Google search kills Shark Tank pitch
A BUBBLY eco-entrepreneur could only watch on helplessly as her claims were debunked in real-time by a simple Google search during cringe-worthy scenes on Tuesday night's Shark Tank.
Melbourne mother and daughter team Irina Zikner, 56, and Lilly Stesin, 36, entered the episode seeking a $110,000 investment for 30 per cent of their company I Love Earth, which sells a range of collapsible, reusable silicone coffee cups and containers.
The cups, billed as a "twist on conventional reusable coffee cups", are currently stocked in more than 60 cafes in Melbourne and Byron Bay and the company has already made $15,000 profit off sales of $32,000.
"We became really, really concerned about the situation of waste pollution in Australia, where one billion coffee cups annually and growing end up in landfill," Lilly said.
"We realised that the reusable cups that are out in the market today had several fundamental problems - they were leaky, they were bulky, if they were made of glass they could break, and if they were made of plastic they could leach harmful chemicals into the hot drinks."
Enthusing about how they were going to change the world and cut down on waste, Lilly said they were "more than just a brand".
"We're a movement," Irina added.
While the Sharks - with the exception of eye-rolling tech entrepreneur Steve Baxter - loved the pair's energy, they struggled to get straight answers to their questions and quickly found nothing about the business added up.
"What does one of these cost to make?" asked investor Andrew Banks.
"Okay, so at the moment, because we don't have economies of scale, at the moment it costs us to make, and don't get frightened because it is a little bit expensive …"
"Just tell us the number," Andrew cut in.
"It's $5.20, yeah but wait, that's including shipping, that's including taxes, that's including duties, that's including all of our marketing ..."
Greencross founder Glen Richards jumped in. "Can you get rid of all the fluff and just go straight to the real cost of making that, landed?" he said.
"I can get it down to, if I order 100,000 units from our factory, $2.20," Lilly said.
Glen was concerned that the lid and heat sleeve were made of plastic, so the product wasn't as environmentally friendly as they claimed. He added he was "a little worried" to learn, upon further questioning, that the silicone portion would only last for 18 months.
Then it was Steve's turn to get stuck in.
"Are you the only people to do collapsible coffee mugs?" he asked.
"Yes, in Australia we're the only ones that are doing collapsible coffee cups," Lilly said.
Steve wasn't having it. "That makes no sense," he hit back.
Lilly tried to explain. "No, no, no, so in America there is one other company that does collapsible silicone coffee cups, there's just one other competitor," she said.
"Just one other? So if I were to Google it I wouldn't find like about the first page full of competitors?" he asked.
"No, not a brand," Lilly said.
So Steve whipped out his phone to have a look.
"They're everywhere," he said, reeling off Google search results.
"'Shop for collapsible coffee cup … Silicone coffee cup collapsible … Portable collapsible.'
"When you're talking to investors, don't have them Google it, find the competitor, and then wonder what else you've told us that's not correct. That's the problem you've now got.
"Now honestly, I don't like the feel of it, [and] I don't like being preached to when it comes to my choices in consumer goods."
Steve pulled out, followed by Andrew, who said felt the cost of making the product was too high. Glen said he thought their movement was "really important", but they needed to do a lot more work around the materials and design.
RedBalloon founder Naomi Simson said she loved their passion but felt the business wasn't unique enough, while Boost Juice founder Janine Allis said she wouldn't invest but might be willing to stock some of their products once they fixed the design.
They pair said they weren't fazed because "we know we're going to make it".
"We have the belief," Lilly said.
Shark Tank returns to Channel 10 on Tuesday, July 24, at 8.30pm.