SoapSox Before Shark Tank
Ray Phillips and Alvin Uy both came from the same neighborhood in Eagle Rock, Los Angeles. Although they had not mixed in the same circles when they were younger, the two became good friends after Alvin married an old high school friend of Rays.
Ray, father to a young boy himself, was working as a Program Director in a residential treatment facility for traumatized children. With his thirteen years of experience in the field he was well aware that bath time was sometimes a scary experience for his young charges.
There was one young boy who was particularly reluctant to get into the bath and Ray spoke to him as he clutched his stuffed toy for support. The child didn’t want to let go of his stuffed animal and he didn’t want it to get wet either. That’s when Ray had a flash of inspiration, he took another stuffed animal and put a sponge inside it. He discovered that the young boy found the new sponge toy fun and exciting, and was far happier to take a bath now that it was a more enjoyable experience for him.
Having seen how well his idea had worked and realizing that millions of fellow parents could benefit from it too, he teamed up with his friend Alvin, who was also a father to young children. Alvin was the CEO of a company that specialized in product design and development, exactly the sort of skills Ray needed. The entrepreneurs founded SoapSox and spent the next two years designing, perfecting and finally producing the first SoapSox prototypes.
Following in the footsteps of many previous Shark Tank entrepreneurs, Ray and Alvin sought support from the Kickstarter crowd funding community in August 2013. With a goal of $45,000 in order to finance the patent application process, conduct certified safety tests and fund the tooling process, their well marketed and impressive campaign achieved its goal, eventually receiving $52,000 from over 600 backers.
Ray gave up his career to concentrate on the SoapSox business full time and their product began receiving more attention. When the company began to receive larger orders from major retailers they were unable to process them quickly enough. Needing help with investment and logistics, the pair appeared on Shark Tank in October 2014.
SoapSox on Shark Tank
When Ray and Alvin appeared on the show they were hoping to get $260,000 investment in exchange for just 10% Equity in the Soapsox business.
Alvin began the pitch by detailing the problem that nearly all parents faced at one time or another, children who didn’t want to take a bath. He asked the sharks rhetorically ‘How do you get your kids to bathe without all the screaming and shouting?’. Robert Herjavec and Mark Cuban laughed, they looked like they had experienced such bath time drama in their own homes before.
Alvin revealed a range of seven different product designs and explained how the Soapsox range contained a safe and sterile anti-microbial sponge. The exterior of the product was coated in Terry Cloth, for a durable and effective scrubbing surface. Ray demonstrated how a parent could hold soap in the mouth of the Shark version of the SoapSox and use the specially designed finger grips to hold it securely. Ray asserted that it was that easy to make bath time fun for those reluctant youngsters. Alvin explained that the machine washable Soapsox had only be rinsed off and hung up to dry, or simply put in with the laundry, and it would be as good as new for the next bath time.
Ray finished off the pitch by urging the sharks ‘Why not let SoapSox into your tank and throw some cash into ours?’’
Alvin handed out some samples of the Soapsox range to the sharks, who reacted to free samples with their usual enthusiasm and excitement.
Robert Herjavec got Harper the pink hippo. He queried why he had the pink Hippo but Ray diplomatically informed him that it was because hippos look cuddly and cute, but they were one of the most dangerous animals in the World.
Mr Wonderful, Kevin O’Leary received ‘Scorch’ the Dragon, Ray explained that it was because Kevin was known to spit fire occasionally.
‘The dragon of truth’ intoned Kevin ominously.
Daymond John looked fairly happy with his alligator and Ray gave Mark Cuban a shark. He informed him the shark was called ‘Tank’ and he was the biggest shark of them all.
All the sharks were looking fairly happy, although whether their positive mood was because they were flattered by Ray’s diplomatic compliments, or because of the gift of their very own SoapSox sponge, it was hard to tell.
Daymond asked what had originally inspired the idea. Ray explained about his experience of working with children and the one child who had originally inspired him to come up with the idea. He explained how he had teamed up with Alvin due to Alvin’s extensive product development experience and the pair had embarked on the long trial-and-error process of making the SoapSox product line a reality.
Kevin O’Leary wasn’t spitting fire yet, but as usual, he was interested in the numbers behind the company. He asked what sales had been achieved so far.
Ray confirmed that the SoapSox range had been on the market for six months but had achieved a fairly impressive $300,000 in sales in that short time.
Lori Greiner inquired what the patent situation on the products were. Ray replied that design and utility patents had been applied for, but were still currently pending.
Daymond asked what the retail price was. Ray revealed that the range retailed for $19.95.
It was a fairly high price for a sponge, no matter how appealing it was to kids. Mark Cuban asked what the cost price was, Ray admitted the cost was only $3.66.
Robert Herjavec wanted to know what the sales forecast was. Ray explained that sales so far that year had been over $550,000, next year they were projected to be over $2 million. They were impressive figures and Lori looked surprised, but not entirely convinced.
Kevin O’Leary wasn’t too happy about the retail price. He thought $20 for a sponge toy was a lot of money, he felt that $5 was a more suitable price for the product, perhaps to a maximum of $9. Ray didn’t argue the point, instead he only nodded his head in agreement.
Mark Cuban wasn’t going to get involved. He told Ray and Alvin ‘You guys have got a nice business, but it doesn’t get me lathered up’ and with that, he became the first Shark to drop out.
