FunBites is about to become shark food.
The product — a food cutter that creates bite-sized shapes (“great for picky eaters!”), invented by Westport mom Bobbie Rhoads — gets a star turn on “Shark Tank” this Friday (February 6, 9 pm, ABC-TV).
It’s a nail-biting — but potentially lucrative — step for the 3-year-old company. Can a little kids’ product — launched in a local kitchen and basement; packed by Bobbie’s 2 girls and neighbors; fed by grassroots marketing and mommy bloggers — make the big leap into treacherous, reality TV waters where the likes of Mark Cuban lie in wait?
Bobbie can’t say, of course, until the show airs.
But she can discuss the process of landing in the nationally televised “shark tank.” (For the uninitiated: The show features entrepreneurs, who pitch their products. A panel of experts — “sharks” — ask questions about production, marketing and financials. If they bite, negotiations begin.)
Bobbie says, “What ‘American Idol’ is to vocalists and Disney is to kids, ‘Shark Tank’ is to entrepreneurs.”
Bobbie spent 3 years trying to get on the show. She sent applications and videos. It’s not easy: over 40,000 applicants vie for fewer than 100 spots.
But she made it. Last September, she flew with her husband Ed and 2 girls to Los Angeles for the taping.
The show’s staff helped Bobbie hone her pitch. They gave advice on what to wear, and the best look for her hair.
Once the cameras rolled though, everything happened at warp speed.
Still, Bobbie says, it was “extremely fun.” She enjoyed making her pitch, and the back-and-forth discussion that followed.
She targeted 2 sharks: Lori Grenier, because she is a successful, powerful woman who knows all about the right stores, packaging, and reaching consumers in creative ways. And Mark Cuban because he — like Bobbie — is from Pittsburgh. (More importantly, “everything he touches seems to turn into gold.”)
This Friday, she’ll host a viewing party for a few dozen friends and family members.
She’ll serve FunBites (along with adult food and beverages).
Then she’ll get ready for an onslaught of orders. Because — whether the sharks invest or not — national exposure in the “Shark Tank” can’t hurt any product.