Old Snowmass, Carbondale entrepreneurs pitch ski-related device on ABC’s ‘Shark Tank’
The Aspen Times
Editor’s note: This story originally ran in the Aspen Times.
Kyle Allen remembers the day he questioned whether skiing was worth the struggle of singlehandedly shepherding his three young daughters and all of their equipment to the slopes.
“It was just such a hassle as a dad,” Allen, a part-time Old Snowmass resident, recalled of the moment nearly 10 years ago. “I thought, ‘If only they had something I could buy to make each kid independent so they could carry their own skis.’”
Upon learning that no such device existed, Allen, who splits his time in Lafayette, Louisiana, and works in the oil and gas industry, decided he would create one.
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Fast forward about a decade after Allen’s initial predicament, the makers of “Ski-Z” pitched the product — a pocket-sized ski tote with a wheel that allows skiers to roll their skis — before the potential investors of ABC’s hit show “Shark Tank” on Sunday night.
“It has been the ride of our lives,” Allen said last week of the time since Ski-Z was cast for the show. “It’s like we’ve been on a rocket since July, since that day in Denver.”
The Ski-Z team consists of Allen, his wife, Tanya, and Carbondale-based broker Nick Palermo. The trio auditioned for the show in Denver in July; by August, they were filming commercials locally, Allen said.
Palermo, the company’s vice president of marketing and sales, and Allen landed in Culver City, California, in mid-September to tape the “Shark Tank” episode.
All told, the process spanned four days, Palermo said, and was “incredibly stressful.”
“What people see on TV is only about 10 minutes. We were out there for an hour,” Allen said. He compared the meeting to being “in combat” and pointed to the psychological stress involved: “The theological side of it is to get you where you’re unstable and get you nervous in that process.”
Fortunately, the two maintained their composure — enough so that “Shark Tank” investor Barbara Corcoran bought 15 percent of the business for $50,000.
“What people see on TV is very real, all the way,” Allen said.
Perhaps a lesser-known fact about “Shark Tank” is there are psychologists on-set to check in with and assess contestants immediately after filming, according to Palermo.
Further, before aspiring entrepreneurs even reach the sharks, they must endure meetings with 10 executive producers and attorneys.
“It’s very professional,” Palermo said of the process. “It also shows how much stress you go through.”
To date, Ski-Z’ goal is to get their product into a number of ski shops locally and nationally by Jan. 1. The company also lists all of its products on its website: skijunk.com.
Allen said “Shark Tank” producers told him that Ski-Z’ five-month turnaround time from audition to air was “one of the fastest” they had seen. Many people will tryout on the show several times before having any luck, he said.
Asked how he balances his many responsibilities, Allen quipped: “I don’t.”
Sitting down and watching television, for instance, is not in the cards.
“By heart or by design, I’ve been an entrepreneur all of my life,” Allen said. “Entrepreneurs are definitely different types of people (who) never stop thinking.”