Sparketh Before Shark Tank
Sparketh was created by two childhood best friends- Tim and Dwayne. Growing up, they always had a passion for learning. Dwayne was homeschooled as he had wanted to learn art but found the public school system to be lacking in the area. He eventually became a self-taught artist who won many art awards and contests as a young child.
As for Tim, he had always been passionate about videography and film. As a teen, he often created “sponsor me” videos for his younger brother, who enjoyed skateboarding. Over the years, he has honed his skills and become one of Atlanta’s top videography freelancers.
In 2014, the friends decided to try their luck at a business pitch competition called Concept 2 Reality. Their idea? To create a site that would help kids and teens learn about various creative topics. And it proved to be popular as they soon found themselves in the finals, competing with four other business ideas.
The finale, which featured five local investors, was formatted like “Shark Tank” in that each of the investors could judge and choose their favorite ideas. While their business idea, Sirius, didn’t end up winning the competition, they did finish in second place.
With the feedback that they received, they decided to go mainstream with the idea. Before doing so, however, they changed their logo as well as their name- from Sirius to Sparketh (they had looked to their favorite idol Shakespeare for inspiration). Thus, the new business was born.
They officially launched the Sparketh brand in 2015 at the Southeast Homeschool Expo with four different courses and almost immediately, received ten sign-ups from various families. By 2016, they had attended more than 10 different homeschool expos and within a few years, they had gone on a national expo tour with two dozen stops across the United States.
Wanting to expand the enterprise side of the business, they decided to try auditioning for Shark Tank, and after a few rounds, received the call that they would be on the show. Their segment was later included in the third episode of season 13.
Sparketh On Shark Tank
Tim and Dwayne walk into the tank and introduce themselves as the co-founders of Sparketh. They tell the sharks they’re looking for $100,000 in exchange for eight percent of their company.
With that, they begin their pitch by comparing a child’s mind to a blank canvas as it has no limit “to the magic it can create.” Dwayne also adds that children are “filled with curiosity, ideas, and emotions” but points out that there’s a lack of priority for art in schools, which prevents them from being able to explore them. They explain that that’s why they created Sparketh.
As the camera zooms in on their display, they explain that Sparketh is an online art education platform for kids and teens, one that allows them to learn art “anywhere and everywhere.” Tim points out that each membership comes with access to their library, which includes more than 1,000 different art video lessons, all of which are taught by engaging mentors within their specialized fields.
They also add that the platform comes with “awesome features” that cater to kids and teens, including 5 to 10-minute video lessons and a virtual art portfolio that they can share with the community. Seconds later, they wow the sharks by setting a small clipboard on fire- one that reveals a hidden painting.
Their pitch ends and they ask if anyone is interested in helping the creative generation by investing in the company.
Before the sharks say anything, however, Dwayne tells them that they have a small activity for them to do. Reaching for his art tools, he reveals that they’re going to draw a “very quick and easy step-by-step feather”.
The camera turns toward the sharks, all of whom have a toothbrush and a piece of paper in front of them. Dwayne demonstrates the process and tells them to swipe from the left to right. The sharks follow along. Mark seems impressed with his own artwork and calls himself talented. Barbara jokes that she painted a tornado.
Several laughs later, she asks about their target audience and their cost. Dwayne explains that they started with the homeschool market and that over time, they’ve expanded to “any parent who is struggling to teach their kids creativity.”
Barbara asks how they’re able to reach the parents. Tim explains that while the homeschool market is closed off and tight-knit, they’ve managed to infiltrate themselves into it. Continuing, he tells them that they went to expos when they originally started the platform and that they were broke college students at the time, so they only started with $500.
Dwayne tells them they eventually created a website after he snuck Tim into his graphic design office after hours for several days and a month and that they eventually taught themselves HTML, CSS, and PHP for the project. The sharks are impressed. They go on to add that Dwayne taught the courses while Tim filed and edited them.
Mark asks about their educational background. Dwayne tells them that they went to Kennesaw State University in Atlanta, Georgia, but that they had ended up dropping out once the business got going. Mark follows up by asking how well they’re doing.
Tim explains that entrepreneurship has always been his passion. He also reveals that he was born with sickle cell disease and because of the condition, which significantly lowers an individual’s life span, he was motivated to “go for what he wanted”.
Kevin asks about their age. Tim tells them he’s 25 years old, to which Barbara remarks that he still “looks like a baby”.
Guest shark Daniel Lubetzk, the founder and executive chairman of KIND, asks the friends how they met. Dwayne explains that they met as kids growing up through their mutual love for magic tricks. They even volunteer to show them a magic trick. They turn around for a couple of seconds, and by the time they’re facing the sharks again, their black Sparketh t-shirt has turned white. The sharks laugh and are impressed.
