In the penultimate episode of M-Net and Telkom’s Shark Tank SA tonight, a familiar face to M-Net audiences was able to take her pick when it came to partnering with a Shark to expand her unique swimwear and lingerie brand. Previous Survivor SA: Champions contestant Shona MacDonald has come a long way since her ditsy days on a deserted island. Tonight, Shona stepped into the tank as a confident business woman who was not going to leave without a deal. Luckily for her, the five Sharks we all able to recognize that this sassy entrepreneur knew her business inside and out, and had the drive required to nab a worthy investment.
Shona introduced the Sharks to her company called “Thursdays Swimwear and Lingerie”, a brand specially aimed at bigger-busted women. In Shona’s words, she “supports boobs” – quite literally! Even though her business is still a fledgling operation, Shona has spent the last two years on market research and product development and impressed the Sharks with her knowledge of the industry. She was seeking capital from the Sharks in order to roll out the new line for next season’s swimwear garments and to get the lingerie arm of the company up and running. Marketing expert Gil Oved was initially not interested in investing, but Shona’s tenacity won him over and he made her the first offer of the night. Hot on Gil’s heels, Dawn Nathan-Jones - who is passionate about female entrepreneurs - also made Shona an offer, pointing out that of all of the Sharks, she can relate the most to this business. But in the end, it was Silicon Valley-based tech guru Vinny Lingham who won Shona over, as he offered to assist her with capital as well as his technological expertise, in order to take “Thursdays” to new heights in the global online retail space.
While Shona demonstrated the qualities that the hungry Sharks were looking for, three other entrepreneurs were not as convincing. Cape Town-based businessman Tim Clarke scooted into the tank with his tourism business called “Cape Side Cars”. Having been operating successfully for many years, Tim was looking for an investment to scale his business and to market to local clients looking to be driven around the most scenic parts of the Western Cape in vintage motorbikes with side cars, since most of his business has come from the international tourism sector until now. While the Sharks were all very optimistic about Tim growing a business that can fuel South African tourism, they had their concerns too. Dawn Nathan-Jones, who has spent most of her career in the tourism industry made and important point to Tim and the rest of the Sharks: “We all know the up-side of tourism, but there’s a down-side too. It’s highly cyclical, incredibly volatile, and I prefer to invest in asset-light businesses.” For those reasons, she promptly declared herself out. Romeo, Gil and Vinny followed suit, with the general consensus being that Tim had valued his company too high and that they would not make an easy return on their investment. Recognising this issue too, accountant Marnus Broodryk offered Tim a loan in exchange for equity in his business, but Tim was not convinced and declined to take Marnus up on this potential compromise.
Following in Tim’s footsteps was Lebogang Mphela, a passionate entrepreneur who had quit her day job in order to chase her business dream. Lebo is the owner of “Malia Nail Care”, a high quality, locally produced nail polish formula. Lebo prides herself on providing alluring nail style and on-trend colours, but also on nail care. Each bottle of “Malia Nail Care” comes with a sticker on the back giving nail care tips to customers for everyday use at home. Unfortunately for Lebo, her business was just too small and in its infancy for the Sharks to deem it worthy of investing in. As Gil noted to Lebo, “you’re a great salesperson but you really have nothing here yet. You want us to invest in something that is a dream. Unfortunately you haven’t nailed it for me. I’m out.”
Lastly, an Italian-born innovator hoping to snag a Shark with his fresh take on a frozen food family favourite stepped into the tank. Frank Ciman, who was hoping for very hungry investors, was pitching his business called “Wonderfillz Pizza Cones”. A mechanical engineer, Frank has designed and manufactures machines that can create cone-shaped pizzas that make it much easier to eat than regular pizza slices. While he has been selling this equipment to vendors around SA for the last few years, he was looking for capital from the Sharks in order to make the product himself and get into retail stores. Specifically, Frank required an investment in order to tool up a bakery that can make the dough and toppings for the pizza cones full-time.
The snag for all five of the Sharks was that he would still be running his manufacturing business on the side, while they were only investing in the retail side of things. This fact, coupled with the reality that Frank had no expertise in the highly competitive frozen food retail space, had all of the Sharks swimming away. As Gil summed it up for Frank, “You’ve chosen a very tough industry to crack. At the best of times, it’s damn hard. You’re a great engineer but you’re not a retail expert.”
To find out more about the businesses that have been featured on the series so far, especially if you’re interested in supporting them with an order or purchase, go to www.mnet.tv/sharktank or follow the conversation about the show on Twitter @MNetSharkTank with the hashtag #SharkTankSA.
Shark Tank SA, sponsored by Telkom SA, is screened on Sundays between 18:00 and 19:00 on M-Net 101. This corresponds with the timeslot on a Sunday when all DStv customers can get a taste of what’s available on M-Net 101, so if you’re not a DStv Premium customer, you can also go to channel 101 to watch Shark Tank SA. The series will also be available on DStv Catch Up and streamed live on DStv Now.