For months, Macon businesswomen Erin Bickley and Jenny Greer had to sit on the news that their business, Hold Your Haunches, had netted two investors from the hit ABC series “Shark Tank.”
But since their episode aired a few weeks ago and the news became public, the pair have been riding a whirlwind.
Greer and Bickley received about 3,400 emails the morning after the episode aired, a mix of well-wishers and potential customers looking to order their product -- high-end, form-fitting women’s pants designed to have a slimming effect on the wearer.
“We went to bed at 2 (a.m.) and got up at 7 (a.m.),” Greer said, referring to a viewing party held at Idle Hour Country Club for more than 100 people. “We were pretty much sold out within the first 36 hours” after the show aired.
The two entrepreneurs hunkered down in their office during the next several days while friends and family members looked in on them and brought them food. Greer’s mother-in-law, Kay Greer, helped them with the phones.
Bickley said the interest in their creations was unprecedented.
“We sold more by Friday morning than in all of our years with the business,” she said.
The two entrepreneurs had no business experience and had started Hold Your Haunches in 2010 only because, after an exhaustive search, they couldn’t find a similar product. So they decided to manufacture it themselves.
They flew to Los Angeles in September to film their episode of “Shark Tank,” in which five millionaire investors hear pitches from entrepreneurs who are seeking investments in their start-ups. The two had no idea if they’d get a deal -- or if their segment would even air.
Getting on the air was equally important for them because it essentially amounts to a 12-minute “infomercial” for the product, even if they couldn’t lure an investor. Many of the pitches on the shows have benefitted from the so-called “Shark Tank effect,” in which viewers search for a product even if the pitch is unsuccessful.
But fortunately for Greer and Bickley, they got the best of both worlds.
Not only did the segment air last month, but the two also convinced two of the sharks, Barbara Corcoran and Lori Greiner, to invest $75,000, plus a $100,000 credit line in exchange for a 40 percent stake in the company.
Since the episode aired, their sales have nearly tripled, zooming from $265,000 to more than $750,000. The pair said the number of likes on their Facebook page has doubled, while their email list has risen from 800 to 10,000. There are more than 6,000 customers on a waiting list until more of the pants are ready.
Not only did Greer and Bickley receive a cash infusion into the business, but they now also have access to the experience and contacts of Greiner and Corcoran.
In a phone interview, Corcoran -- a New York-based real estate magnate -- said it was the first time she’s ever closed a deal with Greiner, an entrepreneur known as the “Queen of QVC.” Corcoran said she sent emails to the male sharks -- Kevin O’Leary, Mark Cuban and Robert Herjavec, who passed on the deal because they didn’t understand the product -- to rub the deal in their faces.
“I take delight in that,” Corcoran said, noting that the pitch took a men-vs.-women tone among the sharks.
Bickley and Greer said they’ve mostly been working with Corcoran’s and Greiner’s associates, but they did have an extensive brainstorming session with Corcoran recently. During the session, Corcoran emphasized a “Girl Power!” theme in how they intend to promote Hold Your Haunches. Corcoran said she intends on having a segment next season updating viewers on the success of Hold Your Haunches, and she gave Greer and Bickley a list of ideas to make that happen.
Corcoran said she was even more impressed at the pitch when she watched the episode than when she was an actual part of it.
“What you have there is a dynamic duo,” she said. “They looked better on ‘Shark Tank’ than in person. Everyone felt they did great on TV.”
Corcoran said their personalities, as well as their Southern charm and passion for their business, played into the pair’s favor.
Since the episode aired, the deal with the sharks has changed and is still in the process of being reworked. That’s not unusual, Corcoran said, because the show works exactly the opposite of how real-life investing works.
On the show, an entrepreneur makes a pitch and if the sharks decide to invest, they do their due diligence afterward. Corcoran said several of her deals have fallen apart during the due diligence stage. In the real world, she said, her associates spend a great deal of time examining a start-up’s numbers and relevant data. Only if the company passes muster during that phase would an investor like Corcoran agree to meet with the entrepreneur to strike a deal.
With Hold Your Haunches, Corcoran said she’s liked what she’s seen. She said she received more emails about Hold Your Haunches than any other company she’s made a deal with on the show.
Meanwhile, Bickley and Greer remain busy. They’re moving to new office space on Vineville Avenue next month, they’ve hired their first employee, and they are working diligently to meet all of their orders.
They also want to add a new color to the pants, all styles of which now come in black, as well as other clothing products. But that’s taken a back seat because the business has more immediate priorities.
“We’ve got to get through this first,” Bickley said. “We’re waiting for the biggest order we’ve ever placed -- 5,500 (pants) that will come in June.”
“We don’t have anything to sell” right now,” Greer added. “People saw (the pants), and there’s nothing like it out there.”
To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.