By Adrian Rodriguez
The Marin Independent Journal, Novato, Calif.
When Mill Valley entrepreneur Sarah Oliver pitched her knitted handbag venture to the “Shark Tank” cast, it didn’t take long for the business tycoons to bite.
On Friday’s episode of ABC’s prime-time reality show, the 50-year-old owner of Sarah Oliver Handbags banked a $250,000 deal. Three of the five “sharks” pitched in for a 10 percent equity cut going to each.
“It was surreal,” Oliver said. “I could not believe that the offer was coming through so quickly.”
What’s unique about Oliver’s company is that she employs a senior knitting group from the Redwoods Retirement Community in Mill Valley. They are dubbed the Purlettes+1, and each member produces about three handbags in a week.
The company has made $1.9 million, including $360,000 last year. The Resort is the best-seller, costing $47 to make and selling for $225.
On Friday night, Oliver and her team gathered at the Mill Valley Tennis Club to await the verdict of the sharks.
“They are so proud,” Oliver said of her employees, “and that’s the most exciting part of this experience.”
Lori Greiner was the first shark to throw out an offer, inviting the rest of the cast to join in on the investment and receive 5 percent equity each.
“I just have to say, it’s so touching to me, actually it brought a tear to my eye,” Greiner told Oliver. “Because I think that often we don’t value enough our elderly in society, and you have given them all something to be excited about — they are feeling a part of something.”
Barbara Corcoran and Mark Cuban bowed out, but Robert Herjavec and Kevin O’Leary presented counter offers, upping the equity with each.
Oliver said she couldn’t refuse.
Already, Oliver said, the company has received an outpouring of orders, emails and job applications. She plans on expanding locally first, and then seeing how far the sharks take her.
“These three sharks are super well connected,” she said. “I was willing to give up that much more to have them back me. This doesn’t happen every day.”