THEY'RE a husband and wife team with an invention that can help save the Great Barrier Reef, and lives, and Peter and Margaret Powell convinced fellow 'boatie' and Shark Tank 'shark' Glen Richards to take the plunge with them on their business journey.
Peter and Margaret have been married for 30 years and the couple from Cairns have spent 17 of those, and their entire life savings, working on Catch N Release which is an innovative product that is designed to pull up stuck boat anchors.
Margaret was 'volunteered' to enter the Shark Tank on her own and she was asking for a $200,000 investment for 20 per cent of the business from the five sharks who either fund or "maul" the startups and inventors who are looking to take their ideas to the next level.
Greencross founder Dr Glen Richards, internet pioneer Steve Baxter, Boost Juice founder Janine Allis, RedBalloon founder Naomi Simson and investor Andrew Banks all showed interest until it was revealed their patent has only three years to run.
Business is business, and all the sharks withdraw with the exception of Richards, also a boating enthusiast from North Queensland, and he offers Peter and Margaret $200,000 for the whole business, so they can get their retirement back on track.
Richards also offers them five per cent royalties on all sales of Catch N Release forever. With retirement beckoning, they accept on the show but later decide to go it alone.
But the deal is not dead in the water as Richards and the Powells agree to work together on the project with Glen Richards to provide mentoring and guidance as they develop Catch N Release.
Business News Australia spoke with Peter and Margaret Powell about their business idea and asked them what it was like to face the 'sharks in the tank'.
Q: Firstly, talk us through how Catch N Release works, and what it means for the environment?
Margaret: The device attaches to any anchor and essentially changes the direction of how the anchor is retrieved. Instead of pulling the anchor out by the shank, it retrieves it by pulling it backwards from the crown of the anchor. The sleeve is kept in the boat until you are ready to retrieve the anchor. It is then released down the rope or chain, it compresses pins in the device allowing the coupling to come out and enabling the anchor to be retrieved from the crown. As you can imagine, there is a lot less damage done to the marine environment by not pulling the anchor through the reef, sea grass beds or whatever environment in which you are anchored. It is not just the environmental factor though, there is a huge issue with safety. Stuck anchors can cause boats to capsize and there are documented cases of drowning where a stuck anchor has been the cause.
Q: So, when was that "light bulb moment" when Catch N Release was born?
Margaret: We had an incident on our boat where I was on anchor duty, I had pulled the anchor rope in tight and realised the anchor was stuck. Right then a wave hit the front of the boat, breaking the bow sprit and nearly throwing me into the water. We talked to other people and it seemed that it was a common occurrence so Peter decided there had to be a better way.
Peter: I had the idea of releasing a device but it wasn't until I was watching my kids skipping one day. The kids dropped the skipping rope and the handle slid down the rope that's where I got the idea of the sleeve travelling down the anchor rope to activate the device.
Q: You've both personally invested so much time and money in this you must really believe in the concept.
Peter: I grew up on the reef. I spent most of my young years out on the boat with my father or at my grandma's house where the reef was just offshore. My cousin, Ronnie and I spent as much time as we could out there exploring the reef. So, it is almost part of me. Anything that we can do to prevent damage is a good thing.
Margaret: When Peter came up with this idea, I promised him that we would do everything that we could to bring it to fruition because he deserves the credit. He has designed and invented other ideas where other people have always taken the credit.
Q: How did you find the pitching process? Was it as daunting as it looks on TV? Did you have any idea what you were in for?
Margaret: The pitching was absolutely nerve wracking. And yes, even more daunting then it looks on TV. I thought I had a good idea of how it would be, but things are never quite what you imagine! Peter definitely didn't know what he was in for because he kept telling me that it was only me that was going to be out there! I had warned him that he wasn't going to escape that easily!
Q: How is the business looking for you now, what are your plans and how big could this be? Are you still looking for funding?
Margaret: We are happily pursuing the venture on our own and powering on with sales all over Australia. The manufacturers who are in Queensland, are working flat out to keep up with demand. According to people in the marine industry in the USA, the device would be very well received over there. So, we hope to take the device to the overseas market very soon. We are also expanding the range with smaller versions coming out for jet skis and kayaks. Glen's door is always open to us for assistance. However, as far as funding goes, we would always welcome investment from someone who has business experience especially in exporting, so we are open to offers.Shark Tank airs on Network Ten on Tuesdays at 8.30pm.
Business News Australia
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