Shark Tank’s only warm-blooded shark, Lori Greiner is an investor, inventor, and entrepreneur who has become the audience’s favourite on the American reality TV show. The reason – her products have catered to the audience for whom the ABC hit television show has become a Friday night family tradition. But this was the story of 2012. Greiner’s journey prior to this is an inspiring one for entrepreneurs. It is because she herself has walked in the shoes of entrepreneurs that she is empathetic towards those pitching their novel ideas in the reality show, and it is for this reason that’s she’s been fondly called the warm-blooded shark of the show.
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It was 1996 when Greiner was first struck by an idea that would become her gateway to the entrepreneurial world. Having majored in communication and journalism, she was intent on writing a book for which she had already arrived at a title – Fairy tales for the 1990s. But walking into a book store one day, she noticed James Finn Garner’s, Politically Correct Bedtime Stories: Modern Tales for Our Life and Times, a book whose contents could have been the product of her mind.
Greiner was, at the time, making and selling her own jewellery. It struck her then that the market could use a novel product that lets people organise their jewellery better. Having realised the train she had missed with the book, Greiner promised herself never again to let an opportunity go by. With this in mind, and the idea of an invention fuelling her, she dived into the process of bringing this invention into the market.
The product was a plastic container with sliding shelves that could hold over a hundred pairs of earrings. With a loan of $300,000 she began her head-hunt for manufacturers that could make moulds and sample products. She was thorough with her market research as she would stop women on the streets to gain valuable customer perspective on her product. She relentlessly pressed JC Penny, the departmental store company, to shelve her product in their Chicago outlets. Once persuaded, the company signed a deal with her to invent products for them. It was in the same year that she started her own company, For Your Ease Only Inc., to encompass all the future products and patents to come.
Now in the groove of inventing and selling, Greiner had picked up a pace that could not be slowed. She found her way into the Home Shopping Network on cable TV and in her first appearance, sold over 2000 earring organisers in only two minutes. With this pace, it only took her 18 months to pay off the hefty loan of $300,000. In 2000, she started her own show on QVC called Clever and Unique Creations, which established her ability to craft an influential sales pitch because of the audience it held. By then it was clear that Greiner was a natural businesswoman, and she went on to be known as the ‘Queen of QVC’.
It was in 2012 that Greiner made her entry into Shark Tank as an investor. She was clearly one to stand out because two years into the show, she invested in a company called Scrub Daddy (that made texture changing household sponges) which remains, to this day, the biggest success story in Shark Tank history, with a total revenue of $75 million.
Greiner has always had an eye for products with high utility, which has allowed her to connect with her customers in ways that many fail. Her inventiveness that caters to the needs of people has been a powerful tool that has chiselled her brand. Her company now offers solutions in organising not only jewellery and cosmetics but in sectors as wide ranging as cooking supplies and clothes storage. With more than 400 products in the market and 120 US and international patents, Greiner has made her mark as a staunch business woman – the wisdom from which now resides in her book, Invent It, Sell It, Bank It!: Make Your Million-Dollar Idea into a Reality.