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Trying out for Shark Tank Eco Flower style.

by Meagan Chapman |

There I was, crying on the phone to my Dad.  I had just blown through two marriages and claimed bankruptcy due to a bad business dealing and a home damaged in a natural disaster, not covered by insurance.  For the first time in my life, I found myself a single mother, on food stamps, and the state was paying for child care so I could work a desk job that had nothing to do with creativity. 

   "Dad, I don't know what to do with my life."

   "Meg.  You have to figure it out;  you're an entrepreneur.  Take one of your ideas and     just run with it."

   "I don't have any money Dad!"

I remember feeling hopeless before that phone call; I shed many tears. I felt motivated and I had a clear picture of what I wanted my future to look like.  I had $247.00 in my bank account and a smart phone.  Within hours, I spent all of my money online; I purchased supplies, and for the next week I stalked my mail box.  

With the supplies I purchased, I created a few dozen wood flower bouquets and took photos of them with my phone before posting them to my Facebook page.  Within hours, all the bouquets were sold; I woke up the next morning feeling optimistic about the future.

Within months the company, I named Eco Flower, had taken over my low income apartment including: kid's rooms, the space under my bed, and my one car garage. My kitchen had been converted into a flower dying area.  

My one car garage.  I couldn't afford an organization system, so I used shopping carts I found in my apartment parking lot.

I traded in my day job for weekend farmers markets and sales made via Facebook;  I hand delivered every bouquet in my 96' Saab.  If farmers market got rained out, I would make a Facebook post inviting people to my home, instead, to get their bouquet;  every dollar counted.  

Growth was a problem and my brother Cole was kind enough to give me $2000 from his tax return so I could keep my supplies stocked.  Together, we decided to try out for the new television series, Shark Tank.  We flew to San Diego on buddy passes provided by my Step Mom.  My brother slept outside in line for me while I slept at our $60/night motel.  Come to find out, standing in line is unnecessary.  Shark Tank accepts all auditions.  

That morning, we gave an unprepared pitch with shaky voices and three bouquets that had been damaged in baggage claim.

 This will go down in history as my first pitch to Shark Tank; three more auditions would follow over the next few years.  Each time, I made it further into the process as I became better at my pitch (my sales were progressively more impressive each time I tried out).

 

A month after my initial Shark Tank tryout (2014), I cut up my food stamp card, paid for daycare with cash, and purchased a new car.  It was a used car, but it was new to me.  I also met a man named Wes.

Wes and I dated a few months and I watched him struggle to pay his bills.  His work took advantage of him.  Because he was a single man with no kids, he always wound up working holidays, overtime, graveyard hours, etc.  During this same time, I had just moved into my first warehouse and hired a few employees.  I found myself needing someone to print shipping labels, box my product, and hand deliver them to the post office.  I convinced Wes to quit his job and work with me to build this business.  Against his parent's advice and his own intuition, he did it because he believed in the vision.  

He eventually found a different way he could help my company grow.  He started coming up with items made of glass that acted as my vase and home decor products.  

Helping my husband make vases.

Together, and with the help of a few good investors and employees, we grew this business rapidly from $8,000/year to just over one million in our second year.  The one thing that kept bothering me was Shark Tank.  By my second year in business, my company was thriving, I had promising numbers, but I still wanted a relationship with a Shark.  I convinced Wes, to drive to the 2016 Las Vegas auditions.  He held my hand, calmed my nerves, and walked into my audition with me.  

I can't tell you what happens during the audition process, but I can tell you that after we walked out of that room we were on cloud nine.  We knew we had nailed the audition and we were sure that this was our year.  And...we were in Las Vegas.

So naturally, we ran to a lucky little wedding chapel and were married.  I found a white dress at a thrift store, I used one of the bouquets I brought for my Shark Tank audition as my wedding bouquet.  The photographer was our witness; it was perfect.  

The day I married my biggest supporter in Las Vegas :)

Over the next six months, we continued to grow this business as a family.  I found myself grabbing my kids McDonalds for breakfast, and something quick for dinner.  Gone were the days of enjoying evening sunlight and relaxing weekends.  

