“Of all of the nerve-wracking things I’ve done in my life, pitching my business on ABC’s Shark Tank probably ranks in the top five,” says entrepreneur, firefighter, and former Navy SEAL Phil Black.
Taking the Bait
Black had five minutes to convince five multimillionaire investors to fund FitDeck, a custom fitness card deck and mobile app that illustrates forty exercises.
While the sharks showed some interest in Black’s product, they showed greater concern over the profitability of his app and he walked away without a deal. But he didn’t leave completely empty-handed—the sharks recognized Black’s entrepreneurial potential. “I’m giving you a free pass to come back through the doors with a new idea,” said investor Kevin O’Leary.
Stroke of Genius
Black’s entrepreneurial days began at seventeen, when he and his sister started 540-NITE phone service. 540-NITE provided information on local movie times, concerts, restaurants, and comedy club events. Black refined his sales and marketing skills by pitching 540-NITE to business owners and closing deals.
FitDeck evolved from a card game Black created in college, called the Push Up Game (PUG). During study sessions, he and his friends took breaks to play cards. After one game, Black shuffled the deck, placed some cards face down on the table, and challenged his friends to do as many push ups as the number on the cards. PUG became a hit in his dorm and later among the SEALs.
Just Keep Swimming
Black enjoys sharing his experiences with young business leaders and believes a successful entrepreneur possesses three qualities:
Self-motivation-—the ability to complete tasks without the influence or encouragement of others.
Passion about the product or service—a requirement to persevere through obstacles and challenges.
Resourcefulness—the ability to encounter new situations in a skillful manner, solve problems, and move forward.
Black suggests young entrepreneurs secure a job in an industry they love, or a position in marketing, sales, or accounting. “Success is not measured by what you ‘can’ do, but what you want to do,” says Black.
In the end, Black wasn’t disappointed he got away from the sharks without a deal. He owns a million-dollar company and he loves what he does. Not even a shark can snatch that away.
May Durkovic is advisor and outreach coordinator at Lord Fairfax Community College.