Father Figure

Company: Father Figure

Founder: Andrew Bentley

Season: Appeared on season 9 in the week 5 episode

Father Figure offers functional and fashionable clothing for new fathers. The paternity wear company seeks “to support and inspire dads” with their line of clothes and accessories that includes bandana burp rags and denim shirts.

According to their website, the lifestyle brand was created “to support and inspire” new fathers. “In our survey of 350 millennial dads in the US we learned that it’s important to nearly all dads to be actively involved in the care taking of their children,” however, many felt as though parenting-related companies needed to better understand their needs with more dad-centric products. Products include a Booker denim shirt, Luca t-shirt, water bottle and bandana burp rags. Prices range from $20 to $128.

When Bentley originally appeared on “Shark Tank,” he came in asking for $80,000 for 15 percent equity. Daymond John thought it was too early for an investment, while Lori Greiner said she could only offer her advice. Guest shark Sara Blakely liked Bentley’s story and the branding of the clothing, but made no offer because she didn’t know what she could add to the business. Ultimately, he walked away without a deal.

Bentley spoke with Business 2 Community about Father Figure’s experience on the show and what their next steps are. Take a look at the Q&A below:

Q&A with Father Figure’s Founder Andrew Bentley

What was your strategy for navigating “Shark Tank”?

  • The application process is rigorous and fairly long. I spent about five months working through the process of contracts, pitch scripts and display designs. At the same time I was going through the selection process, I was also preparing for the show appearance. Being prepared is even more important when entering the Shark Tank, compared to other investment meetings, because it’s such a dynamic environment. They only air about half of the pitches that they film. Given the fact that the sharks didn’t know anything about Father Figure and my pitch was being judged by its ability to entertain a primetime audience as well as my company’s business merits, there’s a lot to mentally juggle. I made sure I knew my material by writing out answers to 110 questions the sharks typically ask. I also researched each investor extensively, including reading two books written by sharks. But the most important aspect of my preparation was conducting mock pitches. I’m a confident speaker but going through full-length mock pitches with friends, in character, helped me see my blind spots.
  • I also wanted to stay healthy. The hyper-drive tendencies I see in my entrepreneur friends can be a recipe for disaster while preparing for big business events. I scheduled time to exercise and relax with people I love. For me, that meant doing my favorite activities—cooking dinner, reading, playing basketball and going for runs.

How has Father Figure changed since the episode was first recorded? Since it aired?

Traffic to my website has certainly increased. I’m also looking at being more inclusive and thoughtful in product development. I am taking some of the feedback from the sharks about product development seriously.

Is there anything you would have changed about your time spent in the tank, including your pitch and valuation?

  • In the weeks leading up to the pitch, I would probably try to relax even more. I was prepping for 12 hours a day and I should have found more balance.
  • I’m fairly happy with my performance in the tank. If I had to do it over again I would have spent more time conversing with and pitching directly to Sara Blakely, the guest shark. She was the closest to giving me a deal and I think we could have worked really well together. I love her story, her personality, Spanx and the fact that she’s such a caring and involved parent. I had some ideas for a potential partnership with her that I didn’t share. I wish I had done that.

I’m happy to announce that I’ll be on an upcoming episode of Shark Tank! You can watch me pitch my company, Father Figure, to the sharks on Sunday Oct. 29th at 9pm EST / 8pm CT on ABC. It’s a dream to be able to share my vision to build a company that “strengthens the loving bond among fathers and their children” with the world. Will I strike a deal with one of the celebrity millionaire / billionaire investor sharks? Or maybe I just trip on the floor rug and spill burp rags all over everybody. Tune in to see! A big thanks to those friends who supported me during this rigorous process, including Fausto Araujo and his beautiful baby, who will be on the show with me. And a super big kiss to my beautiful wife for being encouraging and loving, through it all. #SharkTank #fatherfigureco @wordsbyezekiel @faustojm #parenthood #parenting #abc #sharktankabc

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Who’s your favorite shark?

