So far it's been a nice ride in the shark tank for Whatcom County native Stephan Aarstol.
In need of some outside investment for his new company, Tower Paddle Boards, Aarstol went on ABC's reality show "Shark Tank" to pitch his idea to potential investors. On the show, which aired in March, billionaire Mark Cuban made an investment of $150,000.
Six months later, that investment has turned Tower Paddle Boards into a $1.5 million company. An update about the company, which is based in San Diego, is scheduled to air on the 8 p.m. episode Friday, Sept. 28.
Aarstol said being on the show had an immediate impact on Tower Paddle Boards, which sells stand-up paddle boards mostly through its website.
"The show gave us a massive traffic spike (on the website), so the biggest challenge was managing that initial wave," he said.
Being backed by someone with the celebrity status of Cuban also helps, Aarstol said, noting that having the owner of the NBA's Dallas Mavericks on board has led to several business opportunities.
At first, Aarstol thought Cuban would be a "hands-off" type of investor because Cuban's attorneys worked out the details of the original deal. However Cuban regularly communicates with the company, suggesting a variety of ideas. Cuban was recently quoted in an article at Forbes.com saying Tower Paddle Boards was one of his best "Shark Tank" investments.
"He certainly doesn't mince words, so you have to have a bit of a thick skin, but he's been very valuable to us," said Aarstol, who grew up in the Deming area and graduated from Mount Baker High School and Western Washington University.
Aarstol said he expects the update to be about two minutes in the upcoming episode, much shorter and less stressful than the original episode. In that episode, viewers may have noticed he stammered early in the pitch. It turned out that he was having trouble running the slides for his presentation, and that caught him off guard.
"Of course they jumped on that like sharks finding something in the water," Aarstol said.
The experience on "Shark Tank" also led to some key hires from Whatcom County. After the show aired, Aarstol got back in contact with Western's MBA program, which led to the hiring of two recent WWU graduates.
"Overall, it (the show) was a great experience," Aarstol said. "I would definitely do it again if I had the chance."
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