NOT every entrepreneur on Shark Tank Australia convinces the 'sharks' that their business is worthy of investment, but mother of three Lauren Martin has big hitters Andrew Banks and Steve Baxter competing for her idea.
Lauren and her daughter Lily pitched their 'Wish U Were Here' dolls to Shark Tank, which are customised dolls which she literally sews by hand.
The cushion-style dolls have a photo print on the front, for children whose parents work away from home, grandparents who live far away or deceased relatives.
Lauren Martin has sewed 3,000 of these dolls, generating a revenue of $200,000 and she convinced both Andrew Banks and ex-army man Steve Baxter her business has 'serious legs'.
During the pitch, Lauren said that the dolls were being bought by military personnel and their families who were missing each other and emotional Baxter was hooked.
"I was armed services for almost nine years, so these dolls would take some pretty special meaning," Baxter said on the program.
Surprisingly, Lauren Martin chose Andrew Banks but she is now in discussion with Baxter who is still keen on the business.
Business News Australia spoke with Lauren Martin and asked her how she developed the concept and why she decided to 'switch sharks'.
Where did the idea for Wish U Were Here dolls come from?
It started about five years ago. My husband worked way out in the mines and he was away for four weeks a time and only back one week and at that time I had my two daughters and Lily was only four and she came out one night and said 'I really miss Daddy'.
I used to sew up little cloth dolls and she said to me 'can you make one that looks like Daddy?'. She cuddled him at night because she really missed him and she was struggling and the whole idea was born that night.
Did you set out to sell and market this? How did you grow the business?
Well, it was just a personal project on my Facebook page and it took off from there on its own. Everybody was saying to me it was fantastic especially for kids or parents who do work away or defence forces, or grandparents that are far away, people with separation anxiety.
Are all your sales coming through social media?
Pretty much all through Facebook at the moment. We have about 35,000 people on our Facebook page and it's just been total organic growth so there is no advertising. People send through videos of their kids opening up the dolls and their reactions to it. A couple of videos have gone viral and it's all from customer feedback.
So, with the investment from Andrew, or Steve, are you putting that towards manufacturing?
I think so. That's the plan for the future at the moment although I don't know how we are going to do that yet. We need to scale this up and at the moment I'm doing it all by hand with the help of a friend.
On Shark Tank, you had both Banks and Baxter looking to invest with you, and you chose Andrew Banks but now you're in discussions with Steve Baxter. What's going on?
On the show, I was put on the spot I didn't even counter offer and there many things I forgot to do. Andrew is fantastic and I was told he would be great for us, but you know what changed things was that I literally had a dream that I'd chosen Steve.
I realised I am probably too small for Andrew, who is also based in the US, and I really want to tackle the Australian market first because I want to help Australian children first and Steve will be best for that.
Not many people get to say they have Banks and Baxter fighting over their idea.
Well that's exactly right and for me it is all about which one is the right fit. They were fantastic people, they both are just unbelievable. So, I learned heaps of things and I am looking forward for the future and what the future will bring.
Business News Australia
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