Shark Tank Sharks
Whilst the inventors and budding entrepreneurs make the products, the Sharks are what truly make ABC’s hit show ‘Shark Tank’. The format is simple; hopefuls pitch their idea and the Sharks decide whether they want to invest or not. Each episode features a rotating group of five from the core group of six Sharks. They are Barbara Corcoran, Mark Cuban, Lori Greiner, Robert Herjavec, Daymond John, and Kevin O’Leary. But just who are the Sharks of ‘Shark Tank’ and what makes them so qualified to judge? Keep reading to find out.
Real estate mogul Barbara Corcoran was born in 1949 in New Jersey. She grew up the second eldest of eleven children and from an early age understood about competition and having to stand out from the crowd. Her father, a printing press foreman, taught Corcoran about the value of hard work. However, she struggled through school, barely maintaining D grades.
After graduating from high school, Corcoran enrolled in St. Thomas Aquinas College. She graduated in 1971 with a Degree in Education and became a teacher for a year. The desire to change jobs got to her, as it always did. She bounced from job to job throughout her young life, 22 jobs in all. At one point, she held a side job renting apartments. The desire to be her own boss once and for all led her to take a $1000 loan, from her then boyfriend, to co-found a real estate business, The Corcoran Group, in 1973. In its first year, the company made $350,000.
Corcoran had found her niche with real estate and quickly became an expert. She was selling apartments in New York’s Upper East Side. During the mid-1970’s she published ‘The Corcoran Report’, a report on New York real estate trends.
Throughout the 1980’s, Corcoran was setting the trends in the New York real estate market with her shrewd knowledge of the industry. She was one of the first to advocate the limited sharing of real estate listings amongst Manhattan brokers. The Corcoran Group grew to employ 700 brokers, from Brooklyn Heights to Madison Avenue, attaining a reputation for luxury.
In 2001, Corcoran decided to sell her business to focus on starting her family. The Corcoran Group sold for $66 million, because six was her lucky number and “I didn’t want to say, ‘Call me when you get $6 million.’” She has since become a real estate commentator, appearing on shows such as Larry King Live and writing columns for More Magazine, Redbook and The Daily Review. Corcoran brings her expertise to ‘Shark Tank’, and has solidified herself as an industry expert and leader in the business world.
Self-made billionaire Mark Cuban was born in Pittsburgh in 1958 to middle-class parents. He grew up watching his father support them as an automobile upholsterer, whilst said his mother had a “different career goal every other week.”
This influence led Cuban to take strides into the entrepreneurial world when, at the age of 12, he decided to sell garbage bags so he could buy an expensive pair of basketball shoes. He had a go-getter attitude and made for a natural salesman. He continued to make extra money throughout high school by selling stamps and coins.
It wasn’t just sales acumen that Cuban possessed. He also did well academically, enrolling in psychology classes at the University of Pittsburgh during his junior year of high school. Cuban skipped his senior year and enrolled full-time in the University of Pittsburgh. Cuban transferred to Indiana University after his freshman year.
To pay his tuition, he worked a variety of jobs including bartender, party promoter and gave disco dance lessons. Eventually, Cuban had worked his way up to hosting lavish parties in the Bloomington National Guard Armory. It was during his college years that Cuban purchased and managed his first bar, which soon became the most popular bar in the city.
Cuban moved back to his hometown of Pittsburg after his graduation in 1981. He took a job with Mellon Bank just as they were preparing the move to computers. He relished the opportunity to learn about computers and networking. He took this knowledge with him to Dallas in 1982 where he opened up his own company, MicroSolutions. Initially a software consulting company, MicroSolutions soon led the way in computer networking technologies. Cuban sold the firm for $6 million in 1990.
This was only the beginning of Mark Cuban’s fortune and legacy. Since then, Cuban has started several successful businesses including AudioNet (renamed Broadcast.com) and 2929 Entertainment, both started with lifelong friend Todd Wagner. Broadcast.com was sold to Yahoo! for nearly $6 billion in 1999. By the age of 37, Cuban had become a billionaire.
In 2000, Cuban purchased the majority stake in the Dallas Mavericks costing him $285 million. However, today the Dallas Mavericks are worth over $685 million and are ranked as the NBA’s fifth most profitable sports franchise.
In 2002, Cuban married his longtime girlfriend. The still live in the Dallas area with their three children. Cuban has stayed on top of technology trends as they have developed and has investments and stakes in many such companies today. His presence on ‘Shark Tank’ brings with it his intelligence, his lifetime of business experience, and his charismatic personality.
Prolific inventor and ‘QVC Queen’ Lori Greiner was born in 1969 in Chicago. From stable beginnings, her father was a real estate developer and her mother was a psychologist. However, they divorced when Greiner was nine years old.
She attended Loyola University Chicago and majored in Communications. Her focus was on television, film and journalism. She had several jobs during and after college, but she continued to design and sell her own jewelry throughout.
Greiner had sharp instincts and was business minded. She had an idea, an idea which would change the course of her life, and she decided to act upon it. Greiner had designed and created a prototype for a plastic earring organizer which would neatly store 100 pairs of earrings. The development of this prototype required her taking out a $300,000 loan. However, after successfully getting her invention picked up by J.C Penney just before the holiday season, she was able to pay the loan back within 18 months.
For Your Ease Only Inc., Greiner’s company, made over $1 million in its first year. With a presence on the Home Shopping Network and later QVC, the company has continued to grow and expand exponentially since then. Greiner is CEO and her husband manages product development. After creating a large amount of new products, Greiner landed her own show on QVC, ‘Clever & Unique Creations’, in 2000. The company now has a net worth of over $100 million.
