Melissa Lay shouldn’t be afraid of the Sharks when she pitches Sandilake Clothing in Shark Tank episode 806. She has a classic David versus Goliath story that makes the Sharks look like guppies.
In early 2015, she was selling shirts with the word #Merica emblazoned over an American flag. She sold the shirt on her website for $25 and it was her biggest seller. Melissa makes each shirt by hand in her garage. She’s a one woman show who started the business to allow her to afford stay-at-home motherhood. One day, a friend called her and said she saw an identical #Merica shirt at a local Target.
Many things crossed Melissa’s mind that day. Her biggest fear was how could Sandilake Clothing go up against Target. She reached out to them and received a terse reply instructing her to mail them a letter. Many people fear the power of a large corporation in situations like this, feeling powerless to do anything about it. Not Melissa.
She posted about it on her Sandilake Clothing social media and her followers went wild. They shared and shared and shared and the issue got national attention. After the story was shared by many news outlets, Melissa ended up on the Today show and other mainstream media. With all the intense public pressure, Target pulled the plug on the shirt and removed it from store shelves. All the attention got Sandilake tons of orders and she has “no comment regarding potential legal action.”
Feel good story aside, Melissa will still need to get the Sharks to see the value in her business. She’ll need to get them to buy into the long term viability of her mini tee-shirt empire.
My Take on Sandilake
The story is certainly heartwarming and I love it when the big company gets called out for trying to screw the little guy (or girl). Kudos to melissa and her followers for bringing public pressure on Target. Had that not happened, they would have tried to screw her over!
That said, the tee-shirt business is a tough business with many competitors. Anyone can design and sell tee shirts without hand screening each one through sites like TeeSpring. The key to success is a winning design and good marketing. Obviously Melissa’s design struck a chord, but the fad will fade and she’ll need to come up with a winner again (and again and again).
Melissa has a solid business and I have a lot of respect for what she accomplished, but tee shirts aren’t an investment grade business. For that reason, I’m out.
Do Sharks Tee up an Investment?
I think the Sharks will have the same concerns as I do. Building a brand on one shirt isn’t easy. Sustaining sales from one incident won’t happen. Mr. Wonderful might bid, just so he can sue the pants off Target, but such comments are more comedy than serious business. Unless she’s willing to give up a significant chunk of her company (at least 50%), I don’t think a Shark gets involved.