The Minnesota mom behind the Busy Bay mat turned down a deal from the Sharks on ABC's Shark Tank.
Beth Fynbo of Oronoco started Busy Baby a few years ago after coming up with a silicone placement that keeps a child from throwing their toys all over the place.
Her creation caught the attention of Shark Tank, and last fall she traveled to Las Vegas to film the episode, unsure of if her segment would actually air on TV. It did, and it aired on March 5.
Fynbo, who owns 100% of the company, went to the Sharks seeking $250,000 for a 5% stake in her company. Lori Greiner was interested and offered $250,000 for an 18% stake, hoping to use her contacts with Munchkin to turn it into a licensing deal that could lead to a big payout for the both of them.
In a back-and-forth with Greiner, Fynbo counter-offered at a 10% stake and then a 15% stake, but wasn't willing to go past 15% and Greiner wouldn't go lower than 18%, so Fynbo took a risk and turned it down.
"I just wasn’t willing to give up 18% of a company I’ve worked my butt off to build and give it to someone who was just going to set up a couple meetings," Fynbo wrote on Facebook. "So glad I stuck to my guns and still have full control of my company with my brother Eric."
But despite turning down the deal, money still rolled in. Fynbo told the Star Tribune she has no regrets about walking away from the deal, adding last weekend family and friends helped her pack 6,000 orders that came in after she appeared on Shark Tank, which is more sales in two days than it usually does in six weeks.
Fynbo says entrepreneurs on Shark Tank often see a bump in sales for weeks and months after their episode airs, and she is hopeful that all the people who ordered the mats after seeing them on Shark Tank will tell their friends about how much they love them, and the company will continue to grow, she told the paper.
From a busy lunch to national TV
According to the Busy Baby website, Fynbo, an Army veteran who runs the company with her brother, also a veteran, was inspired to create Busy Baby when she was out to lunch with friends and their 1-year-olds. She watched the kids "play fetch with their moms," throwing their toys and watching their moms go get them.
She thought there has to be something she could buy for her son so they can enjoy a peaceful lunch.
Fynbo couldn't find anything online, so she made it herself, her website says. The Busy Baby Mat uses suction cups to hold the silicone mat to a table or highchair and has tethers to connect toys to the mat, so when a child throws a toy, they can reel it back in themselves instead of mom or dad having to get up and fetch the toy.
She created the mat in 2017 using household products and later that year sent a video of her prototype to friends and family. In it, she said she'd end up on Shark Tank one day, KTTC reported.
After finishing a 12-week Bunker Labs entrepreneur course for veterans, attending toy fairs and getting advice from other entrepreneurs, she began selling the product through her website in January 2019 and in 2020, the company grew 200%, the Rochester Post Bulletin said.
During that time, she won $25,000 as the top veteran-led company from the Carlson Family Foundation at the MN Cup in 2019 and another $5,000 from the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation. In 2020, she also won $30,000 as the top general division company and another $25,000 from the Carlson Family Foundation for the top women-led company.
And now her dream of going on Shark Tank became a reality.
According to Med City Beat, Fynbo had gotten a Shark Tank producer's contact information before she was ready to pitch her invention. She added it to her email list, so when she sent out an email about the launch of the Busy Baby Mat, the producer was on it.
The producer responded and asked about sales, and then a year later, in June 2020, she was asked to send in an audition tape, Med City Beat says.
In September, the show flew her out to Las Vegas to film the episode, the Post Bulletin says. She had to quarantine in a hotel room for eight days and be tested for COVID-19 multiple times.
Fynbo found out not long ago that her segment would be included in the March 5 episode (not everyone who presents to the Sharks makes the cut to be on TV), and she was excited.
Enterprise Minnesota says Fynbo runs her company out of a fulfillment center in Oronoco, with the mats made in China. But she's searching for a facility that is capable of the silicone mats she needs so she can make the mats in Minnesota, too.
Her Shark Tank appearance came less than a month after another Minnesotan pitched to the Sharks. St. Paul entrepreneur Wenceslaus "Wen" Muenyi appeared on Shark Tank on Feb. 12, showing off his self-cleaning underwear and clothing line called HercLéon. He didn't get a deal with the Sharks, though, MEAWW said.