Online Exclusives

Unshrinkit Is Undeterred

By Christine Esposito, Associate Editor | December 21, 2015

The biggest night in this startup’s history didn’t go as smoothly as planned, but the company’s co-founder is confident about the future of her specialty laundry product.

They say that scoring a spot on “Shark Tank” is the equivalent to buying a 30-second Super Bowl ad. That’s just what Unshrinkit had done. The company, which makes a specialty laundry aid that un-shrinks wool clothing, was primed for its big night on the hit TV show where millionaire investors bid for—or balk at—a stake in fledging companies.

Unshrinkit co-founder Des Stolar had done her due diligence; she and her partner and fellow Harvard Business School grad Nate Barbera talked with fellow entrepreneurs who had appeared on the show, made sure their website was ready to handle a significant jump in visitors and hired extra customer service reps to answer calls. There were a dozen or so parties set up around the country to watch the show live and support Stolar and Barber’s appearance via tweets and Facebook likes.

“For any consumer good, particularly in the household space, this is the holy grail,” Stolar told Happi in a phone interview.

But UnShrinkit’s big night was Nov. 13, 2015—the same night as the tragic terrorist attacks in Paris. ABC, which had emailed Stolar about the show being preempted, did air the episode as planned.

But something was clearly different.

According to Stolar, their segment went well (Maverick Owner Mark Cuban took a stake in the startup), but there was only a fraction of 70,000-80,000 hits that would be coming into the company’s Facebook page or website or Twitter.

“It was a quarter of what we expected,” she said, adding that the other companies that appeared that night on show were reporting similar low numbers.

The next morning, Stolar was able to find data that showed the same amount of viewers as usual had watched Shark Tank that night.

“There was an overwhelming sense that something had failed,” she said.

Stolar and Barber decided that they would give it a week; if there was no movement with distributors or retailers or on the website, they would “close up shop,” she said.

But later that day, the duo began to see an uptick in sakes, visits and social media.

It turned out that Unshrinkit “had legs,” according to Stolar. When Paris wasn’t at the forefront of their minds, people went online, made a purchase or emailed the company.

“It reminded me that there will be times in the CPG space when you will question yourself and your product. You have to give your product some breathing room. And not be too rash.”

She continued, “At the end of the day, I’m satisfied with where we are now.” 

And where they are headed—specifically to one of of the biggest specialty retailers in the US. According to Stolar, shoppers can expect to see Unshrinkit in Bed, Bath & Beyond shelves in January/February. The product can also be purchased on Amazon and inside a select number of specialty shops too.
You can learn more about Unshrinkit in our detergent market feature scheduled for the January 2016 issue of Happi.

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