U Entrepreneurs Go for a Swim in the “Shark Tank”

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(Photo by Chris Ayers)
(Photo by Chris Ayers)
(Photo by Chris Ayers)

With straightened ties and nervous smiles, 145 entrepreneurs hoped for a bite when they tried out for the popular reality TV series “Shark Tank.”

The Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute hosted auditions for the show at the Spencer Fox Eccles Business Building on Thursday. “Shark Tank” is designed for entrepreneurs who want funding and publicity for their products. Both U students and members of the public lined up to pitch their ideas to the show’s casting crew, some with years of experience and others with just a few months under their belt.

The U previously had alumnus David Toledo on the show with his partner Caleb Light, a UVU graduate. The two pitched their PowerPot concept during last year’s season. Because of this, Mindy Zemrak, a casting director for “Shark Tank,” felt the U had plenty of potential. It didn’t hurt that the university is one of the top 25 schools for entrepreneurship in the nation.

The participants varied not only in their ideas, but also in the progress of their products. Megan Chapman and Alex Ledoux, who graduated from the U in communication, pitched an idea together in hope of getting on the show. Chapman made it to the last 300 of 30,000 entrepreneurs in auditions last year. The two have since built their company EcoFlower, which uses recycled materials to make bouquets of flowers for weddings and gifts.

“We just weren’t chosen [last year], but are hopeful to be this time,” Chapman said.

Conrad Dean, a sophomore in marketing, formulated his pitch only last month. The idea consists of connecting your phone, alarm and shower via Bluetooth so you can start your water heater early and take a hot shower in the morning.

“It’s just an idea so far. I don’t have any prototypes,” Dean said. “I’ll be doing this for my life though, so ‘Shark Tank’ is a good place to start.”

Twins Justin and Jeremy Brooks had an idea for a sports phone app. The brothers both graduated with masters in sports psychology, and since then they’ve played fantasy sports. Two years ago they created a website, and as of last year, a new mobile application that gives statistics for national athletes.

“We are in ‘Shark Tank’ for publicity,” Justin Brooks said. “It would be great to get a deal, but we would love to reach athletes and fans.”

The results of the auditions will be announced to the winners in four weeks.

c.kannapel@chronicle.utah.edu

@chriswritine

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