Whisker Works props helped loosen up the business moguls of the Shark Tank, ABC’s hit TV show, thanks to our friends at Pink Shutter Photo Booths, a national photo booth company based in Los Angeles. The show featuring Pink Shutter aired May 10th and can be seen at abc.go.com.
Business interest skyrocketed after the show aired, said Lance Yabut, co-founder and CEO of Pink Shutter. “It’s been astronomical. We’ve had $4 million in franchise inquiries since then.” It came as something of a surprise, he said, because going into the show taping, which happened about 8 months ago, he was focused on the business, not fame. “Meeting some famous people? I didn’t really care about that, but improving my business, I cared about that part.”
Pink Shutter started simply enough — with inspiration from Lance’s own wedding. He said he hired a photo booth company to help make the event memorable for his guests, using a “friend of a friend of a friend,” as he put it. “It was OK, but it took an hour and a half to set it up, and we thought, ‘We can make a better mouse trap than this!’”
That was about two years ago. He and fellow founder Tom Kanemoto, the company’s COO, bought what they needed and ventured into the business for themselves. “We thought we could go out and do this and just make some extra money, and the demand was just astronomical,” Yabut said. “People forced us to expand!”
Their presentation to the moguls on Shark Tank wasn’t without the typical tension, as they made their case to a room of potential investors for why Pink Shutter was worthy of investment capital. The duo invited the Sharks to grab some silly props from a display next to their booth and see why their customers were so happy. “They were stiff until they got into it (the booth),” he said of the Sharks. “They actually had fun!”
That’s where Whisker Works got its cameo — Shark Tank star Barbara Corcoran mugged with a “Gentleman” mustache while fellow Shark Daymond John clowned around with a pink “Tease” smile, as they also donned brightly-colored sunglasses and hats. It was a lively scene as the shutter snapped, and the normally reserved group couldn’t hide their big smiles.
“Props are great,” Yabut said, “but with our photo booths, just the way they’re designed, we have people use themselves for props, too. Props are things a lot of clients want, though.” He said part of the change in Pink Shutter’s business is how they use those props. Instead of renting out the props, as they have been, they’re now going to sell them to their customers. “They get to keep them,” he said.
Ultimately Corcoran, the lone female on the venture capitalist panel, offered a deal they couldn’t refuse, but that was just the beginning. “Since then we’ve been working with her,” Yabut said. “We’re still in negotiations. That’s part of the process. There’s due diligence. We want to make sure everyone’s happy.”
Corcoran’s business advisers with The Corcoran Group have helped give Pink Shutter a push in a new direction that’s fundamentally changing his business, Yabut said. “We’re focusing more on expansion and franchising. Our plan was to open up 50 offices across the United States that were going to be our offices. That was our initial business plan, what we were going to do with or without the Sharks. Since then, our business plan is focusing on franchising.” Of The Corcoran Group’s business advice, he said, “They want to focus more on repetitive business.”
Though dollars and cents are at the core of the business relationship between Pink Shutter and the Shark Tank, Yabut said he’s still enjoying the photo booth business, even with more customer demand than he’s ever seen. “We’re having a lot of fun,” he said. “It’s a ton of fun.”