It was a tense few moments on the set of ABC’s “Shark Tank” for siblings Berry Wanless ’99 and Betsy Johnson and for their business, SwimZip, a line of nearly full-coverage bathing suits for kids, complete with zipper for easy dressing.
They were standing before the five “Sharks,” asking the mulit-millionaire and billionaire entrepreneurs for $60,000 in exchange for a 5 percent stake in the business. The sharks are notoriously tough on business-makers—after all, the premise of the show puts budding entrepreneurs before these investors, who put their own money in ideas and products that may or may not pan out.
And they weren’t shy with Wanless and Johnson either, as seen by audiences across the nation when the episode aired on Friday night.
Four Sharks ducked out of the deal with the show’s signature tagline: “I’m out,” despite Johnson’s personal story of being diagnosed with skin cancer at age 26 and wanting to offer bathing suits that protect children—and soon adults— from harmful UVA and UVB rays (SwimZip suits block 98 percent of harmful rays from the sun).
But one Shark saw the potential. Lori Greneir, aka the “Queen of QVC” who currently holds 120 U.S. and international patents, offered the SwimZip team an alternative: $60,000 in exchange for a 20 percent equity stock.
“Sometimes you just have to get behind people who are doing the right thing,” Greneir told Wanless and Johnson. After a failed counter-offer from SwimZip, the pair took what they could get and walked off the set with smiles and a high-five.
SwimZip already brings in the cash with sales of $250,000 in their third year, and the suits are featured on Amazon and on Target’s website. Actress Jessica Alba’s daughter, Honor, even has a suit. According to SwimZip’s website, Honor was seen sporting the “Sassy Surfer” design in Cabo last year.