Even your best business idea could be undermined by entrepreneurial inexperience.
Conor Lewis learned that lesson the hard way on the latest episode of ABC’s “Shark Tank,” when billionaire Mark Cuban gave him a sharp dose of reality. “You’re a great case for what not to do as an entrepreneur,” Cuban told Lewis. “People can learn a lot from your experience.”
A father of two girls, Lewis founded his start-up Fort in St. Louis in the summer of 2020, after losing his marketing job at the outset of the coronavirus pandemic. The company makes kids’ pillow fort sets – foam cushions with magnets to keep them in place – meant to save parents from worrying about kids dirtying or damaging their couch cushions.
In January 2021, Lewis launched a Kickstarter campaign to help generate interest and bring in some capital. It worked even better than he could have imagined: Lewis, who said he’d hoped to raise around $25,000 through the campaign, ended up selling $3.1 million worth of pillow forts in just two months.
“My claim to fame is I sold $2 million of products in 10 hours,” he told the Sharks.
By the time of the episode’s taping, Lewis told the Sharks, he’d captured roughly $4.5 million worth of total sales, thanks to the Kickstarter campaign and support on social media, where Fort has nearly 32,000 Instagram followers. He asked the Sharks for an investment of $500,000 in exchange for a 10% stake in Fort, which would value the company at $5 million.
So, what was the problem?
First, at the time of the episode’s taping, Lewis had only just started shipping products to customers. That was partially due to pandemic-related production delays, Lewis said — but more notably, he’d underestimated how popular the Kickstarter would be, leading to significantly more demand than supply.