Imagine being 12-years-old and getting the chance of a young lifetime to appear on ABC’s “Shark Tank” to pitch your skateboard business. And then imagine that Sir Richard Branson is one of the guest sharks that episode, and he offers you $65,000 for a 20-percent stake in your company.
— Shark Tank (@ABCSharkTank) October 2, 2017
This is the reality for Carson Kropfl, creator of the Locker Board. Kropfl’s recent appearance on the season premiere of “Shark Tank” stemmed from a passing encounter on an elevator years ago.
He was in Mammoth and noticed a man with a “Shark Tank” logo on his shirt. Kropfl asked him if he had appeared on the show and found out that the man was actually one of the producers. Kropfl seized this moment, as the astute 12-year-old recognizes, and the rest has been history.
With Locker Board set to celebrate its one-year anniversary on Oct. 9, we caught up with Kropfl amidst his busy schedule of going to school, running a successful business, balancing the demands of a stakeholder like Richard Branson, dealing with an influx of notoriety and being a 12-year-old.
First off, congratulations.
How does it feel having someone invest that much money into your business before you're even a teenager?
It's just crazy. It's awesome. It's my biggest milestone.
Since the show was filmed in June, was it difficult keeping it a secret?
Yeah, all my friends had been saying, "You should go on 'Shark Tank.'" And I was like, "Umm, maybe one day."
Were you nervous standing up there pitching to the sharks? You had answers to all their concerns.
I wasn't that nervous, who was really nervous was my mom. She was really, really nervous.
What made you choose Branson's deal over the other two you were offered?
I chose Richard Branson’s for a couple things. One, he had a higher offer. And two, it's Richard Branson. I was telling myself in my head, "This is really happening," as he was saying, "I'll give you $65,000 for 20 percent of your company."
What are some things you've learned so far?
I've learned a couple things. One, seizing the moment. When I was in Mammoth awhile back and we saw somebody in the elevator who had a jacket on with the "Shark Tank" logo. So I asked him, "Have you been on 'Shark Tank'?" And he said, "I'm one of the producers."
I had just made my first product Street Tubez, so we just started asking him all these questions. He said we were too small for "Shark Tank" at the time, but he gave me his business card and told me to contact him and keep in touch. So I kept in touch with him and was sending all these updates about making Locker Board and he told me, "I think you're ready to come on 'Shark Tank' now."
Another lesson is to never give up. It took four years to finally get on "Shark Tank" from the elevator till now. And the last lesson: Believe in yourself. If you don't believe in yourself, no else will.
Is it tough balancing school, sports and being a 12-year-old with running a profitable business?
It's been really tough, and I've learned all these awesome things. School was difficult, so I started at a new school and they are helping me more with traveling. So if I miss a couple days from going to New York for example, they'll help me out with the subjects that I missed. With sports, I feel like I've been just trying to get in as much as possible.
Any good business advice you've gotten along the way?
From my mentors definitely. Richard Branson told me I need to delegate. Noah Murphy Reinhertz at Nike told me that sustainability is key for our future. And Wing Lam of Wahoo's has taught me how to market myself.
What's on the immediate horizon for Locker Board?
I want to focus on media to help showcase and sell the product. Nike, PS Stix, Wahoo's, Aend Wheels, Jessup Griptape and Destructo Trucks are going to be helping me out, so they'll be posting on their social media about Locker Board, too.
I'm also going to San Francisco for the Virgin Sports Event on Oct. 14 and 15 with Richard Branson. We're going to do a run at Twin Peaks, and I'll also have a booth there. It’s going to be fun.
What are the goals you've set for Locker Board?
I'm really hoping to sell a lot of Locker Boards and to be everywhere.
How do you think the investment from Richard Branson will help you achieve that?
It's going to help me be more visible around the world. Lots of people now know who I am after that "Shark Tank" appearance.
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