We Asked Mr. Wonderful His Favorite Pitch of All Time After 14 Years on Shark Tank

We Asked Mr. Wonderful His Favorite Pitch of All Time After 14 Years on Shark Tank

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Kevin O’Leary is a Canadian businessman otherwise known as Mr. Wonderful from Shark Tank, the entrepreneur pressure cooker on ABC where a group of billionaires make competing bids for burgeoning companies. After 14 years on the show he’s invested just over $8.5 million on air through 40 deals across 130 episodes in brands and ideas he believed would get him his return back and then some. And for a long list of those brands, he’s been correct.

This man knows products, what resonates with consumers and which ideas have enough momentum behind their concept to propel them to a place where we as shoppers pick them up. SPY Senior E-Commerce Editor Taylor Galla sat down with Mr. Wonderful, over Zoom, recently to discuss some of his favorite products over the years, what makes an entrepreneur stand out in the Tank and what gifting trends he sees on the rise heading into the 2022 holiday season.

Editor’s Note: At various points during the interview Mr. O’Leary’s audio cut out. We’ve noted this in the quotes below, and some have been lightly edited for grammar or clarity. 

Read More: These “As Seen on Shark Tank” Products Are Worth the Hype

What Separates a Fine Shark Tank Pitch From a Great One?

I first asked Mr. Wonderful what he looks for in a pitch he’s going to make an offer on. He described attributes of both the product as well as the entrepreneur themselves that put his radar up for a potential ROI opportunity.

“Skills. Great ideas are a dime-a-dozen executional skills are really hard to find,” said Mr. O’Leary.

“What I’ve learned at Shark Tank over 14 years is that simple products that are easy to understand, that are easy to demonstrate, that solve problems for everyday usage, do incredibly well. When it’s a simple solution that everybody gets you sell millions of units, there’s nothing like Shark Tank.”

A Common Problem With a Simple Solution

He expanded on this concept of a simple product that solves a mass problem being big money makers on the prime time program.

“Well, we just aired Turbo Trusser which is a very simple product that makes your bird 20% juicier and that exploded. Because I’m Chef Wonderful too, it’s kind of making simple solutions available to people at a low price really really works,” said Mr. O’Leary.

Turbo Trusser

Turbo Trusser

Buy: Turbo Trusser $14.99

“And then of course solving for tangled sheets and pillowcases that was another one that was a no-brainer for me. She was terrific in presenting it and making it easy to understand, and the product worked.”

The product he’s referencing here is Wad-Free, a simple sheet detangler with great reviews on Amazon that I reviewed earlier this year. It’s a very basic plastic device that doesn’t look like it would do much, but after a few washes with zero tangled or bunched pillowcases, I became a believer. It takes a bit of extra time to apply, but if you’re consistently getting slightly damp balls of clothes caught in your fitted sheets it’s worth a shot.

Read More: SPY Wad-Free Sheet Detangler Review

Wad-Free Sheet Detangler

Wad-Free sheet detangler

Buy: Wad-Free Sheet Detangler $19.99

“Wad-Free is a classic example because it’s a woman that’s solved a problem for her family. She’s a single entrepreneur, she does multiple iterations of it, you’re listening to her tell her journey, it’s very engaging and every mother out there, everybody that’s ever done laundry ever gets the joke in two seconds. That was a no-brainer for me, that was a no-brainer. That was it.”


Niche Products and the Shark Tank Model

I also asked Mr. Wonderful about some of the more niche or weirder products he’s glad he invested in on the show and whether they can be just as lucrative as the mass market solutions like the Trusser and Wad-Free.

He noted that niche products can do just as well as mass market ones if the entrepreneur has a clear idea of what they’re selling and who they’re selling to. If they do, it’s really like, in his words, “throwing gasoline on a fire”  because all they need is funding. Rather than guidance on who to sell to and help acquiring customers, they already have that pipeline established and just need deep pockets to expand their reach even further. This proves that both products with mass market appeal and more specified ideas can work within the Shark Tank model.

“I always thought the granddaddy of it all, that proved the Shark Tank model, was Wicked Good Cupcakes because it was a total commodity. Nobody wanted to invest in that business, cupcakes are ubiquitous everywhere, every commercial kitchen makes them. So it’s the counterintuitiveness to niche but they took it and put it in a mason jar and it’s not about cupcakes anymore suddenly it’s gifting,” said Mr. O’Leary.