Greiner has often stated that she feels a responsibility to pay back the successes she has had by trying to “pay it forward”. She has said that her most gratifying moments come from helping others. Greiner is affectionately known as the “Warm Blooded Shark”.
Dynamic entrepreneur Robert Herjavec was born in 1962 in Eastern Europe. In 1970, at the age of eight, Herjavec escaped by boat from Communist former Yugoslavia with his parents, landing in Canada with a single suitcase. Herjavec says his father worked hard and never complained. He says his father was a “really, really tough guy” and a major influence in his life.
As a young boy through to his adolescence, he worked every job he could from waiting tables to delivering newspapers. Herjavec attended the University of Toronto and gained a double Degree in English Literature and Political Science. Upon graduation in 1984, he worked a variety of minimum wage jobs to support his family.
Herjavec applied for a position with a company called Logiquest, which sold IBM mainframe emulation boards, and although he was under-qualified for the role, convinced them to hire him by offering to work for free for the first six months. He supported himself during this time by waiting tables, and eventually rose through the ranks of Logiquest to become General Manager.
In 1990, Herjavec founded his first company, BRAK Systems. He had never intended becoming an entrepreneur, but upon being fired from Logiquest he, as always, did whatever he had to do to pay the bills. This time it involved starting a company in his basement providing internet security software. Soon it became Canada’s top provider and in 2000 was sold to AT&T Canada for $30.3 million. He stayed on with AT&T as Vice-President of Security Services. He moved to RAMP Networks and was VP of Sales when it was sold to Nokia for $225 million.
Herjavec retired to become a stay-at-home father to his three children. His retirement lasted three years when, in 2003, he founded Herjavec Group which became North America’s fastest growing technology company. Today the company earns tens of millions each year and is recognized as a world leader in information security. His successes have led Herjavec to become an inspirational figure. His expertise is perfectly placed on ‘Shark Tank’ where he provides motivational business advice each week to budding entrepreneurs.
Pioneer and successful businessman Daymond John emerged from humble beginnings. Born in Queens in 1969, John worked constantly throughout his early life. In high school, he credits learning about an entrepreneurial spirit when he participated in a scheme which allowed him to work full-time and attend school full-time on an alternating weekly basis.
In 1989, his mother taught him how to sew to help him realize his dreams of starting a clothing company for men. Allowing John to use the house’s basement, he set about making his first batch of wool beanie hats, replicating a popular urban trend of the time. John sold his hats for $10 each, made $800 in his first day, and FUBU (“For Us, By Us”) was born.
John grew the company with the support of his mother. She mortgaged their home for $100,000 of start-up capital. FUBU began selling consignments of t-shirts, hats, hockey jerseys, and sweatshirts all emblazoned with the FUBU logo hand sewed onto them. John proved an insightful businessman and sent FUBU jerseys to rappers for use in their music videos, boosting the perceived reputation of the brand.
The big break for the FUBU brand came in 1993, when LL Cool J wore a FUBU hat in a 30-second advertising spot for The Gap. Orders started coming in faster than they could fill them. John attempted to get a business loan so that he could fulfill the orders, but was turned down for loans by 27 banks. His mother took out a second mortgage on her house, allowed John and his partners to turn her home into a makeshift factory, and used the last of her money to place an advert for FUBU in the NY Times. The result of this advertisement was a deal with Samsung Textiles who agreed to underwrite the manufacturing of FUBU’s orders.
Over 20 years later, FUBU is one of the largest brands in the fashion industry with annual sales on par with the likes of Tommy Hilfiger and Donna Karan. Innovation and hard work took Daymond John from a basement in Queens to the ‘Shark Tank’, and this drive has inspired the next generation of entrepreneurs and designers to believe in themselves also.
Born to a middle-class family in Montreal in 1954, Kevin O’Leary feels he was a natural born businessman, crediting his father’s Irish charisma for this. However, it was from his mother that he learned most of his business intuition. She came from a family of Lebanese merchants, and imparted her business and financial insights unto her son. She was a skilled investor, giving over a third of her weekly wage to dividend-paying stocks and interest-bearing bonds. Her investment portfolio grew, achieving high returns.
O’Leary attended university and in 1977 graduated from the University of Waterloo with a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Studies and Psychology. In 1980, he went on to attain an MBA in Entrepreneurship from the University of Western Ontario’s Ivey Business School.
During this time, O’Leary was selected for an internship at Nabisco, working as an assistant brand manager for their cat food brand. He attributes this time in his life for developing the marketing skills he would later take with him when starting his own companies. He co-founded Special Event Television (SET) which produced original sports programming and enjoyed relative success. He sold his share in this venture for $25,000 and used this to co-found Softkey in 1986.
Softkey published and distributed CD-ROM based software. As the computer industry grew through the 1980’s, O’Leary saw a gap in the market and convinced printer manufacturing companies to bundle Softkey’s software in with their hardware. By the 1990’s, Softkey prospered and acquired competitors WordStar and Spinnaker Software. In 1995, The Learning Company was purchased for $606 million and Softkey adopted their name.
The Learning Company went on to be bought by Mattel in 1999 for $4.2 billion, making O’Leary a multimillionaire. Since then, O’Leary has gone from strength to strength co-founding O’Leary Funds Inc., which handles over $1.5 billion of investments, amongst others. O’Leary has been with ‘Shark Tank’ since the show’s beginning and his business intellect makes him a shark to be reckoned with.