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Saying “Cheers” to Missed Opportunity

How being turned down on “Shark Tank” led me to growth on my own terms

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Steve Jobs once said, “Maybe the most important thing is to shake off this erroneous notion that life is there and you’re just going to live it, versus embrace it, change it, improve it, make your mark upon it.” 

In every aspect of life, even in the missed chances, it’s important to understand that you can reshape your surroundings. You always have the opportunity to mold your world into something different. 

Never was this more apparent than in 2019, when I appeared on the season 9 finale of ABC’s popular “Shark Tank” series. I was pitching Cheers, a supplement and beverage company that I founded to offer products that helps people feel better after drinking alcohol. I’d done everything to get to that pivotal moment. 

Miraculously, upon my first audition for the show, I was selected to appear in front of the sharks on national television. I embarked on a mission to convince some of the most business savvy leaders in the country to fund my company. Alas, no deal. 

In the face of missed opportunity, I had two choices: admit defeat or make my mark on life. 

I chose to move forward, to tune out the noise and lean into my instincts. What started as an initial $400,000 investment pitch has now grown into a company with over 300,000 customers, 13M doses sold and $25M in sales. 

Here’s how I created growth on my own terms and how you can too. 

Utilize a Challenger Mindset

When the sharks turned me down, I had (as anyone would I suppose) more than one moment of self-doubt. Had I made a mistake? After all, the experts didn’t see enough in my idea to fund it. Was I on the right track? 

If I could go back to these days, and even before, I would have trusted myself more. I knew it was a good idea and that I was a capable leader. I had done the research, the products worked extremely well, and I paid attention to emerging trends. My business model was strong and it was a product the market needed.  

There’s a common belief that a certain group of “experts” know everything. I hold an intense skepticism when someone tells me an idea is or isn’t going to work. Rather than accept what I’m told, I strive to make my own conclusions and observations. This has led to large and profitable growth for Cheers in a short time.

My challenge for you is to critically look at where you’re just accepting the status quo. What’s something someone’s told you that goes against your gut feeling? 

Surround Yourself with People Who Will Elevate You

I don’t necessarily hire based on a person’s resume, their years of experience, or who they are today. I look for the potential in all of those things. I take a resume as a snapshot in time and attempt to discern what this person will look like in the future. What might your company look like if these individuals grew with you? 

This helps us find individuals that can take our startup places. These are the individuals who think critically about each business decision and offer recommendations for improvement and innovation.  

This approach has allowed us to build a team I am proud of. They have become our family and believe deeply in our culture and mission. 

Not hiring for your organization or even running a company? The lesson still applies. Surround yourself with people who make you better. Consider: how can I grow if this person is by my side? Do you have people on your team that contribute new ideas and different opinions? Choose people who elevate you and hold them close. 

Embrace the Non-Obvious 

If you follow the status quo, you will often miss a lot of opportunities. One of the things we stress doing at Cheers is to look critically at any plan and see if it could work on its own merits. Some of our most successful moves were never attempted by anyone in the industry and were extremely non-obvious. 

At Cheers, when I come up with a new plan, I explore it on my own first and then propose it to my team (this is where having people that elevate you comes into play). I’m looking for the “it’s crazy, but it just might work” response. This doesn’t mean it’s a perfect idea, but it does mean the people I surround myself with see merit in it. From there, we work on the idea collectively to see if it’s a concept worth pursuing. 

Not every idea can be a perfect one. Most aren’t even great. But the goal is to fin the diamond in the rough, the “never been tried” thing that just might be our next new star. 

Think for Yourself

Ultimately, the goal of embracing a missed opportunity is simple: think for yourself. You have more experience and more knowledge than you realize. Don’t let your age, your resume, or your status define you.

Shake off the false idea that you just have to live life. You can control more than you think. Embrace it, improve it and leave your mark.

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