Getting on Shark Tank was a lot like getting into college — except I couldn’t ask my mom to write my essay.
There were a lot of nerves, brutally long periods of silence and self-doubt, countless fake-it-til-you-make-it moments, and of course, the grand finale of putting myself at the mercy of successful people who seem to have a lot more fun saying no than yes.
All while being pregnant.
I’ve been a Shark Tank fan since FOREVER, and I knew that one day I’d come up with something to pitch. With Tushbaby, I got my shot.
I applied to the show in August of 2017, just two months after I’d come up with the concept and received my first Tushbaby prototype. I didn’t hear anything back. But so many parents and caregivers had approached me in parks and stores asking where I’d bought my carrier that I knew I had a good thing going. So I spent the next six months upgrading the design and features, and testing new prototypes with user groups.
I found out I was pregnant with my third baby during this time, and I was thrilled! But I was also terrified, because I’d suffered Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) with my first two pregnancies. HG is basically morning sickness on steroids. Kate Middleton had it. Amy Schumer has it. And for my first two pregnancies, I’d had it. That meant vomiting 10-20 times a day and spending four months in and out of the hospital getting IVs, having stomach pumps, and resting in bed.
Welp, my third pregnancy was no different.
Bedridden, malnourished, and depressed, I’d pressed pause on Tushbaby because frankly, I was too sick to do anything. Of course, that’s when I got a call from an LA number. I picked up the phone to a rep from Shark Tank, saying they wanted me to shoot a 7-10 minute audition video, send it in, and find out within two weeks if I was in.
All I have to say is, thank god for friends and family. My sister-in-law Riley (a marketing writer and Tushbaby’s OG Creative Director) quickly scripted a video for me. My brother-in-law Ken and sister-in-law Sam recorded me from their go-pros, achieving the perfect camera angle from a pile of children’s books in my daughter’s room. I shot the video vomiting between takes and then put my fate in some random producer’s hands.
Two weeks later, I’d given up hope that I would hear anything back. But at the 11th hour on the final day, I found out I had made it to the next round. Imagine a lot of screaming and laughing and ugly crying and wild-eyed excitement at this point.
Except for one minor detail: I didn’t have any sales. Tushbaby wasn’t a real company yet. After watching every episode of every season, I knew that if I walked into the tank with just an idea, a couple of samples, and a business plan, I’d be eaten alive.
So in May of 2018, I decided to launch a Kickstarter campaign. I thought if I could sell $20,000 in one month, I could prove to the sharks there was real customer appetite.
Riley went to work writing the copy for the Kickstarter campaign and video, and I reached out to a videographer my cousin referred. I was too sick to film for several weeks but knew I could be filming Shark Tank in early June — meaning I needed to launch my Kickstarter campaign in early May to give it 30 days before going into the tank. It was now or never, baby!
But man, was I miserable. On the day of the shoot, I laid in bed while someone did my makeup. I curled my unwashed hair and got myself dressed. By that point, I was only vomiting 2-5 times a day and didn’t need IVs anymore, but I still needed to fake a whole lot of pep and health for the camera. Riley and I busted our butts to complete the Kickstarter in time. And on May 8th, we hit submit, held our breath, and hoped the world would like what we had made.
A few days in, someone tagged me on Facebook in the comments section of a Daily Mail post.
They’d covered Tushbaby? THEY’D COVERED TUSHBABY!
The internet is a strange beast. Soon after, other media outlets started posting about Tushbaby — and I only knew when someone tagged me. Before long, I was tagged in posts by Cheddar, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, Tip Hero, Parents, Buzzfeed, and Redbook, to name a few.
We had over 10 million views, and sales were booming! Four days before the campaign ended, Insider featured us, and that went viral with over 50 million views. We closed the Kickstarter at $124,000 and sold another $75,000 within seven days of the Insider post.
A week before wrapping up our Kickstarter campaign, I got the call I’d been waiting for. “Book a flight to LA. You’re going to be filming Shark Tank in two weeks.”
Before walking into the tank, I was well aware I could still get cut and sent home at any time. But I had worked so hard to get here; I was NOT going to let that happen.
It was go time. My legs were shaking so badly that I had to sit down for a few minutes. I vomited. I cried a little. The producers were worried about me and thought, maybe I should have a chair on set, but I declined. They reminded me not to lock my knees on stage, or I might faint.
I stood in front of the big double doors, holding my baby on my hip with my husband to my right. I held my breath, the doors opened wide, and we started to walk in.Here we are, almost five years later, with an award-winning hipseat carrier and a rapidly expanding product line. I am so grateful for the friends and family who helped me along the way, and for our Tushbaby family — that’s you! — for allowing us to be a part of your parenting journey.