Wicked Good Cupcakes Sweetest Holiday Gift Box

wicked good cupcakes

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Shop Wicked Good Cupcakes

“This jar that you could ship anywhere and it wouldn’t collapse the cupcake. At four times the price of the average cupcake. We just sold that to Hickory Farms and it was a wild success. I mean it was insane. They never bought it for cupcakes they bought it for gifting and all the data we had.”

Other sharks were skeptical, but Mr. Wonderful insisted that it wasn’t about the cupcakes, but rather mason jars. Before, you couldn’t ship grandma a cupcake from across the country and expect it to arrive in any sort of gift-able condition. With their product you can, which opened the door for other gift-able mixes and baked goods all in the safe shipping container of an old fashioned mason jar. He noted that instance revealed to him, and other sharks, a key component of their show and what they look for in the products and brands they invest in.

“But it proved that you actually have to understand what you’re selling. You’re not selling cupcakes, you’re selling gifts. And thoughtful gifts in a creative package, because certainly the mason jar costs a lot more than the cupcake.”


Mr. Wonderful’s 2022 Gifting Trends

I also couldn’t help but ask Mr. Wonderful about 2022 gifting trends, as we head into the holiday season. He did note that there are a few products premiering on Shark Tank in the coming weeks that are aimed at being gift-able, and we’ll be sure to circle back and update you once those are available to the public.

Read More: SPY’s 2022 Gifting Trends

One big trend he’s seeing ahead of this year’s holiday season? Gifts with a purpose.

Mission-Driven Gifts

“Mission-based companies are getting gifted heavily, Blueland is a good example of that. They came on pre-pandemic to eliminate plastics from the detergent and cleaning fluid market and that has exploded. And it’s gifted now because it’s very attractive as a product but also many people are motivated in coastal states like California, like Florida, like Texas, they just don’t want to see plastic bottles anymore,” said Mr. O’Leary.

Read More: The Best Eco-Friendly Cleaning Products of 2022

If you’re not familiar with Blueland, they sell reusable plastic bottles and soap, detergent and other cleaning fluids in a dry crystallized form you pop into water to create soap. It eliminates the need to purchase single-use bottles of soap at the store and reduces your use of household plastic overall.

“By crystalizing the detergent into a tablet and therefore eliminating plastic bottles completely because you get a reusable glass bottle and keep dropping the tablet into. That’s a huge item because people just feel good about that.”


Mr. Wonderful’s All-Time Favorite Product

Mr. Wonderful’s all-time favorite Shark Tank product after years on the show was a surprisingly odd yet wholesome pick.

“I would say my all-time favorite is Basepaws. Anna came on the set three years ago she said she was going to charge people $29.95 to do cat DNA testing. I thought that was the craziest idea I’d ever heard because you can buy a new cat for $5.00. But she claimed that she could extend their lives significantly by changing diets through DNA testing and it turns out that 110 million cat owners agreed with her,” said Mr. O’Leary.

Basepaws provides the most advanced cat medical and DNA testing available on the market through easy at-home tests. After years of feline research, they help detect which conditions and illnesses your cat is predisposed to so you can augment their diet or other lifestyle factors and hopefully keep them healthier longer.

Basepaws Breed + Health Cat DNA Test

basepaws cat DNA kit

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“Her company exploded. It got acquired for cash and she’s a very wealthy woman today. It was one of our biggest returns ever on Shark Tank.”

What’s the big takeaway from this? Well, not just that companies run by women tend to give Mr. O’Leary higher returns, but that a simple solution for a common pet problem is a safe bet.

“It just goes to show another deal run by a woman with an idea that was so not traditional in any way. Cat DNA testing sounds insane but it’s not. And now all of these pet divisions of all kinds of companies are doing testing on horses and dogs and cats and snakes and reptiles and everything else because people care about their pets and they worry,” said Mr. O’Leary.


The Secret Sauce of Shark Tank

Mr. O’Leary also noted that when it comes to entrepreneurs trying to lower their customer acquisition costs, there’s no better place to do it than on Shark Tank.

“In syndication you get 100 million eyeballs, 8 minutes of prime time television, it’s extraordinary. I mean customer acquisition cost is zero. 8/10 businesses fail in the U.S. after 36 months because they can never get their customer acquisition costs below lifetime value. We eliminate that risk on Shark Tank. We blow you up,” said Mr. O’Leary.

The key? Being able to pitch your idea in 90 seconds or less, as Mr. O’Leary described the worst pitches he’s seen are when an entrepreneur can’t figure out what they’re trying to do, or articulate it clearly enough.

“If you can’t articulate your idea in 90 seconds or less you will never get funded.”

He also ominously concluded at the end “If they can’t handle Shark Tank the real world will eat them alive anyways.”

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