguments about the valuation for later, the sharks asked if he had a patent, followed by some brief confusion. Although Rick did develop the ReadeREST around 2007, his patent search turned up an independent invention of a similar product in 2002. Luckily, it had never taken off, and the original patent holder was willing to sell it for five thousand dollars. With this patent and the trademark on ReadeREST, the sharks seemed content on intellectual property concerns. Along with sales, having a proprietary and differentiated product is one of the keys to success in the tank.
As he is known to do, Daymond put Rick on the spot. Instead of focusing on his high potential sales that were prevented by the production bottleneck, he compared Rick’s valuation of ReadeREST to the cost of the patent itself. One million against five thousand. “Do you see anything wrong with that?” Rick countered with the idea that high volume of distribution on store shelves would mean six million dollars a year in profits, a real money maker for any shark willing to bite. In short, he wanted a strategic partner. To Daymond, this was too much risk. He balked at the combination of an optimistic valuation, the work involved, and the networking headaches. “So now you want us to give you the money, work, and then pass off our connections.” Rick was left stammering, and Daymond was out.
Lori took things in another direction. She’s been around the block as a businesswoman with her own show on the home shopping network QVC, and she didn’t see Rick as a natural salesman. “I create things. I’ve been designing little things since I was thirteen years-old,” he agrees. “So you really need someone who will come in and take over and make this work for you.” She made Rick an offer, although not the one he was hoping for. In exchange for her one hundred fifty thousand, she needed sixty-five percent of his company. To keep Daymond on board, Rick had offered greater equity, so he was willing to budge, but giving up a controlling interest in the company was hard for him to stomach. Still, what if she was just the partner he was looking for? They both agreed that TV was a better place for the product than store shelves.
Without offers on the table from Mark, Kevin, or Robert, Lori was his only lead, but he attempted to counter at forty-nine percent equity. She immediately declined. Since no other sharks had expressed interest, he lacked negotiating power. “I’m a little gun-shy in giving up total controlling interest in the company without a complete buyout option, with royalties…” he offered. The sharks were dumbfounded at his sudden development of business skills and jokingly speculated that they were being hustled. Now that an offer was on the table, Robert spoke up. “At best, I saw this as a knick-knack that was sold as gas stations.” Unable to see the value that Lori did, he bowed out. Kevin also made a swift exit, calling a million-dollar valuation for “a little piece of metal” insanity. Mark claimed that he was “processing” the deal, but Lori wouldn’t give him a chance, threatening to take her deal off the table if Rick waited for another offer. Tensions rose as Mark tried to jump in, claiming his own TV networks made him an asset.
As usual, Mark concealed his intentions until the end to see how the deal would play out. He said he would help Rick, but when everyone expected an offer, Mark backed out, saying there were better options. Lori was truly his last chance. Rick launched into another round of “Would you consider?” with the only shark remaining, grasping for a few more points of equity, but to no avail. “Take it or leave it.” At his breaking point, Rick did admit that even thirty-five percent of what could be a ten million dollar company is exciting. After some provocation from all of the sharks, with a grimace, Rick finally accepted the deal.
While Rick left the tank, everyone took stock. Mostly, they marveled at the ability of one person to take “a piece of metal with two magnets” and net such a large investment. Rick also seemed happy with the deal, saying “When Lori looked right into my eyes and said ‘I’m going to make you a millionaire,’ I believed her!” Although he wanted to keep more than thirty-five percent of the company, it seemed like a win. Still, it’s striking how the smallest negotiating tactics in the tank can make a difference of millions. Looking primarily for a controlling interest in the company, Lori would have been very likely to accept a counter-offer of sixty, fifty-five, or even fifty-one percent equity in the company, but by trying to low-ball her offer, Rick locked himself out of further negotiations. It’s regrettable, but it’s been established that he’s not a salesman. At least, now he can spend his time doing what he loves, building and inventing.
After Shark Tank Update: ReadeREST In 2022
The deal with Lori was finalized shortly afterward. With her help, Rick was able to secure a manufacturer for the product; he no longer had to make them by hand in his garage.
A few weeks later, he was given an update segment, which was included in season three. In the follow-up, he revealed that they’ve sold more than $1.4 million dollars worth of products since their initial appearance. Not only that but Lori was able to get the product on QVC, where they sold $100,000 worth within the first five minutes. They believe sales will go over $6 million in 2012.
And they were right. By 2015, they had done over $13 million in sales. Not only that but they also began selling reading glasses.
As of 2022, Readerest is still going strong. If anything, sales have continued to go up over the past years. Nowadays, they offer more than 20 types of magnetic eyeglass holders. Some of their bestsellers include the Stainless Steel, Stainless Steel + Swarovski Crystal, Stainless Steel + Swarovski Pearls, Black + Swarovski Crystals, and White + Swarovski Crystals. Price-wise, they all go for $15.99. However, they do go on sale every now and then. In fact, they’re discounted to $11.99 at the time of this writing.
Aside from magnetic eyeglass holders, they also sell reading glasses, which are pretty affordable at $25 a pair. Not only do they come with spring-loaded hinges, which are both more comfortable and durable, but the lenses are also scratch resistant and coated with a layer of UV protection.
For those who are interested, you can check out their official website here. Currently, they’re offering free shipping on all US orders over $20. They also offer their products internationally. For more details, visit this page.
Or if you want, you can get their magnetic eyeglass holders and reading glasses on Amazon. If anything, they’re highly rated by customers, with thousands of positive reviews. Some people were understandably skeptical about the product at first but quickly realized how effective it was.
Many have also commented that it’s well-designed; the magnets are super strong and the backing is sturdy. It also won’t damage your clothes whatsoever. The only drawback is that some of the decorations (e.g. pearls, crystals) tend to fall off after a while. Some have also found that the paint chips easily.
Still, the general consensus on the ReadeRest is positive. As of September 2022, the company is making $5 million in revenue a year. Needless to say, they’re quite successful.