Behind the scenes: How 2 Miami grads ended up on ‘Shark Tank’ with a $500K investment

Recent Miami University graduates Oliver Zak (left) and Selom Agbitor impressed in their high-pressure debut last Friday on ABC's nationally televised show "Shark Tank." The pair, which created the Mad Rabbit skin care company, got investor Mark Cuban to pony up $500,000 for their start up firm. The two are shown on stage during the broadcast. (Provided Photo\Journal-News)
Caption
Recent Miami University graduates Oliver Zak (left) and Selom Agbitor impressed in their high-pressure debut last Friday on ABC's nationally televised show "Shark Tank." The pair, which created the Mad Rabbit skin care company, got investor Mark Cuban to pony up $500,000 for their start up firm. The two are shown on stage during the broadcast. (Provided Photo\Journal-News)

A couple of recent Miami University grads and budding businessmen landed a major investor’s half million dollars on national TV.

Oliver Zak and Selom Agbitor, Class of 2019 finance majors, told the Journal-News they were thrilled with the high-pressure sales opportunity on ABC’s “Shark Tank” and especially about luring acclaimed businessman Mark Cuban to buy partnership rights for $500,000.

Their Mad Rabbit Tattoo company, which sells natural ingredient post-tattoo skin products designed to promote healing while also enhancing a tattoo’s appearance, impressed Cuban enough for him to sign on as a financial backer.

All pretty heady stuff for the two Miami Farmer Business School graduates, who mixed their first batch of skin products a few years ago in an off-campus Oxford apartment.

The pair, both from Ohio, said their once-fledgling company saw their online sales soar in the 15 minutes they were on national TV, garnering $60,000 in purchases.

“We are so proud of Oliver and Selom for their ingenuity and business acumen, but also for their stick-to-it-iveness,” said Miami spokeswoman Jessica Rivinius. “Their success with Mad Rabbit is a wonderful realization of our Farmer School of Business’s emphasis on strategic innovation, informed risk-taking and experiential learning.”

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The process for the show started in earnest about a year ago.

“I got a phone call last April for an application I filled out in November. I was kind of confused, and I thought it was a prank call at first,” Agbitor said. “The caller said, ‘Hey guys, we saw your application. I wanted to have you guys send an audition tape.’ So we did that, and the first one we sent wasn’t really that good. Fortunately, the guy liked us, so he made us redo it.

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“It was like an eight-month long process. There were some months where we thought that we wouldn’t hear back from them and some months we felt like, ‘Alright, we don’t want to do this anymore.’ But we just kept going and kept going.”

Earlier this year, the pair headed to Las Vegas for the show. First, they spent 10 days in a luxurious hotel quarantine, working their full-time jobs remotely and practicing their show pitch.

“A couple of days before we shot the show, we had a practice pitch with producers, and they gave us some more tips on how to improve it and do better,” Agbitor said.

The Columbus native described the Las Vegas studio presentation and intense questioning from a group of internationally known business investors as “terrifying.”

“I was really confident until we started walking and my legs were just shaking as we walked. I’ve never really been a big public speaker. I’ve kind of shied from it. So having my first attempt at public speaking with a million people watching the TV show, was kind of frightening.

“And everything is done in one take. You are in there answering questions for up to an hour. We were in there (TV studio) for 45 minutes and they only showed 10 minutes of that on TV.”

Cuban was one of two on-show investors to offer funding, and the Miami alumni picked the owner of the Dallas Mavericks NBA franchise and his $500,000 as their new partner.

Zak, who is from Cleveland, said the show’s staffers flew them in and put them up in two, high-priced Las Vegas hotel suites, provided room service meals and gave them tests for the coronavirus numerous times as part of their pandemic precautions.

“We were treated like kings,” he said. “We had time to practice about 50 hours that week getting ready for the show. We were quarantined in Las Vegas, so we didn’t have much else to do and so we felt very ready for our moment.”

In a normal, non-pandemic times, said Zak, they might have met and mingled with Cuban and some of the other investors after the show’s taping but instead they later received a congratulation email from the business owner.

“He is very excited to have us on board,” he said.