Stern MBA candidate Kyle Bergman pitched Swoveralls, a clothing line of sweatpant overalls, on ABC’s “Shark Tank” on Monday, asking for $150,000 in exchange for 15% equity. All five sharks declined to invest.
Bergman started his company, The Great Fantastic, in March 2017. His Swovies, as he refers to them, combine the comfort of sweatpants and the functionality of overalls to create an article of clothing ideal for the common Greenwich Village millennial.
In an interview with WSN, Bergman said that friends would always tell him that he should go on “Shark Tank,” but he never seriously considered it until a friend introduced him to a casting director for the show. He met the casting director last July and flew out to California in September to film the pitch.
When Bergman first entered the tank, shark Kevin O’Leary jokingly asked him about the practicality of relieving oneself while wearing them.
Bergman played along, saying, “Trust me, I can show you afterward how to go number two in the Swoveralls if you would like.”
The sharks continued to question Bergman about his success so far, but had doubts about investing themselves. Bergman said that he made over $230,000 in the first year of selling Swoveralls, and was looking for $150,000 from the sharks.
Bergman said he’d use the money to focus on existing inventory and expand to other markets, like baby sizes and university-branded Swoveralls. Shark Mark Cuban saw this as a troubling sign, however, and didn’t think there was enough growth in the first place.
“If you saw intrinsic demand, you wouldn’t have to be thinking about all these other markets,” Cuban said on the episode. “It would be, ‘I can’t keep up,’ and that’s not the sense I’m getting, and so for those reasons, I’m out.”
All five sharks declined to invest, with most of them saying that they were concerned about the wide range of colors and patterns available. With so many choices, they reasoned it would be difficult to manage inventory, which was a concern Bergman also shared.
Shark Barbara Corcoran agreed with Cuban, and didn’t want to invest because she didn’t think it was a sustainable business.
“It’s too narrow [of a] market, and on top of that, I think it’s on trend because overalls are so popular,” Corcoran said. “But I don’t think that’s going to last, and I just don’t think it’s going to be an easy climb to make money on this.”
Bergman pitched again to Cuban in January at a “Stern Tank” event with the “Shark Tank” judge. During the Q&A portion, Bergman handed Cuban a pair of custom Swoveralls. Bergman explained that his friend told him about the event a while in advance, so he knew to take advantage of the opportunity.
“[When I found out] Mark Cuban [was] speaking at NYU,” Bergman said. “It almost felt like the guy was following me. So it would be reckless as a small business owner not to seize the opportunity to just give him a pair of Swoveralls, especially with his college logo on it.”
Bergman said that before filming, he spent the summer practicing his pitch to friends and speaking with people who had previously been on the show. Bergman added that doing so was helpful in answering the shark’s questions.
“[It] was a lot easier prepping for that than it was for an MBA exam or something, because all of the data, and the experience was something that I had been personally living,” Bergman said.
Even though none of the sharks chose to invest, Bergman said it was still a valuable experience. He said that in the 48 hours following the episode’s airing, he had gained 20,000 new website viewers.
“When I didn’t get a deal, it was tough,” Bergman said. “You go out, you spend all this time prepping and everything. And when someone says that they’re not interested — the feeling of rejection is universal. Everyone’s felt it to a degree.”
Email Akiva Thalheim at [email protected]