Robert couldn’t resist a bit of banter, expressing his horror at the mental image of Mark Cuban lathered up.
‘You know people would pay for that’ Mark shot back.
Kevin O’Leary felt the time was right for him to spit a little fire. He told the entrepreneurs that the $20 price was simply too high. Kevin couldn’t see the SoapSox range retailing for any more than $12, he also felt that the pair had over valued the business. And with that, he joined Mark in dropping out of the negotiations.
Robert Herjavec liked the concept and seemed impressed overall with all the aspects of the business, with the exception of the valuation. He didn’t think a value of $2.6 million for the business was ‘proven’ and for that reason he was out too.
Daymond confirmed that he did want to be part of the SoapSox business but he too had problems with the valuation. Unable to value the company as highly as Ray and Alvin had, he offered $260,000 in exchange for 33% equity in the company, effectively becoming an equal partner with them both.
Ray and Alvin looked less than enthusiastic at giving away a third of their business and Ray asked if Lori had an alternative offer for them.
Lori thought the products were great, smart and well marketed, with a great name. But she also had reservations about other aspects of the business. With patents only currently pending, and a potential delay of two or three years before they were awarded, another manufacturer could copy the idea in the meantime. With a lower price Ray and Alvin could have ‘Blitzed the market’ and for those reasons Lori was out too.
Ray turned to Daymond, he explained, slightly hesitantly, that he and Alvin had not planned to give away as much equity as Daymond was asking for.
Kevin O’Leary spoke up in defense of Daymond’s offer. He cautioned the pair that if they didn’t make a deal with Daymond then they were making a mistake. Daymond could provide them with vital retailing experience and with their high retail price they could end up floundering after a misplaced launch.
Kevin wasn’t entirely out of fire to spit, he finished by telling Ray and Alvin that they had valued the company too highly before coming onto the show and they were paying for that mistake now. Once again, Ray didn’t dispute the point, but merely nodded in agreement.
The entrepreneurs were still not looking happy at Daymond’s offer, although they clearly agreed that they had miscalculated the valuation of their business. The rules of Shark Tank state that applicants must be offered the investment they have requested or they get nothing. With a $260,000 investment to achieve they now faced giving away far more of their company than they had ever intended.
Ray appealed to Daymond and after confirming that the pair had been keen to make a deal with him in particular, made a counter offer to him of $350,000 in exchange for 15% equity.
Daymond considered the counter offer, but only for a moment. ‘I’m afraid I’m going to have to stick with the 33%’ he said, and he sounded genuinely unhappy about it.
With both parties seemingly stuck in deadlock, Lori and Robert threw in a new and unexpected offer. They would give Ray and Alvin $1 million in exchange for the entire company.
For a pair of entrepreneurs with young families to support and a million dollars on the table, Ray and Alvin never showed the faintest sign of temptation. SoapSox was their passion and their dream, they were not interested in selling outright.
Kevin O’Leary asked if they were prepared to accept either of the offers available to them. The pair thanked the sharks for their time and the opportunity, but they had to decline both offers.
After the show, Alvin confessed that he was disappointed the sharks had down valued their business so much, Ray added that they wouldn’t have sold the business for $5 million, or even $10 million, although I found the last figure slightly harder to believe.
SoapSox Now In 2023 – The After Shark Tank Update
The pair might not have landed a deal with the sharks but that hasn’t stopped them from making strides with the company. Shortly after the segment aired, they won a Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association (JPMA) Innovation Award, which is given to the best innovations in the industry. They also ramped up the manufacturing process to handle the increased demand.
Not only that but the SoapSox collection was also made available in more than fifty Nordstrom locations nationwide. They also heeded the shark’s advice and changed their production techniques, which allowed them to reduce their pricing.
And in 2016, they signed a licensing deal with Disney Baby. This allowed them to make plush bath toys of Disney characters. That’s not all, they also signed a similar agreement with Paw Patrol, which proved to be popular among kids.
As of 2023, the company is still in business. The last that we checked, they were highly successful with an annual revenue of $2.5 million.
Currently, they offer more than 30 types of plush bath toys. Some of their best sellers include Daddy Shark, Mommy Shark, Baby Shark, Skye Paw Patrol, Marshall Paw Patrol, Chase Paw Patrol, and Hendrix and Hedgehog. They also offer multipacks, which include more than one SoapSox. For example, you can get a River Pack, which includes a hippo, alligator, and frog, for $29.99. Shipping is also free if you buy more than two products.
Aside from the bath plushes, they also sell other kid-oriented products such as slippers and hooded bath towels, the latter of which also feature various animals. That’s not all, they also offer jumbo animal alphabet and numbers for $12.99, which are designed to entertain and educate. Not only are they machine washable, but they also come with a mesh bag toy organizer with suction cups so you won’t have to worry about losing any of them.
For those who are interested, you can take a look at the different products on their official website. Or if you want, you can get them from a local retailer (you can use the store locator feature to find the closest location near you). They’re also available on Amazon if you want to take advantage of their quick shipping and looking at some of the reviews, most people seem satisfied with the product. If anything, the general consensus seems to be that it’s fun for kids and washes well.
And remember, you can always follow the company on social media for the latest updates. You can find them on Instagram at @soapsox and on Twitter at @soapsox. They also have an official Facebook page with more than 14,000 likes.