By Suzanne Adams-Ockrassa The Arizona Daily Sun, Flagstaff.
Kiersten Hathcock of ABC TV's "Shark Tank" fame had a few pointers to other entrepreneurs at this year's Greater Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce Athena Awards.
First, don't worry if things don't turn out as you planned. Second, trust your gut and third, be yourself.
Hathcock is the founder and owner of Mod Mom Furniture and a stay-at-home mom. When she couldn't find a toy box for her children that would fit in with the modern décor of her home, she taught herself carpentry and made one. Realizing there was a market for such products, she started making more of them in her garage. It wasn't long before her modern toy boxes with puzzle pieces for lids caught the eye of the "Shark Tank" producers.
The TV show is a reality TV competition that has start-up business owners pitch for funding from a panel of "shark" investors.
"I've been a planner my whole life," Hathcock told the packed banquet room at the High Country Conference Center Friday. As a child, she told her parents that she would become a businesswoman, wear high heels and work in a high rise in New York City.
But, in order to get where she is today with Mod Mom Furniture, she had to leave a lot of that planning on the cutting room floor.
"You have to look at your failures as redirections," she said.
She pointed to the original deal she got from an investor on "Shark Tank." She needed the money to expand her business and keep up with demand, but that deal fell through.
"I cried. Then I picked myself up off the ground and went back to work," she said.
Her friends and family helped her continue the business and then a year later she got a call. The man on the other end of the phone said he had been watching past episodes of the show and wanted to know if she still needed help with funding. A few months later, a check arrived in the mail with enough funds to continue the business.
"Just because the first deal was done didn't mean things were over," Hathcock said.
She also encouraged business owners to trust their gut. The producers of the TV show tweaked her sales pitch so much that she couldn't memorize it because it wasn't her. Against the producers' advice, she ditched their speech and created her own pitch, which got her the deal.
Hathcock also told them to be their authentic selves. It's important to customers and others you might do business with, she said.
"I have a 16-year-old daughter; she's part of the Millennium Generation. That generation, if you're not honest with them, they can see right through you," Hathcock said.
That was the second reason why she went back and wrote her own pitch for the "Shark Tank" investors. The pitch given to her by the producers wasn't her authentic self. It was being her authentic self that got her the first investment on the show and the second one a year later. It also got a marketing agreement with a major furniture firm, which also fell through, but put her in connection with an industry veteran who is working with her to promote her products.