Kevin O’Leary is impressed with Tripp Phillips, a twelve-year-old entrepreneur who impressed the Sharks with his guts and his vision to take his product, Le-Glue, to the big leagues in the toy market. With the help of his scientist dad, Lee, Tripp invented a non-toxic glue that can be used to hold LEGO bricks together but dissolves in warm water to release the bricks for future play. In Season 10, Episode 1, the young entrepreneur charmed the sharks with his soft, southern drawl and his vision to partner with toy giant, LEGO. As a result, Kevin O’Leary and Le-Glue strike a deal on Shark Tank! I recently spoke with Tripp and his dad about their Shark Tank journey and what Tripp is learning from Uncle Kev’ about doing business.
Jay: Tripp, it must feel really cool to have your own product and then to get on Shark Tank — which is not easy to do – and then to get a deal. You must feel pretty good. How long does that feeling last for you?
Tripp: How long? Hopefully forever.
Jay: I love that. How did your friends take it?
Tripp: They all thought it was pretty cool.
Jay: Were they jealous of you?
Tripp: No, I don’t think so.
Jay: Good for you, that’s a credit to you because some people when they get a taste of success their nose gets really high and they want people to acknowledge them and that’s what sparks jealousy. If your friends are cool with it you’re probably doing a good job. Let me ask you about work-life balance. You’re doing work and school, so is that a tough balance for you?
Tripp: It’s not too hard to balance because as soon as I get out of school — well whenever sports aren’t in the rotation — it’s really easy to balance. Whenever I have football or something after school that’s when it becomes a challenge to balance.
Jay: What do you do when you know there is a business deal on the line and you also have school. Are there any systems you use or secrets you can share that keep you from getting too distracted from everything. How do to keep yourself organized?
Tripp: We have a really good system in place and my dad is very organized.
Jay: Do you talk frequently with Kevin?
Lee: He sends us messages, in fact, he sent us one just this morning. But we’ve only had a sit down with him once. Other than that, it’s mostly his crew that are behind the scenes.
Jay: They’re an amazing team. I’m sure by now you’ve seen the power of Shark Tank and how Kevin O’Leary is such a nice guy. Have you enjoyed the meetings you’ve had with him so far?
Tripp: Very much.
Jay: You and Kevin have a lot of chemistry, Tripp, exemplified by that last comment you made to him where you said, “at least I have hair.” That takes guts buddy.
Tripp: I wasn’t really sure if I should make that comment, but I was just trying to be funny.
Jay: It looks like he took it well. What’s interesting about the sharks is that they’ve all come from very humble beginnings and so they all love making jokes and taking jokes as long as it comes with respect. They are great people to be around beyond just make business deals. That’s what I have found. Do you find that too?
Tripp: Yes, sir.
Lee: When we first started the process Kevin’s team asked us what Tripp and I wanted to accomplish and I said, I just want to teach Tripp about business. When we were ready to make the transaction between O’Leary Ventures and Le-Glue we had a couple of minor differences to settle. Kevin proposed a Skype call and he insisted on scheduling it after 3 pm when Tripp would be home from school. It was a testament to his thoughtfulness to include Tripp in the negotiations. We appreciate his thoughtfulness to really teach Tripp the ropes of business.
Jay: That is awesome and it’s not easy for guys like Kevin to change around their own schedule because they’ve got a million and a half things going on. How long to people usually keep the LEGOs together?
Tripp: Some people use it for collector sets and never take them apart, but we really designed Le-Glue to be played with.
Lee: It really wasn’t for the display side. Tripp’s vision was, if I build an airplane, I want to be able to take it around and fly it or roll the car around and it not break apart. Even though some folks use it for display, it was the playability that he was after.
Jay: Do you think there’s a way to spread the same Le-Glue idea to other toys?
Tripp: There are many uses for it. But we’re just concentrating on this market first.
Jay: Are you selling straight off your website or do you have any stores carrying it?
Lee: We had some museums pick up the product for displays. A large distributor of toys in the Northeast also carries it. We haven’t moved to retail much because it’s second on our list.
Jay: Is that something you hope to work with Kevin on? Because I know he is very powerful in that space.
Lee: We’ve discussed it. Kevin talks about margin being the key so we’re waiting to see the fourth quarter numbers to decide.
Jay: How powerful was it when Shark Tank aired? Were you watching the backend of the website to see how many people started visiting?
Tripp: As soon as the episode aired it went from being a few people on the website to thousands.
Lee: Our web developers told us that within the first four minutes there were 20,000 hits to the website.
Jay: How do you envision the next level of growth. What is the next milestone that you want to reach?
Tripp: I’ve always said the milestone I ultimately want to reach is to go to LEGO. We want to partner with them in some way.
Jay: Wow. And what do you need to do to get there?
Tripp: Lots of meetings. Lots of meetings and Uncle Kevin.
Jay: I love that. I think you’ll get there because you’re a smart kid, you speak your mind with respect and humility, and you have a great product. My final question for you is what’s your advice to other kids who aspire to be entrepreneurs?
Tripp: Dream big and if you try hard enough anything can happen if you believe in it. My motto is: dream, create, invent.