Our day started at 03:00, with wheels up from SD at 04:15.
By Temecula the southbound traffic was stacked heavily in the morning darkness, no later than 05:00, and as we sped north we considered the consequences of beginning each day with two hours of intense gridlock traffic.
Arriving 06:00 at Morongo Casino in Cabazon, CA, we crossed the gaming floor to the Shark Tank open casting call lineup. The early-comers had arrived at 10:00 PM, establishing their positions while taking turns feeling out loose slots and waiting in line. Many had fold-out chairs, some leaning with laptops against a wall, some with papers scattered, hurriedly completing their applications.
We walked down the line sizing up our competition, the field as thick as the cigarette smoke. Each person had a briefcase, a folder, or manilla envelope, or just a rolled, up, tattered, half-legible stack of paper, while billboards, devices, contraptions and prototype inventions littered the way.
As we reached the end of the line we estimated there were 200 people in front of us, but we were early still. As the sun rose over the low mountains, dozens on dozens of hopeful entrepreneurs began arriving at the scene.
The applicants and the products they peddled spanned all possible levels of the spectrum, from the most brilliant and well-thought to numbingly unimpressive, and everything in between. Some were older, younger, some well-dressed and impressive, others shoddy or unkempt. Some were sharp and thoughtful, others simpler, yet all convinced their idea was worth a million bucks. The line stretched around the back of the casino, there were hundreds, maybe a thousand.
Everyone’s got their schtick.
El Chuckarino arrived with ground support, laying down suppressing fire with a full length black curly wig, that tucked just right under his new soft lid, would have you believe he was a cagy longhair veteran. We had a certain presence in line.
The field was set. The contestants were ready. It was pitch or go home.
At 09:15 the casting team, consisting of five Associate Producers (APs), came down the line distributing wristbands. We’re group 2, #356. Come back in three hours they said, so after a rest, a feed and several run-throughs we dutifully reported back to the lineup at high noon.
Waiting again, the warm and resilient Santa Ana wind blew a thin coat of dust into our eyes as one hopeful entrepreneur after another emerged from the pitch room. Some appeared disheveled, others confident, one apparent couple yelling angrily and blaming each other all the way out of the parking lot.
An older man approached our group, imploring us the casting crew was kind and would, “help you out if you get stuck,” and “it’s really nothing to be nervous about.” People were comforted by this.
At long last we were led inside, to a medium-sized hotel conference room, where a sectional wall divided the space in two. On the side in which we entered there were perhaps 100 chairs arranged in lecture-style formation. From there we could see through a large, open double-door to the other half of the space, the pitch room. Here there were five tables set up, each with an AP behind it, all listening to pitches simultaneously.
Staging for their pitch, the applicants were lined up along the wall leading to this door. When it’s your turn, you go into the room where you’re directed to the first open table and pitch the AP sitting there. Meanwhile other applicants are setting up, pitching, breaking down, saying thank you again and finally leaving the room, all in relative peace and harmony.
Shortly after our group entered the waiting room we were briefed with helpful information, such as what the casting crew would be looking for. “Passion, enthusiasm, excitement for your business.” Um, no problem.
We were given a few reasonable rules, like please don’t stand too close to the table, be sure to thoroughly explain how your product or invention works, and finally, we don’t shake hands, not to be mean at all, but, like yeah we’ll fist bump you.
On completion of this brief we were left to wait again, at least out of the dust this time. And the numbers started counting. Every 10 minutes another five numbers were called to line up against the wall, “320-324….325-329….330-334….”
We were getting close, the excitement was palpable. Most everyone was deep in their own thoughts by now, flipping through notecards, some pacing, maniacally reciting their pitch, some bafflingly still completing their applications.
We do a few live runthroughs in the hall. Full dress rehearsal. Props are coming out, choreography is debated, timing is rehearsed. We’ve got it down, I mean down, we’ve said this a thousand times.
Our number #356 was called at 2:37 PM. And you know what you do when your number is called?
Entering the pitch room, we watched agonizingly as two applicants were packing up their demonstrations and imminently leaving their respective pitch tables. We considered the Associate Producers behind each table, one of which we’d be pitching to in seconds.
Which would it be? Did we want the young lady, who would understand the true need for hair ties, a market flooded by poor quality options, in a sea of sameness? And who would surely recognize the plight of the poor longhaired man, relegated to searching wistfully for an answer to his problems in the women’s hair care aisle?
Or would we prefer the handsome young fellow, a shorthair but with a good sense for fashion, and perhaps a longhair once? Who would understand from a man’s perspective the humiliation of deliberating between different styles and colors of a women’s accessory?
We pored over this for 30 full seconds. They were neck and neck, who would it be?? What was our fate? Literally it could be either one ANY SECOND...and finally the GIRL’S hand goes up and WE ARE UP TO BAT!!!!
Were we nervous, you ask, when we stepped up to the plate?
Hell fuckin no. This is what we trained for.
Well, the bullets started flying and we took casualties fast. El Chuckarino went a little aggressive with the hair whips, exposing himself as a shorthair, and we thought we were pegged. But we re-grouped and we delivered, alright.
We gave ‘em a little from the Hair Ties For Guys™ commercial spot, a little power through the awkward stage, a little courage and commitment, then we gave ‘em the ‘ole hair whips and high fives, the one-two punch if you will, laying on the flow extra thick.
Above all we emphasized, nonchalantly dropping the packs we’d just been touting to the floor, it’s not...about...the hair ties. It’s about the guys. It’s about the community.
It’s about what it means to have long hair.
So, we explained, any of the big box brands and megacorporations can come in, they can copy our products, they can copy our designs, they can even copy our content. But they can’t be The Longhairs, and they can’t copy the heart.
We have to give credit to the Associate Producers at the Shark Tank open casting. The team of five must have evaluated 1,000 pitches at the Southern California casting alone. That doesn’t mean just sitting there, they have to listen attentively, ask thoughtful questions, and make meaningful decisions that will affect every person involved. It’s not just a big responsibility but exhausting, and if I were AP #3 I woulda been doing coffee keg stands too.
Why We Have a Shot
We were told we’d be contacted within two weeks if we’re selected for the next round of casting. With over 40,000 applications for every season of Shark Tank, about 100 hopefuls make the show. That puts our odds at .0025, or ¼ of 1%.
So if you know us by now, you know we have a shot.
But most importantly, we have a community. Because we could say all the shit we want in a 10,000-page application, but none of that would mean anything. If it wasn’t. For.
We’ve been contacted with a request for additional materials, and asked to maintain confidentiality from this point forward. We understand and respect these instructions, so we won’t be posting further updates on this matter.
You’ll just have to start watching ABC, the best network on television! Sundays at 9:00 from here on out. And in case any of the great folks at ABC are reading, you’re welcome to offer your words of encouragement in the comments below.