Though “Shark Tank” has seen its fair share of crazy ideas, sometimes it’s the simple ones that catch on with the public. DudeRobe, a modern bathrobe designed for men, while simplistic in theory, isn’t your average post-shower attire.
Howie Busch, founder of DudeRobe, reengineered the leisurewear to look like your average pair of sweatpants and hoodies – but with a towel-lined interior.
“There are two kinds of guys in the world: guys who wear robes and guys who wouldn’t be caught dead in them. DudeRobe is actually for both,” Busch said on season 9 of “Shark Tank.”
In 2017, Busch launched the company through a Kickstarter campaign. Three months later he pitched it to “Shark Tank,” seeking $150,000 in exchange for an 18% stake.
The Sharks were interested to learn more about Busch’s background – and much to their surprise, a big missed opportunity took place his first year of law school, well before he reengineered the bathrobe.
“In 1996 or ‘7, I get a call from a guy who was working out of his grandmother’s basement, and he asked me if I could do a contract for him. And I said, ‘sure no problem.’ And negotiated the deal and he said, ‘you know I could pay you the few thousand dollars that I owe you, but cash is kind of tight, would you be willing to take some equity?’ My son had just been born. My wife said, ‘listen we need the money you don’t know where this company is going to end up.”
That company was Under Armour – and he didn’t end up taking the equity offer.
“It’s a hell of a story, Howie,” Kevin O’Leary said. “But at the end of the day you’re in the fleece wear business, and that’s a very competitive space. And you’ve kind of combined a bunch of elements into DudeRobe. I’m not saying that it doesn’t have merit, but I’m thinking to myself, ‘if I want any of this stuff, how are you going to get to me? What’s the plan to market it?’ You gotta understand these problems. You’re in the most competitive clothing category there is.”
Looking back now, Busch said he enjoyed everything about his experience on “Shark Tank.” With only three months post-Kickstarter, it was a big step for the company.
“I guess you could say I’ve always been open to opportunities … that’s how I became a sports agent in the first place and how I ended up on ‘Shark Tank.’ And I think that’s critical in business … some people have said I’ve been lucky, but I think the more people you speak to and the more you pay attention to things and are open to opportunities that present themselves, that’s how you create your own luck.”
Busch is excited to announce that DudeRobe has special collaborations in the works, as well as a new product launch coming soon to Kickstarter. “I happen to think it’s a great way to launch a new product … even if you’re an existing company.”
Busch advises budding entrepreneurs not to wait for perfection.
“Get your product or company to be as good as you can at the moment, but don’t let perfect get in the way of progress and momentum. I see this time and again and I can tell you this … whatever you think is perfect will not be what you think is perfect in a year, two years or 10 years. So, get started … and be ready to adapt as you go.”
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