My wife and I learn a lot watching Shark Tank, from the mistakes the business owners make to the questions the sharks ask. However, one thing is for sure. Hundreds apply and are whittled down to a few entrepreneurs who get a chance to pitch or are invested in by the sharks.
However, here’s the point: The sharks decide who gets a chance.
Research and fact-checking seven years of Shark Tank deals Forbes.com reveals some interesting stats. About 70% of the businesses did not get the exact deal made on the TV show. In most cases, more due diligence investigations after the show changed things before any contract was signed. Having a shark deal fall through is not death to the business, in fact, a majority of companies who pitched were still operating after the TV show.
“Good grades” in business school are decided by the teacher’s grade, not the market. Both shark tank events and business classes can be helpful, but neither is essential for business startup success! Yes, most businesses fail within the first five years, but real entrepreneurs either are successful, or they learn and turn their many failures into successes. Most millionaires fail four to five businesses before becoming a millionaire, but let’s not forget that lots of businesses are successful in the marketplace without ever getting good grades in school or being involved with a shark tank. Neither Steve Jobs nor Bill Gates ever finished college and became billionaires.
Prov 20:5 (AMP) A plan (motive, wise counsel) in the heart of a man is like water in a deep well, But a man of understanding draws it out.
Business plan competitions are not much better. These competitions ask businesses to pitch their idea for the first cut, and then a select few are allowed to pitch for a small investment to the winner(s). Not all of the “sharks” are knowledgeable enough to make a decision or give advice about what works and what does not, especially when it comes to industries with which they're unfamiliar. That’s why, in reality, every entrepreneur needs many advisors with much feedback.
Prov 15:22 (AMP) Without consultation and wise advice, plans are frustrated, But with many counselors they are established and succeed.
However, there’s a better idea than shark tanks, business schools, and business plan competitions. Writing my first book, How to Start a Business: Mac Version, I was always in front of my intended readers at Apple daily, answering their questions and then going home to write evergreen business content from what I had encountered. THE best approach for any startup business is to get in front of their intended clients. A church or community can broaden this approach for potential entrepreneurs: “Crowdfunding” within a community of commerce. “Crowdfunding” new ideas give entrepreneurial businesses a chance to have their ideas in front of their customer’s eyes with the support and encouragement from their church and community.
Two ideas come to mind. First, a local business community or chamber of commerce can start a “Startup Limelight” campaign (the limelight idea coming from the intense stage lighting used in theater/music halls during the early 1800s). A community “shines the light” on new ideas within the local area: 1) Local businesses which make room in their retail shelf space for an entrepreneur’s “Startup Limelight” of new products or services to try out, similar to major chains having a “For Limited Time Only” offer for new products. The church or community could do the same for any campaign of new products; 2) Each new product has the potential to bring in new customers to the business that might not otherwise have visited the supporting company; 3) Each new product draws a crowd, even a new group, that otherwise would not have ventured out or visited the local business. Business owners, entrepreneurs, and customers win.
The local business/community/church or chamber of commerce is now: 1) Marketing the local business “sponsorship” of the new entrepreneur’s product or service; 2) Marketing the new entrepreneurs who get a chance to do real-time market research from feedback and if sales are high, increase the bottom line of the local business “sponsoring” them; 3) Marketing entrepreneurialism so more people are encouraged to become entrepreneurs because more companies are supporting new ideas to improve people’s lives. Imagine a small or urban town, or a local church (hint, hint!) having a full marketing and a “Startup Limelight” campaign where lots of local businesses have a new product to showcase from the community. The key with this idea has multiple businesses “opt-in” to this “Startup Limelight” campaign, so it sparks a local community effort to support and become involved.
Second, rather than having many businesses or locations participating and spreading out among others with the new products, you can have one site wholly devoted to a “Startup Limelight” campaign of new products and services for a weekend. Have a pop-up event or trade show in a single location which has plenty of space for all and could be used to draw in others. A local church could involve its members and their community or the local civic center bringing everyone in from around the area to participate.
A church could have a trade show where congregant member startups could showcase their new products and services. Then the church could have a potluck Saturday/Sunday dinner where the congregation and visitors sit down at tables with each startup entrepreneur and learn about their startup story. Imagine parents hearing how fulfilling it is about how they apply their God-given talents and spiritual gifts in the marketplace and wanting to start a side gig. Then these inquisitive parents could involve their kids who show an interest in participating in a home business. It now becomes a whole family affair with the kids getting a part of the profits by working to earn their own money in business. Imagine kids making money from their parents and saving up for their car, college education, or investing in their own startup business. Their entrepreneurial kids now are steps ahead of their peers in the marketplace, learning about product, money, customer service and loyalty, marketing, and sales.
As some in the startup community, erroneously states, “Go BIG or go home.” Sorry, but a vast majority of businesses rarely “go big,” they go to work! Every day is slugging it out, serving their customers and working at making a living, and in the long term creating wealth for themselves and their community. Let’s get this done.
Call me if you need help to go to work!
 See Failing Forward by John C. Maxwell, pg 15