Kevin goes on to ask about their revenue. Tim explains that they did $300,000 in revenue last year, all direct-to-consumer. They also reiterate the fact that it’s a subscription-based platform that offers all online art classes. Elaborating, Tim tells them parents will sign up for $25 a month, which will provide them with two student accounts.
Kevin notes that they have to be able to keep their customers. He then asks about their acquisition costs and the number of parents that continue subscribing after 12 months. Tim is quick to reveal that no one is actually sticking with them past 12 months at the moment and that each customer currently has a $120 lifetime value, which translates to approximately six to seven months. He also reveals that it costs them $51.50 to acquire a customer. The sharks are surprised.
Barbara asks them if they’ve only been in business for one year. Dwayne shakes his head and explains that they actually started the platform in 2015. Barbara goes on to ask about their sales from the previous years. Tim tells her that they did $300,000 last year, $75,000 in 2019, and $110,000 in 2018.
He goes on to explain that they had pushed themselves too hard with traveling for expos and whatnot in 2018 and that that had landed both of them in the hospital.
Mark asks how they will use the $100,000 investment.
Tim explains that they will be using the $100,000 for content and to create a better version of the current platform. Mark goes on to ask how much money they’re burning per month. Tim tells them that they’re currently breaking even but that they could be profitable if they wanted to.
As he’s trying to explain himself further, Kevin interrupts by asking if Sparketh is a business or a hobby. Dwayne explains that it’s a business but the sharks are skeptical as they’re not making any money. Tim reiterates that they haven’t spent any money to try to be profitable yet.
Daniel then asks what they’re on track to make for 2021. Tim tells him they’re on track to make $500,000 in revenue this year.
Lori speaks next. She tells them that while she loves creativity, and “opening up kids’ minds”, she’s not really the “app person” and for that reason, she’s out.
Their attention then turns toward Kevin, who likes the idea and believes that “there’s merit in it”. However, he’s skeptical about their $1.25 million valuation as they’re only breaking even. Despite Tim and Dwayne’s best efforts to convince him otherwise, he states that he cannot invest in the business and that he’s out.
Mark goes on to say that as a business, they don’t have something that distinguishes them from the others. Noting that what they’re doing is not much different from kids watching free YouTube videos, he also goes out.
The friends thank him for his time and turn their attention to Barbara, who praises them for being charismatic and endearing. She states that while they could better convince potential investors, she’s willing to make them an offer because “she likes them”. She then offers them $100,000 in exchange for 20 percent of their business. She also adds that it’s contingent on them being able to prove to her that they’re able to make a profit after six months. The other sharks are surprised.
Before Tim and Dwayne can comment on her offer, however, Daniel tells them that he is willing to partner up with Barbara if she is up for it and that they can mentor them together. Barbara is surprised that Daniel is willing to jump into the deal for only 10 percent equity. He responds by saying that he is willing to do it for the pair.
Tim immediately comments that it’s a great idea. Barbara asks them again if they’re okay with the contingency deal, to which they say yes. The rest of the sharks congratulate them while Barbara, Daniel, Tim, and Dwayne share a four-way hug. They then leave the tank.
In the post-segment interview, Tim and Dwayne are ecstatic that they were able to get not one, but two sharks on board with an offer.
Sparketh After Shark Tank
Both Daniel and Barbara tweeted about the deal after the segment aired. The company also issued a press release, in which they announced that they were moving forward with the deal.
Despite that, there’s no evidence that the deal ever went through. For one thing, neither Daniel nor Barbara has listed Sparketh on their websites. The company did, however, seem to reach its $500,000 goal for 2021, so it’s not all a failure. If anything, being on the show had given them a significant amount of exposure, which helped spread the word about the platform.
As of 2023, Sparketh is still in business. Looking at their website, they’re currently offering 60 percent off their subscription fees, which provides unlimited access to over 1,000 art video lessons for children and teens. There are two options- parents can either pay monthly ($10 for the first month, $25 per month afterward) or annually ($250 a year), the latter of which also comes with a buy one gift one free limited time offer.
Some of the courses that are available include Realism Portrait, Pop Art Portrait, Fauvism Portrait, Cubism Portrait, Watercolor Techniques, Three Point Perspective, Facial Proportions, Gradient Pattern, and Manga characters. They also work with teachers, districts, schools, and organizations with their learning programs. In fact, those who are interested can schedule a demo about their remote art education.
For those who are interested, or would like to learn more about the platform, you can check out their website at sparketh.com. You can also follow them on Facebook or Twitter (@sparketh) for the latest updates.