For Steve Gadlin, the I Want to Draw a Cat For You guy, it all started with a stick figure cat comic strip in high school. A few years later, that same comic strip would be the inspiration for an unforgettable and utterly hilarious product jingle and a startup pitch that would land him a spot on ABC's Shark Tank. But although the project might have started as a joke, securing a $25,000 investment from Mark Cuban and building the business required a lot of time crafting each and every minute detail.
"Making a deal with Mark Cuban felt like winning the lottery. However, I soon realized what I'd really won was a second full-time job," said Gadlin. "As soon as the show aired, I knew I was going to have to hustle 24/7 if I was going to make it."
Here are some takeaways Gadlin learned during the process—and that you should keep in mind as you build your business.
Personality Matters—A Lot
By the time Gadlin appeared on Shark Tank, his "I want to draw a cat for you" jingle already had the makings of being an Internet sensation. Equal parts simple and quirky with a dash of awkward dancing, the video showcased his unique personality while also providing some comic relief that would come in handy when he was pitching to a panel of executives and potential investors.
Despite initially wanting to axe the jingle and go with more straightforward pitch, his song and dance ended up being the perfect platform for talking about his product and helping him stand out from all of the other aspiring entrepreneurs. When you let your personality shine through, you're more likely to seal the deal. In Gadlin's case, he walked in marching to a silly song and walked out with a handful of cash.
Be Ready, Willing, and Able To Fail
As much as you want your startup to be the "next big thing," there's also value in mentally preparing yourself for the possibility of failure. Doing so not only helps to keep your expectations in check (which keeps you from sounding like an arrogant jerk), but it also allows you to swing for the fences and try something completely different (like launching a one-man cat drawing startup).
By allowing himself to fail, Gadlin was able to approach his pitch and his appearance on Shark Tank with a level of creative freedom that might otherwise have not been possible.
Don't Underestimate The Value of "The Slow Burn"
When Gadlin made a deal with Mark Cuban, he felt like he had hit it big. When he only sold 100 cat drawings the night the episode premiered, he soon realized his appearance on Shark Tank wasn't going to be his big "game show" moment—at least not right away. "I wouldn't have been ready to draw thousands of cats in one night. I needed time to think about my business and my customers," says Gadlin. "Although I didn't sell a lot right out of the gate, I made it really easy for viewers to find me online. I realized there might be lots of visitors to my site who aren't ready to close the deal right away so I focused on getting them there and building relationships."
Since the show originally aired, mentions by Mark Cuban on Access Hollywood and on the Shark Tank blog, among others, have helped to bolster sales. Thanks to the slow burn, to date Gadlin has sold more than 7,000 drawings in addition to recently adding a toy manufacturing line and launching a new Cat Drawing Club—impressive results in a relatively short period of time.
Prepare To Capitalize On The Afterglow
The first time your startup has a moment in the spotlight, it's easy to feel like you just won the double showcase on The Price Is Right. But that's just the beginning of the journey. Appearances on television or being quoted by major news outlets can definitely give your startup a quick shot in the arm, but if you're going to be successful and capitalize on that momentum you're going to have to hustle like never before. You've got to do everything in your power behind the scenes to make sure you can handle the heat of the spotlight while also looking for opportunities to take your business to the next level.
What's next for the "I Want to Draw a Cat for You" guy? Gadlin hopes to license his creations for use in books and on television shows. Not bad for someone who is allergic to cats, wouldn't you say?
[Image and video: Steve Gadlin]