March 9, 2021
by Zach Thompson, Staff Writer
Have you ever wondered what it would feel like to be on an episode of ABC’s hit show “Shark Tank”? Well, on Thursday, March 4, 2021, a few pupils got to find out.
Students throughout the Peralta Community College District demonstrated some of their best business ideas in front of investors, hoping to strike a fictional deal with a Shark and win the audience favorite prize of $300.
The event, held via Zoom and hosted by musician MikO Tolliver, was organized by Berkeley’s chapter of Future Business Leaders of America (Phi Beta Lambda), a group dedicated to providing its members with the technical and interpersonal foundation needed to succeed in a dynamic business world. Although the negotiated deals weren’t real, the pressure contestants faced was.
The March 4 event was open to view to the public. Sharks and potential investors included Matt Fisher, president of the retail division at TriStar Products, Lawrence Silva, director of the non-profit organization Makers Paradise, Gabrielle Fong, a junior at UC Berkeley studying business administration and Alex Bacon, a first-year business student at Berkeley City College (BCC).
The first contestant to present was Katharyn Anderson, CEO of Breakthru Therapy. Anderson described Breakthru as a therapeutic alternative to coping with mental health and stress. Along with traditional mental health methods, Breakthru offers clients a “smash session”, a chance to physically release anger and stress by going into a designated room and smashing large items. “Breakthru offers a natural holistic therapeutic twist to the intensity and empowering fun of breaking items,” Anderson said. “The way we do it though, is with a unique focus on refocusing our clients. We refocus our clients after the smash session.”
When asked why she felt a therapeutic approach was a better alternative in comparison to simply charging clients to enter a room to break things, Anderson explained that “the idea is to merge both. I’ve always had a heart for my community.”
Anderson said she thinks mental health resources like Breakthru should be available to all. “I look at those that are in areas where accessibility to mental health care and stress management is scarce, so that is something that’s a part of my heart. However, we are a recreational and fun company, and we don’t marginalize people that aren’t going through an issue with stress management. It’s open to everybody.”
Anderson negotiated a deal with Sharks Bacon and Fisher for 20% of her company.
The next presenter was BCC student and personal trainer Miranda Aguirre. Aguirre presented the Sharks with her business Quick Cakes, an easy-to-make pancake batter that can satisfy any diet type. “I was carrying a full workload both professionally and academically, all while trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle,” Aguirre said. She explained that taking time to meal prep usually took long hours out of her day, and left her stuck eating bland meals that usually spoiled very quickly. “Then came quick cakes,” she said.
“Whether you’re keto, low carb, low fat or just want a guilt-free treat, these will not disappoint.” Aguirre negotiated a deal with Sharks Fong and Silva for 30% of Quick Cakes.
The final contestant was Cole Sexton, who presented the Sharks with his tech company WRKOUT. WRKOUT is a mobile application that utilizes the business models of Uber and Airbnb to provide a marketplace for fitness spaces and services. Along with providing a community where consumers and fitness trainers can connect, Sexton’s app also allows users to rent out their garage, gym, parking lot or yard space to trainers. Trainers can then use the space to exercise with their clients or hold fitness classes. “We are all familiar with social networks. How about a fitness network? One that’s going to provide the personal trainer with a way to keep business coming in, and at the same time providing the average Joe with a way to make money using their space,” Sexton said. “None of that can really come together unless there is a community built and WRKOUT is going to be that community.” Sexton struck a deal with Sharks Bacon and Fisher for 50% of WRKOUT.
Although the negotiated deals weren’t real, each contestant got experience on what it would feel like to pitch their ideas to investors. Being a participant also put eyes on their businesses and gave them some much needed exposure. Once the presentations concluded, Matt Fisher expressed his admiration for the student presenters. “I’m really, really impressed. I see a lot of businesses,” Fisher exclaimed. “I’ve invested in similar businesses like the ones you just showed. I think they are really thought out. The businesses just need to be a little more mature.”
“If I’m in your seats, I’m actually talking to investors, friends and family trying to raise money; and I’m happy to show you how.”
An audience poll was conducted to conclude the event. Miranda Aguirre and Quick Cakes took home the $300 prize with 59% of the vote. When asked what she would do with the money, Aguirre declared she would do what any real entrepreneur would. “Put it back into the company.”