What the biggest ‘Shark Tank’ deal in history taught me about pricing

what the shark tank taught me about pricing

Have you ever watched the television show Shark Tank?

If you haven’t, here’s the gist: the Shark Tank is a place where hopeful entrepreneurs pitch their business to highly successful millionaire and billionaire entrepreneurs (like Mark Cuban and Daymond John) in an attempt to start, grow, or save their business.

The high-profile entrepreneurs invest their own money usually in exchange for equity in the company at question.

It’s basically an investment pitch to 5 very successful investors all captured on video. It’s intense. It’s high stakes. And it’s a real blast!

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The biggest deal in Shark Tank history

Just a week or so ago, Kevin O’Leary invested 2.5 Million dollars in a single-serve wine company in exchange for 10% of the company’s equity.

So, why did Kevin invest such a huge amount of money when all the other investors thought the company wasn’t worth the 25 Million dollar valuation?

If you don’t watch closely, you might miss it.

After offering $2.5 Million to the entrepreneur, Lori (sitting next to Kevin) turned and said something like “you think this product can get you into Costco (the largest wine distributor in the world), don’t you?”

And Kevin nodded.

He wasn’t paying just for equity

See, Kevin wasn’t just paying for a 10% stake in the wine company.

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He had been trying to get his own wine label placed in Costco for some time and saw this as the opportunity he needed to get through the door.

He wasn’t just paying for equity.

He was paying for opportunity.

He was paying for a job to be done that he couldn’t do himself (or at least that he admitted has been difficult).

What 25 Million Dollars has to do with you

So what does a supposedly overpriced single-serve wine company have to do with you and your independent creative business?

Well, you may not be dealing with such huge amounts of money (if you are, I really want to hear from you!) But, you’re still dealing with the same kinds of situations every day.

You’ve probably realized by now that your clients rarely hire you simply to design a flyer or write a blog post.

With every task, assignment or project, there’s a bigger picture–something more they’re hoping to get out of the arrangement. For Kevin, it was getting his wine (and this new wine company) into Costco.

For your client, it means boosting profits, reaching more people, or increasing conversion. And the designer, writer or photographer who can do that for their client will find themselves with more work than their competition.

Not only that, but the creative entrepreneur who can figure out what the “real job” their client needs done can also begin to charge more than anyone else doing the same surface-level work.

How this helps you get paid more for your work

Put yourself if your clients’ shoes for just a moment.

Imagine you run a web site that sells shoes. Your entire business lives and dies by the number of shoes that you sell. The facts are simple, if you don’t sell shoes, you go out of business.

In a monthly review of your profit and loss, you realize shoe sales have been a bit sluggish and your Marketing Director decides you need to ramp up Facebook advertising in an attempt to reach a younger audience. In order to get the most out of a new Facebook campaign, you’ll need some new photos, an innovative design and some really creative headlines.

So you call a creative freelancer who has experience in Facebook marketing.

You tell them exactly what you need: some new photos, a new design, and headlines that really resonate with a younger audience.

A creative entrepreneur who knows how this works, will ask one very important question:

What do you hope to get out of this campaign?

By asking that question (and you may have to dig a bit on the subject as well), you identify what Clayton Christensen has deemed the “job to be done.”

They’re not hiring you for design. Or headlines. Or photos.

They’re hiring you to help them sell more shoes.

If you understand this one subtle difference, it will completely change the way you think about client projects. It will completely change how you define success as an entrepreneur. No longer is success based on simply having gorgeous photos or getting a project to a client on-time.

Now, it’s all about results. Your client’s results. If you help them reach their goals, success. If not, failure.

Back to Shark Tank

That’s exactly what this single-serve wine company did for Kevin O’Leary. They helped him with a job he needed done.

The job-to-be-done? Getting into Costco (and making lots of money from placement in the biggest wine distributor in the entire world).

That’s why Kevin was willing to pay a premium for the company while other entrepreneurs weren’t. The other entrepreneurs didn’t have that job-to-be-done. They didn’t have the goal to get into Costco. But Kevin did. And he was willing to pay (a lot) for it.

Keep that in mind next time you’re working with a client.

What do they really want out of the arrangement. Chances are, they don’t just want a nice design. They want to sell more shoes or get into Costco.


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  1. Now that the wine is in Costco (Is it?) what is the story on the reorders? My creations have sold more than $25 million, thankfully remained popular for a consecutive 40 years.
    In my experience, it’s the longevity not the front loading that counts.

  2. Wow, great life lesson! This should be the factor that makes a trained design professional stand out, shouldn’t it? Some clients aren’t sure what they truly need-what can we do to draw them out and work with us?

    -Stephanie

  3. Great post! Also great example from Shark Tank. For me, the client goal is always more important. What’s the point of a well designed site if it can’t generate profit for them? But it’s great to hear this on a much larger scale.

  4. This is a great article but I was a tad confused as the amount of money changed from 2.5 to 25. I typically don’t watch Shark Tank but will watch it every now and then and didn’t get to see this episode, so a clarity on investment would help.

    1. Kristen,
      Great question. Since Kevin paid 2.5 Million dollars for 10% equity (ownership) in the company, he was essentially saying “this company is worth 25M dollars. (2.5M * 10 = 25M).

      Hope that clears it up.

      1. Lol, I was confused about that too. Thanx for clearing it all up.

        So Shark Tank is kind of a Tv version of Kickstarter ?

        Anyway, reading this article makes me want to try out Shark Tank, could be a good resource for people who are interested in business ventures and marketing.

  5. Okay wow! I have been looking at this the wrong way all the time! Thank you Preston, this article has changed my life for the best!!!

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