After years of being on Shark Tank, I’ve seen many different types of people come through the tank. As a Shark, we’re not just investing in the business – we’re investing in the entrepreneur. We look for their passion, knowledge, preparation and charisma. In light of my newest book, You Don’t Have to Be a Shark I sat down to interview some of my favourite entrepreneurs. They each have their own unique stories of sacrifice, failure and accomplishment. What advice do they have for a new generation of people chasing their dreams? Read through our conversation below and get inspired to #CreateYourSuccess.
Find a need and fill it – this is the only recipe for a great business and it’s exactly what Naushad Ali did when he came up with Drain Strain. Often the simplest ideas are the best, and when Naushad shared his simple idea of success when we sat down for his success story – I was completely inspired ! ” If the product is right and our customers are happy, sales success will undoubtedly come” – I couldn’t have said it better myself! Read more of our conversation below for Naushad’s take on his amazing success since meeting me in the Shark Tank.
To your success,
First things first – how do you stay motivated?
My family. I am a real-estate agent full-time in addition to running Drain Strain. When the recession hit back in 2009, it forced my family and I into a difficult circumstance financially. Not only do I never want to be in that position again, but I also want to ensure security for my family and the future of my kids.
Why did you start your business?
After my wife and daughter’s hair clogged our bathroom sink, I called a plumber to help and got a ridiculously high bill. I was inspired to find cheaper solution for preventing clogged drains and couldn’t find anything. I decided that I would attempt to make the product I was looking for, but couldn’t find, myself.
What are your top three lessons learned from the Shark Tank experience?
- Preparation and persistence is the key to success. Knowing I was going to appear before some of the smartest investors in the country and a nationwide audience forced me to think through the product, the numbers and the details of the business and that experience has been critical in going from prototype to successful product launch. Without that experience and exposure, I’m not sure it would have ever happened.
- Shark Tank is an incredible machine. The power of the increased brand and product exposure from appearing on the show has greatly helped open the door to retailers and other partners. I was able to secure retail deals with Home Depot and Lowe’s and currently in discussions to expand distribution through other retailers and Television Shopping Channel partners.
- Everything is about learning. The feedback and comments from the Sharks were tremendously helpful in continuing to improve the product and the messaging. When Lori didn’t quite get how simple it was, I knew I had to change my approach in demonstrating the product. If I were in front of her today, I am confident she would undoubtedly get it and have a different response to Drain Strain.
How did you know that this is what you wanted to do?
I’ve always had a passion for business and inventions. My family will tell you I come up with ideas every week. Drain Strain was the first one that I didn’t take behind the barn and shoot J. It’s always been my dream to be a business owner and a leader. In my other job as a real estate agent, I am the principal owner of Northwest Dream Team, LLC, one of the top producing real estate teams in Washington state. With Drain Strain, I hope to have an even more successful business to leave as a legacy for my children.
What is the definition of success for you or for your company?
To offer the same utility I found in the product for my own family in how effective and cost-efficient it is to as many families and individuals as we possibly can.
Speaking of success, how do you measure it?
We measure success qualitatively and quantitatively. Continuing to add retailers beyond Home Depot and Lowes will be true measure of success. And continuing to get 4 and 5 star reviews from happy customers is the ultimate measure of our success. Because we know if the product is right and our customers are happy, sales success will undoubtedly come. It’s only a matter of time and awareness.
Is there a price for success? What sacrifices have you made to achieve yours?
Time is the biggest price for success – I firmly believe time is the only commodity we have. Having essentially two full-time jobs makes it very difficult to manage my time between businesses and my family. I’ve had to work harder and smarter in order to make sure I achieve balance on all three fronts. The hard work has been worth it. I am blessed to have this opportunity.
Have there been any partnerships that have been fundamental in pushing the business forward?
Thanks to our relationship with you Robert, we’ve been able to work with Deluxe to recreate our brand. We found that the large majority of our customers were women who owned homes or rented, and wanted to market to them better. In that, we’ve worked on the development of a new logo, marketing materials, and website. Deluxe has also supported us in getting found more easily online and researching our perfect customer is. We’ve been very impressed with the quality of their work.
Name a time where you’ve failed and how you learned from that experience.
In 2000, I founded BondRewards, a coalition marketing company designed to simplify the consumer rewards experience for both consumers and retail partners. It was ahead of its time and didn’t reach the success I hoped for. And then I opened a real estate brokerage right before the market crashed. I’ve learned that failure and hard times are a part of life and does not define you. What defines you is how you react to it. You can’t lay on the mat. Life is about fighting until the bell rings.
You’re now in 1000 Home Depot and 500 Lowe’s stores. Amazing! What were the challenges getting into retail in the first place?
Just starting the conversation was difficult without any tangible proof of sales and demand. Knowing how difficult it can be for many businesses who already have their products manufactured, we had a steep hill to climb. However, the legitimacy earned from both airing on Shark Tank and securing a deal with Robert Herjavec, I was able to secure the retail deals.
What was the process like for you and why was it important to be there?
It is a difficult journey and required incredible persistence. While the buyers at both HD and Lowe’s loved the concept, it is always about numbers for them. They had to believe the demand was there and the sales would be there. Based on the initials sales at Home Depot, I believe their faith has paid off and Drain Strain is positioned to be one of their most successful plumbing products. Obviously retail presence in thousands of stores is critically important to achieve the millions of units in sales we believe Drain Strain will achieve in the next few years.
What are the risks and benefits now that you’re there. How has it impacted your business?
The benefit of being in retail stores is that the presence adds validity to the product and the brand along with pouring gasoline on our sales numbers. The risk is that you have to produce and pay for inventory up front and that requires significant capital investment. You have to believe strongly in the product and the sales opportunity or the capital investment becomes a very scary part of the business.
If you could offer anything to new entrepreneurs breaking into retail, what advice would you give them?
Keep pushing if you believe in the product. If you get rejected at first, take baby steps through other channels to demonstrate demand. When meeting with buyers, show them how your product will help make them a hero and find ways to be creative to minimize their risk.
What is one significant goal for the future of your company?
The most significant immediate goal is leverage the initial success of Drain Strain into additional store placements and hotel room adoptions. We want to be in a minimum of 3000 stores and 10,000 hotel rooms by the end of 2017 with both our sink and bathtub products.