Hurricane Sandy Victims helped by Debbie Brooks

Hurricane Sandy reliefHurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on New York and New Jersey coastal communities in October and the residual effects are still being felt. Hurricane Sandy left more than 6 million people without power, caused nearly $50 Billion in damages, and completely destroyed entire coastal communities in New Jersey. Over a month later, things are starting to return to normalcy, but there is still a long way to go. Shark Tank entrepreneur Debbie Brooks, the stylish New York native and fashion handbag designer to the stars who was turned down by the Sharks in episode 314 in season three, decided to do her part to help Hurricane Sandy victims.

Debbie Brooks designs Hurricane Sandy Benefit Concert iPhone Case

I caught up with Debbie last week via phone and she filled me in on what has been happening with her since we spoke after her appearance last spring.  She filled me in on life after Shark Tank and what she's doing to help victims of Hurricane Sandy in the New York metropolitan area. Debbie became involved with the Robin Hood Foundation, a non-profit charity organization dedicated to combating poverty in New York City. Robin Hood is throwing a celebrity concert on December 12, with proceeds to benefit Hurricane Sandy victims.  Performers at the concert include:  BON JOVI, DAVE GROHL, BILLY JOEL, ALICIA KEYS, BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN & THE E STREET BAND, EDDIE VEDDER, ROGER WATERS, KANYE WEST, THE WHO AND PAUL MCCARTNEY. Sounds like quite a show, and it's for a great cause! Debbie designed a special iPhone Clutch/Case with a New York theme to commemorate the event and is donating profits to the Robin Hood Relief Fund established for people affected by Hurricane Sandy.

Debbie went out to dinner last week with her family to a restaurant that just re-opened after being without power for a month in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. “There are still parts of  Staten Island, New Jersey, and Long Island without power,” Debbie said, “I was without power for 6 days. I had to cancel a business trip because of the gas rationing – I didn't have enough gas to get to the airport. My niece's girl scout troop raised over $2K for Hurricane Sandy relief and Paul and I donated a bunch of old baby clothes as well.” Debbie, like many New Yorkers when faced with a crisis, has pulled it together to help out.

Hurricane Sandy doesn't wipe out this Shark Tank Entrepreneur

Hurricanes usually send sharks swimming for deeper waters, but Debbie Brooks is going about business as usual. “We've designed some lower priced items under $100 to be more accessible. We're also starting to create products for men. Everything is still Italian leather. I've been doing a lot of trunk shows to promote the new lines. We're working very hard on our line of iPhone Clutch cases; I've started doing them for the Samsumg Galaxy too. We're also considering a jewelry line and we're doing more with Magnafabs. We're using them on cuff links and necklaces and we're looking into using them on buttons. I'm even designing Andy Warhol commemorative pieces.”

Debbie does a lot of business at her trunk shows and is amazed by the recognition she receives from her Shark Tank appearance. “More people definitely know about the brand because of the show. They're always coming up to me at trunk shows saying ‘oh, I saw you on Shark Tank.' We definitely saw a boost in sales, but the real indicator will be sales during the Christmas shopping season. We'll soon see if the exposure leads to sales this season. The thing about Shark Tank is you never know who is watching or what can happen.”

Shark Tank Aftermath

Even though she is more than a year removed from the Shark Tank experience, Debbie says “I still won't go near the water, I'm afraid of Sharks! I wish we had a chance to pitch Barbara. Lori was kind of mean to us. Right before we taped, we broke for lunch and the producers were telling her to tone it down.” Neither Debbie nor husband Paul watches the show any more, “the wounds are still too fresh. I'd do it again though. It's been good for our brand because so many more people recognize us. It was an over all positive experience and has helped us grow. I'd be a little more light-hearted if I had it to do over and I'd focus on our idea for a flagship store and the products more. We've definitely learned a lot.”

There are intangible perks that come with a Shark Tank appearance too. Certainly helping with Hurricane Sandy relief is a noble perk, but Debbie has had her share of fun as well. “LL Cool Jay let me touch his pecs,” she exclaimed with devilish glee. “People treat you differently if you've been on TV too. I was at a hotel in Florida and needed to check out late. The desk clerk recognized me and it really smoothed things over. I get recognized in the airport all the time too. People want to know about the Sharks and I tell them Mark Cuban is the nicest guy, so is Mr. Wonderful. You want to hear him say ‘you're dead to me!'”

Debbie has a lot of other projects and products in the works, including a Hot Dog Handbag she's asked me to help tout! As a plugged in New Yorker with a growing celebrity clientelle, we have not heard the last of Debbie Brooks. “Let's just hope we've heard the last of that vicious bitch, Sandy!”

 

About Rob Merlino

Entrepreneur, auteur, raconteur. Rob Merlino is a blogger and writer who enjoys the Shark Tank TV show and Hot Dogs. A father of five who freelances in a variety of publications, Rob has a stable of websites including Shark Tank Blog, Hot Dog Stories, Rob Merlino.com and more.

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