Lip Bar creator Melissa Butler was encouraged by Shark Tank investors to leave, but ten years later, her cosmetics firm is growing.
Shark Tank, a popular ABC show where entrepreneurs pitch their businesses to successful investors in the hopes of getting financial backing, has been on the air for 13 seasons. Before deciding whether to invest or not, the investors, known as “sharks,” frequently give the entrepreneurs advice on the product, marketing, and other business needs, negotiating the terms in front of millions of people.
Many fledgling entrepreneurs have seen their businesses grow dramatically after getting a Shark Tank contract, and the show is a terrific opportunity to get a glimpse into the inner workings of big industry.
Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, agreed to invest $150,000 in Keisha Smith-applesauce Jeremie’s company in exchange for a 25% share. Prior to that, Moziah Bridges, who was only 12-years-old at the time, landed an investment contract for his bow tie firm on the hit show. Tania Speaks, 19, just received a $400,000 investment deal from Cuban for her cosmetics brand, with the shark claiming to be moved by her narrative.
However, not all of the entrepreneurs are as fortunate as The Lip Bar, with a number of great businesses being passed over because the investor panel doesn’t know what to do with the business idea, doesn’t think the entrepreneur’s pitch is strong enough, believes the investment is too risky for the product, or doesn’t understand the value of the entrepreneur’s idea, as in the case of The Lip Bar.
The Lip Bar (TLB), founded by Butler in 2012, is a vegan and cruelty-free beauty brand that began with lipsticks and has since expanded to include anything from concealers to tinted skin conditioners and everything in between.
Butler and her business partner, Rosco Spears, debuted on Shark Tank in 2015, hoping to grow their brand, which had already started to gain popularity in Butler’s hometown of Detroit.
The women presented to the Sharks while wearing TLB colorful lip tints, stressing their current success, attention from large stores, and distribution issue, which they planned to solve by creating a “Lip Bar Mobile” that would bring their products directly to consumers.
Rather than providing constructive criticism or even emphasizing the genius of the idea while failing to invest, the sharks went against the women, labeling the idea “bad.”
The women defended their position, claiming that bright color lipstick, such as the purple and green they were wearing, was quite popular among their demographics and that wearing it drove sales. The sharks didn’t pay attention and essentially disregarded the women, telling them to go.
Despite the setbacks, Butler and Spears persevered, building TLB into a full-fledged beauty company, earning product placement in major shops such as Target and Walmart, and winning numerous awards, including Allure’s Best of Beauty winner. The women decided to commemorate their achievement ten years later by erecting fresh billboards across the country that stated, “Shark Tank told me to quit. 10 years and 2 million units sold. Thanks, Mr. Wonderful.”
“10 years later and we’re still [100 percent] that Bawse. The sharks told us to quit, but we kept going. 2 million units later…thanks, Mr. Wonderful. Here’s to many more years of challenging beauty standards and ignoring the haters. And I’m so happy to be doing it beside my bestie, [Rosco Spears],” Butler captioned a photo of her and Spears standing in front of one of the billboards.