Browns circling the waters for deal on ABC’s Shark Tank
Two Bermudian brothers will appear on hit ABC television show Shark Tank, hoping to win the patronage of a big-league business honcho.
Trey and Donovan Brown, sons of former premier Ewart Brown and Priscilla Murray Brown, will be pitching their car air freshener business Ride Frsh on Friday evening.
In the reality business show, entrepreneurs make business presentations to a panel of six investors or “sharks”, who decide whether to invest in their companies.
The sharks in the tank for their pitch included: Mark Cuban, the bestselling author, billionaire investor and owner of the Dallas Mavericks NBA franchise; Barbara Corcoran, bestselling author and billionaire commercial real estate mogul ; Kevin "Mr Wonderful" O'Leary, the bestselling author and billionaire principal of O'Leary Financial Group; Robert Herjavec, an Eastern European refugee who became a bestselling author and tech billionaire; and, Lori Greiner, the popular “Queen of QVC”, a self-made inventor and entrepreneur who created and marketed more than 1,000 products and holds 120 US and international patents.
So far, season 14 has also included other “sharks” such as Peter Jones, chairman and chief executive officer of Phones International Group, and Emma Grede, the British businesswoman who is co-founder and CEO of Good American, a founding partner of Skims and co-founder of Safely.
“If we are successful, we will do a deal with one of the sharks,” Trey, 34, told The Royal Gazette. “That gives us access to capital to grow our business, resources, television appearances and access to companies that could help us.”
The brothers are Los Angeles, California residents. They applied to the show four times, starting in 2018, before they were accepted.
“This time one of the producers from the first time we applied saw us and said, ‘You know what? I have to get these guys in, because they are relentless’,” Trey Brown said.
They applied in February and got a call a month later to say they had been selected for the show.
“The next three months was communication between us and the producers,” Trey said. “We talked about what our pitch would be and what our stage presence would look like. We filmed in July.”
Donovan, 32, said the hardest part about the show was managing their own expectations and anxiety. To add to their stress, not everyone who films with Shark Tank actually appears on television.
“It is nerve-racking in terms of waiting to finally hear if you will be on air,” he said. “We did not find out we would be airing until a week and a half ago. It was also difficult not being able to talk to anyone about it.”
They cannot talk about the outcome of the show until after their episode has aired.
The brothers said the idea for the business happened over “pizza and beer”.
After graduating from the master’s in entrepreneurship and innovation programme at University of Southern California, Trey was looking for a business idea. Donovan was working in Los Angeles in advertising and music after graduating from Howard University.
“One day, I was walking down the street in LA when I noticed that every car had those air fresheners shaped like trees,” he said. “I thought these air fresheners have not changed since my grandfather’s time.”
The idea to give car air fresheners a makeover was born. Since 2018, Ride Frsh has been offering air fresheners for the car in fun shapes and scents. They have even partnered with the Nickelodeon channel to sell their items in the shape of cartoon characters such as Sponge Bob Square Pants.
“We have just signed a deal with Auto Zone to sell them in 6,000 of their locations,” Trey said. “They are also in 2,700 Targets, and we are in talks with Dollar General.”
He said even if they do not win Shark Tank, the fact that they appeared on the show is already opening doors for them.
The brothers attended Francis Patton Primary, Harrington Sound Primary and Bermuda Institute. They are best friends, and have run other businesses together including WeEmoji, a few years ago, that offered racially diverse emojis.
Donovan said both their parents have given them support and advice. Their mother is an independent board director and president of consulting business Concordance in Bermuda.
“They are not involved in the day-to-day running of the business, but they have helped us get to the point where we can manage and run a successful business,” Donovan said.
The brothers admit to being very competitive.
“We are going into the tank with the sharks, but we are sharks,” Trey said. “We are not guppies for the shark to eat up. That is not in our DNA.”
Ride Frsh products are not yet available in Bermuda, but the company is looking for a young entrepreneur who would like to distribute the product on the island.
Their episode of Shark Tank airs on Friday evening on ABC at 9pm.