I have a lot of respect for all the sharks. I bet each of them would be a remarkable conversation over a beer (or wine in Mr. Wonderful’s case). “Shark Tank” was one of my favorite shows before I became an entrepreneur. It’s such a smart show and doesn’t dumb down the negotiations for the audience. That’s quite unique for primetime television. I was targeting Sara Blakely, Daymond John and Robert Herjavec heading into my pitch. Although, a few weeks before, I found out that Robert wasn’t on the panel the day I filmed. I was bummed about that because he seems to be someone that will take a leap of faith on an entrepreneur, despite the existence of business question marks if he connects with said entrepreneur. I appreciate that since the sharks are in their ninth season and it could be easy to suffer from investment fatigue.

Despite not getting a deal, do you think “Shark Tank” was the right move for your business?

Yes, for several reasons. When deciding whether or not to apply for “Shark Tank,” I sketched out the potential outcomes. Obviously, I wanted to get a deal but being on the show and not getting a deal was one of the most favorable outcomes for me.

  • For one thing, it’s such an honor to be selected and I feel thankful for the opportunity. The show received around 50,000 applications and only around 100 or so are aired each year. The fact that the producers believed in Father Figure and me gives me a lot of confidence.
  • I was able to stand in front of America and talk about why I love being a nurturing primary caretaker to my son. And I did it with two of my friends, who are also men of color. There are so many untrue, negative stereotypes about men of color and fatherhood. Those stereotypes aren’t the reality in this country. Being able to showcase three men of color holding their children and talking about whey they love being a dad was a huge win in my book.
  • Also, I received a lot of traffic, sales and attention from the press. In the 24 hours after the show originally aired, I had more traffic to my site fatherfigure.co than I had the entire year since I launched.
  • The preparation process was also a forcing function for improving my business plan and to be more forward thinking.

What are Father Figure’s next steps?

I spent the summer finding a new manufacturing partner in order to decrease cost and increase quality. My next immediate steps are to find some partners to launch new print designs for burp rags and swaddles. I’m looking for some dads that have strong parenting voices in entertainment or sports that want to co-design some prints and products. Eventually, I want to build a workplace that embodies the company’s mission. I imagine a place where being a nurturing parent is encouraged. I love the idea of having a daycare or nursery on site. In terms of products, I want to become a lifestyle brand for fathers. I imagine developing products for fathers at different stages of parenting. Now that I’m a parent to a toddler, I’m thinking, “What do I need as a stay-at-home dad here?”

This feels so right. Our first Instagram post. father figure is here! #fatherfigureco

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Where do you see this industry in 5-10 years?

I think the paternity clothing and accessories industry will start to emerge in the next few years. Right now there are only a few companies that are testing the waters and learning what dads want and what a community of dads needs. Eventually, you’ll see some strong brands present in department stores. I also hope with that rise comes positive content—books, commercials, journalism—about the increase in active parenting in the new generation of dads.

What would you say to people who want to start their own business?

If you can, stay at your current job while you test the waters of your new venture. I recommend a crowd-funding platform like Kickstarter to generate some financial capital and test the demand for your products. I encourage all entrepreneurs to frankly discuss their plans with their family before taking the leap. Starting a business is a group process. You’ll need to think through finances for your company but also your family. Also, be diligent about all aspects of your business plan. Things will change as you move forward but you should have a general plan for production, marketing, brand building and sales.

What advice would you give to entrepreneurs who want to make it on “Shark Tank”?

The process is a ton of work. Make sure you know what you’re trading away when you commit to applying and preparing for the show. Also, make sure to work hard and be kind to people at “Shark Tank” in the process. The production teams appreciate when you get things back to them quickly.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Getting a behind-the-scenes view of the show operations was fascinating. Everyone I encountered at “Shark Tank” was phenomenal to work with. I was surprised at how much they cared about Father Figure and me. They truly wanted me to succeed in the tank and beyond. It was a lot of work but I had a great team at “Shark Tank” in my corner. By the end, I felt close with that production team and miss working with them. They were tremendous at their jobs and the whole thing was a well-oiled machine. At the same time, there was a huge wall between the sharks and the production team when it came to preparation. The sharks really have no idea who walks through those doors. That makes discovery during the pitch super interesting.

Responses have been lightly edited for clarity and length