Founders: Kelly Oriard and Callie Christensen
Season: Appeared on season 9 in the week 7 episode
Slumberkins promotes positive life skills in kids through a cuddly stuffed animal/blanket hybrid. The plush creatures, when paired with a Sleepytime Rhyme book or Affirmation Card, help educate kids about social-emotional learning.
According to their website, each creature is infused with “therapeutic techniques and skill-building exercises through the accompanying Sleepytime Rhymes, [and] the brand was launched with the intention of helping children everywhere.” Creatures, which range in price from $44 to $52, include a sloth, yeti, fox, Bigfoot and hammerhead shark. They teach kids concepts like mindfulness, transitions, relaxation, self-esteem and more.
When Oriard and Christensen originally appeared on “Shark Tank,” they came in asking for $175,000 for five percent equity. The sharks all worried about the fierce competition in the plush industry. Kevin O’Leary thought the premium plush would be hard to sell, while Mark Cuban believed it would be too much work for such a small equity stake. Lori Greiner liked their mission, but worried about the competition as well. Ultimately, the duo left without a deal.
Oriard and Christensen spoke with Business 2 Community about Slumberkins’ experience on the show and what their next steps are. Take a look at the Q&A below:
Q&A with Slumberkins’ Co-Founders Kelly Oriard and Callie Christensen
What was your strategy for navigating “Shark Tank”?
We went into ‘the tank’ knowing well that even if the sharks may not understand our business strategy, we needed to stay true to the mission of Slumberkins and the vision we have for the company. For us, Slumberkins is about education and providing tools of social-emotional learning to as many people as possible. There are very few resources that tackle big issues like change, transition, conflict resolution or mindfulness and as educators, we feel it’s essential that these skills are available and digestible for young children and parents.
How has Slumberkins changed since the episode was first recorded? Since it aired?
Growth and expansion! We are on track to sell over 250 percent more Slumberkins in 2018 than we did in 2017, we are expanding our core line and adding multiple new creature intentions this year, we have introduced our first Stuffie (self-esteem, Bigfoot) which expands our offerings from a 0-4 to 0-8 age range, and perhaps most exciting of all, we have signed a shopping agreement with the Jim Henson Company to bring our Slumberkins to life! Expanding into entertainment will give us an even greater platform to educate young children and families on social-emotional learning.
Is there anything you would have changed about your time spent in the tank, including your pitch and valuation?
Ironically, while Slumberkins are cuddly creatures with intention, the intention behind the company was lost on the sharks. They were not able to see the bigger vision behind the brand to understand its potential and instead just saw us as a plush toy company. We are not in the business of plush toys, we are in the business of education. We could have made that more clear, explaining how the characters are the teaching devices for social-emotional learning, while the brand’s products are tools that create comfort and support learning.
Who’s your favorite shark?
Lori. She gave us some sage advice off-camera that we really took to heart and were grateful to receive.
Despite not getting a deal, do you think “Shark Tank” was the right move for your business?
Absolutely. We’ve had the opportunity since our experience on “Shark Tank” to talk with a lot of people about Slumberkins and that experience gave us both the confidence and the ability to articulate the mission and vision behind the company.
What are Slumberkins’ next steps?
Continued growth of product offerings and intentions, as well as expansion into a wider variety of platforms to communicate with a larger audience. To provide social-emotional learning tools to children and caregivers in an approachable and digestible way, we must keep connecting to the hearts and minds of young children by providing them resources on issues that are most relevant to where they are cognitively and emotionally.
Where do you see this industry in 5-10 years?
Our hope is that social-emotional learning becomes intricately merged with more traditional scholastic education and that both parents and educators increasingly seek and have access to the type of resources Slumberkins offers. We’d love to be the leader of many who support this mission.
What would you say to people who want to start their own business?
Invest in and surround yourself with experts. No single person can do it all, no two people can do it all. It takes a dedicated, inspired and motivated team to push a product to its potential.
What advice would you give to entrepreneurs who want to make it on “Shark Tank”?
Know and be able to clearly communicate your unique selling proposition. If you are looking to make a deal, think through weak spots in your business plan and have answers to how you plan to strengthen them.
Responses have been lightly edited for clarity and length