I have watched all 122 episodes of ABC’s hit show, Shark Tank and have seen the sharks invest more than $40 million in products and companies. I don’t tune in, however, because I have dreams of inventing the next best thing. True, products that make life easier are compelling, but they are not the thing that excites me. I am more intrigued by the people behind the products, the ones who put themselves out there in front of the sharks while taking a beating in the process. I can think of entrepreneurs who were so passionate and so well researched that they sold their products with ease. I can also think of entrepreneurs who had ingenious products, but were too arrogant, too unprepared, or too ignorant – these qualities ultimately leading to the shark’s dreaded words: “I’m out.”
Watching Shark Tank inspired me to think about how I might be evaluated by the sharks if I were standing before them, if I was the product being presented. The answer is not so clear. Up until recently, I was a shy person, not very confident, apprehensive about almost all I did. I remember myself as a little girl being terrified to leave my mother’s leg, frightened to speak to other kids, or sometimes to speak at all. As I got older, I quit the first and only sports team I had ever tried out for, fearing failure and embarrassment. In middle school, I kept to myself in classes, even if I was sure I had the right answer to a teacher’s question.
But once I got to high school, something changed. I realized that if I continued to live my life hiding and marginalizing my true value, I would never be able to make any contribution to the world. I would never have equity in anything, because I wouldn’t even be sitting at the negotiating table. I knew that I had to make a change, and that is exactly what I did. I joined a variety of clubs such as Jewish Awareness at Dwight Englewood, Dwight Englewood Fights Against Cancer, Dwight Englewood Supports our Troops, and yearbook. I also went out for the cross country, track, and tennis teams. By 11th grade, I started to take courses that challenged me, while also beginning to speak more in class, even leading conversations. Socially, I emerged into a larger group of friends. But more importantly, I started to grow into a confident person, something I never thought would happen.
One of the biggest steps I took in this process was volunteering at Camp Dream Street, a local camp for children afflicted with cancer. What I found within myself during this experience was the ability to dig deep and overcome my insecurities. I swam, did arts and crafts and danced without inhibitions, bringing huge smiles to the kids’ faces. This success brought me tremendous gratification; it made me realize that I have the ability to impact others’ lives.
By now, I have tried numerous undertakings, and although I have gotten rejected from some of them, I have learned to move on and be excited about my next new marketing strategy. There will always be a shy girl inside of me, but I’ve realized the benefit of her perspective only adds to my valuation. I still don’t know if I could ever stand on that platform and pitch to the sharks. I know that they might call me a work in progress, or say that I don’t quite have a product yet. I am part introvert and part extrovert, part homebody and part wanderer, part student and part mentor, part speaker and part listener. But what I have learned is that value comes in many different forms, and mine comes with a proven track record of growth. I have a lot to offer the world, and I am finally taking this product public.