You can catch a wave with just about anything if you exercise a little creativity. For Steve Watts, growing up in South Africa, that creativity came out with the help of fast food trays and even flip flops.
“It was the lowly food tray that held the throne in our quest for wave riding perfection,” is how the story grew from a bunch of kids just looking for ways to catch waves to a legitimate business today. The trays became makeshift handboards and the makeshift hardboards evolved into California based Slyde Handboards, a company that now makes two models of boards for bodysurfers.
“As is the human condition, there was the need for perfection and ummm…innovation, I think. Let’s just say not all trays are born the same,” Watts says. “Of course it became our mission to sort the chaff from the wheat. Tray hunting was serious business back in the day and the need for the perfect ride often outweighed the need to not be chased down the beach by flailing armed restaurant staff.”
Slyde was officially established in 2010. And for the past three seasons, Watts and co-owner Angela Ferendo have been trying to land their product on one of TV’s biggest prime time shows: ABC’s Shark Tank. This year they finally got that call from the show’s producers that they’d be featured on primetime television across America. It’s the kind of attention any small business would gladly take, with almost 7 million people watching each episode. But more than just growing the San Clemente company, they’re putting an entire sport in the public’s eye.
“It is extremely difficult to grow a business with a sport that most people have never heard of, especially when you don’t have the funds for a marketing budget,” Watts says.
And strictly from a business standpoint, the company may have just struck gold with this kind of visibility. Landing (or closing) a deal on Shark Tank has had its perks for a few entrepreneurs in the show’s seven seasons. Back in Season 4 a man named Aaron Krause brought a borderline creepy sponge with a smiley face to the sharks. Krause pitched the cleaning tool that was selling in five supermarkets around Philadelphia at the time like he was hosting an infomercial. He’d struggled to reach six-figure sales in 18-months. But when the pitch landed his company a $200,000 investment for 20% equity, Scrub Daddy went on to big things. He landed a deal with Bed Bath & Beyond and now has raked in a total of $75 million in revenue. All for a simple sponge with a smiley face carved into it. You could probably even use it to clean those old fast food trays.
I’m no big wig investor, but I think bodyboarding is cooler than cleaning my kitchen – at least $75 million cooler.
Editor’s Note: Slyde Handboards on ABC’s Shark Tank airs on April 15th, 2016.