Ivan De Luce/Business Insider
- At the "Shark Tank" casting call, I felt like I was rubbing elbows with 600 near-celebrities.
- I saw pitches for everything from keto-friendly donuts to frozen meatballs and snap-on buttons.
- Most impressively, none of the entrepreneurs seemed that nervous.
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The Mensch (a Yiddish word that roughly translates to "a person of integrity and honor") was designed as a Jewish alternative to the classic Christmas tradition Elf on a Shelf. And the seeming gimmick had enough potential that the entrepreneur behind it walked away with a $150,000 investment.
From that December night nearly five years ago, I was hooked. Each week, I’d tune in to find out: Who would wind up dead to Mr. Wonderful? Whose prototype would break during their pitch? Who would wind up embracing Barbara Corcoran in a bear hug when she promised to propel them to success?
As a reporter for Business Insider, I’ve had the chance to interview several "Shark Tank" alums — from the founders of Bombas socks to the high-school sweethearts behind Lollacup — and it always feels like meeting an international celebrity. I mean, these people have been in the tank. What have I done with my life?
Then, last week, dreams came true. I attended an open casting call for "Shark Tank" in New York City, where 600 entrepreneurs (representing about 350 companies) had the chance to pitch their business, in hopes of making it onto the show. That’s 600 near-celebrities!
After a few hours there, I felt emotionally exhausted — and I hadn’t pitched a thing. Here are the parts of the experience that surprised me most:
No one seemed especially nervous
Ivan de Luce
If I were about to pitch my life’s work, with the chance of snagging a powerful investor and landing a spot on national television, I’d be freaking out. I’m not even sure I’d make it into the conference center — I’d just pass out on the line to get in.
But all the entrepreneurs I chatted with seemed … fine. I even spoke with some founders who were a few minutes away from pitching a casting agent, and they were more excited than anything else.
Instead, most people seemed confident …
Ivan De Luce
Patricia Arder, the founder of PillowPeepers (glasses that allow you to sleep on your side comfortably), told me she hadn’t even rehearsed her pitch much since she knew her business so well.
… and were mostly there to have fun
Ivan De Luce/Business Insider
Joseph Chiodi, founder of the Famous Meatballers (frozen meatballs made from an authentic Italian recipe) said he wasn’t nervous because he knew this was a "shot in the dark."
He’d also already won first place on Rachael Ray’s seventh annual "5-Alarm Cook-Off Challenge," which featured New York City firefighters like Chiodi.
- I spent hours in line with 650 people auditioning for ‘Shark Tank,’ and now I know exactly what it takes to make it on the hit show
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SEE ALSO: When the founders of dating app Coffee Meets Bagel turned down Mark Cuban’s $30 million offer on ‘Shark Tank’ 3 years ago, they got dozens of emails calling them ‘crazy,’ ‘greedy,’ and ‘stupid’ — but they still aren’t sorry