February 18th, 2016 By Marisa Jackels, originally appeared in Emerging Prairie
Fargo locals Brian Brasch and Erik Hopperstad, co-founders of the fitness equipment manufacturer PRX Performance, will appear on ABC’s show Shark Tank on February 26. [Edit: They will now be appearing on Sunday, February 21, at 10/9 CST.]
Out of 69,200 applicants who applied either in person or via video submission, 120 companies were picked to appear in front of the “sharks”. PRX Performance was one of them. They are one of the first (if only) North Dakota based companies ever to appear on the show.
PRX Performance is a Fargo-based company that sells compact cross fitness equipment, primarily foldable squat racks of their own design. After a workout, the equipment folds within inches of the wall to keep space open. The company totes phrases like “lift big in small spaces,” and “garage gym.”
They cater to the rapidly growing world of CrossFit, one that Brasch and his teammates have been a part of for years. In the three years of business, they’ve started selling in Scheel’s, Play It Again Sports, and shipping to places as far as New Zealand and Australia. They have even sold equipment to the only 5-star hotel in Moscow, Russia, Brasch said.
Because of his background in CrossFit, long-time Shark Tank investor Daymond John was the main “shark” that Brasch and Hopperstad zeroed in on when preparing their pitch, Brasch said. (Fun fact: John was recently in North Dakota presenting at a conference in Bismarck.)
“He [John] is a CrossFitter, he owns like 6 CrossFit gyms,” Brasch said. “He was number one when you think, ‘who do you want to partner with?’ This is someone you’re going to work with on a regular basis.”
Brasch and his team have been waiting 8 months to make the Shark Tank announcement.
“The hardest part is, we filmed last June and couldn’t say anything about it,” he said. “It’s hard going through it, and having the silent aspect to it.”
The idea to apply came in December 2014 after Hopperstad, an avid Shark Tank watcher, realized the show was doing open casting in Miami, FL a day before they would be there for a conference. After posing the idea to Brasch, he asked, “What do you think?”
“I’ve moved our flights already,” Brasch responded.
In Miami, they waited for two hours among thousands of applicants to pitch PRX Performance in a single minute. “One minute to make an impression,” Brasch said.
Apparently, they did. But after that, all details are under a strict non-disclosure agreement, Brasch said. He did share that behind-the-scenes, there’s no funny business. They were strictly forbidden from talking to the sharks until pitch time.
“You always wonder about a reality show, if there’s any side things to it,” he said. “But it’s the real deal.”
Other than that, what happened in the tank, stays in the tank. At least until this Sunday.
Regardless if they landed a deal or not, the appearance on Shark Tank is expected to skyrocket PRX Performance sales, Brasch said.
In 2015 a reported 6.9 million viewers watched the show. In 2013, Shark Tank produced TJ Hale stated that the marketing value of appearing on the show was around $4-5 million – and it has only grown since then.
“To take a small business from Fargo, North Dakota and give it six minutes on national television… it’s invaluable for a startup to have that kind of exposure,” Brasch said.
As a serial entrepreneur with a few other ventures, Brasch has presented in front of venture capitalists before, he said. But “being in the tank,” as they say, was a whole new level of pitching.
“Going in front of a venture capitalist is one thing. But when you’re in front of five people for a short period of time, it’s intense. We’ll obviously see how that unfolds on Friday [Sunday] . It’s not for the weak of heart, that’s for sure,” he said, laughing.
The big question is – if they do get a deal, will it be with Daymond John or with Robert Herjavec, the self-proclaimed “sporty shark”? Will Herjavec do some pull-ups, as he did here? Tune in on Sunday, February 21 to find out.
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