 

As the business grew, I was given the opportunity to teach others about entrepreneurship;  I gave speeches to grade school students and small business groups.  Finally, I had something people valued which was my experience.  As a former dance teacher, I have an inherent knack for communicating my knowledge to anyone who is eager to learn.

 

 

In June 2016, I received the news that I made the final round of Shark Tank which included the opportunity to pitch to the sharks.  Giving my pitch to six people who far out ranked me was the most horrifying experience I have ever survived.

A few of my favorite and least favorite things about this Shark Tank experience:

1.  I can't remember what I said in the tank.  My episode airs tomorrow and I am terrified because I honestly don't know what to expect.  From the moment I walked into the tank to the minute I walked out is a complete blur.  The first person I saw after my pitch was my husband.  When he asked me if I got a deal, I gave him a blank stare and said "I don't know." lol!

2.  Meeting likeminded entrepreneurs.  While I was filming Shark Tank, I got to meet dozens of other entrepreneurs with equally great ideas.  Let's face it, some ideas were much better than mine.  It was humbling and inspiring to sit next to people who KNEW the daily struggles of entrepreneurship.  Having conversations with people I had so much in common with was exhilarating and somewhat humorous.  They knew the importance of KPI's, what it's like to learn how to do payroll for the first time, and the difference between social media marketing and PPC marketing.

3.   Meeting the Sharks in person.  I didn't get to spend any time with them outside of the tank, but they are much different in person.  Someone who appears to be glamorous and well spoken on TV was much different face to face.  Mark Cuban, who I thought would be the most intimidating was the most genuine person on the panel.  I looked him in they eye and I saw someone looking back which meant more to me than I thought it would.  Mr. Wonderful was exactly as he is on TV; he did not disappoint.

4.  Bragging rights.  One of my favorite moments of this process was logging into Facebook and posting a status that said,"I made it on Shark Tank".   My friends and family went crazy.  I'm not a huge fan of having the spotlight, but I felt like this moment was one worth announcing.  With the announcement came well wishes from old friends, family members I haven't seen in years, and friends who have been rooting for me all along.  

5.  Mean people.  The one thing I am worried about is criticism.  I worry that people will see my episode and poke fun at me.  In the tank, I revealed a lot of details about my private life; most of those details are embarrassing.  It would break my heart if I looked at comments on social media that attacked my physical appearance, my past mistakes, or my somewhat simple business idea.  I signed up to be an entrepreneur, but I also realize that being on a television series like Shark Tank makes me vulnerable to mean spirited people.  It is what it is, but it will still sting a little. 

 

During the last two years, my business has gone from a low income apartment to a 30,000 sq/ft warehouse with over 80 employees - to a $5,000,000/year business (and growing).  I am happily married, my kids are thriving, and we are currently trying to have a third child. I moved out of my small apartment into a larger apartment with a fancy jetted tub and walk in closet.  I recently took my first vacation to Hawaii and I enjoy having the financial freedom to buy my kids what they need.  Every time I fill up my car with gas, I reflect on the days of putting four dollars and some change in my tank praying it would be enough to get me to pay day.  In just two short years, I have come a long way, but I will always strive to reach for the sky.  I would like to think that I am capable of a life long career that will have a powerful meaning that outreaches anything I ever imagined.  

My new building in downtown Ogden Utah!

I am surrounded by a support system that I don't deserve, but am incredibly thankful for.  Big shout out to my investors Travis Johnson and Ryan Westwood!  My employees are as dedicated as they come.  My husband would work himself to death if he knew it would help me reach my goal and my kids have started to come up with their own business ideas, proving that I am having a positive impact on their lives even though I am not able to be the stay at home mom they deserve.  

Life has improved greatly since I decided to take control of my life and career.  If you have aspirations of starting your own business, do it!  You never know what dreams may come...you just never know.

Watch me on Shark Tank season 8 episode 7 on Friday, November 4th.  

Meagan Bowman, founder

Eco Flower