As one of most critically acclaimed reality television shows, Shark Tank, has been at the forefront of entrepreneurism for nine seasons. But have you ever wonder what happens to the business after the cameras turn off? One of the original Shark Tank success stories, Tipsy Elves, has only grown since being on the show in 2013.
Tipsy Elves is a clothing brand that specializes in outrageously fun outfits. They provide attire for any occasion, from ugly Christmas or Hanukkah sweaters, to St. Patty’s Day pride, or even neon ski-suits. Their sweaters were even worn by Saturday Night Live stars on a special holiday episode! Seven years later, the founders, Evan Mendelsohn and Nick Morton, are still very passionate about their business and hope to find success at even greater heights. Visit their website and experience the fun firsthand, here.
Affinity Magazine: What idea sparked the creation of Tipsy Elves? What was the original vision?
Evan and Nick: We were working in our “professional careers as an endodontist and corporate lawyer and were looking for something more fun, more outside the box and something that we were really passionate about. We always enjoyed wearing loud and outrageous apparel that was festive and fun and felt like there was a real opportunity to bring that enjoyment to the world through the clothes that we could create. The original vision was to create a branded apparel company that helped people re-engage with their inner child and remind people that it is ok to express your real self, whoever that may be. We decided that the biggest opportunity initially was to start out by making fun and funny Christmas Sweaters and came up with the name Tipsy Elves. The idea at the time was that there were some behind the scenes Tipsy Elves who were coming up with all of the ideas. We’d start with Christmas and then grow from there!
Affinity: What was it like getting a business started from the ground up? What was the most difficult part?
E&N: Starting a new venture is extremely exciting. There is so much hope and in many ways a lot of naivete that allows you to take risks. There is a lot of “leap and see where you fall” early on which is really fun and exciting. The most difficult part is that there is so much you don’t know you don’t know. There are many things you know you are unaware of when you start a business but it’s those hidden pitfalls that you don’t see coming that can really trip you up.
Affinity: How long had Tipsy Elves been functioning before applying to be on Shark Tank?
E&N: Before Shark Tank we were in business for 2 years.
Affinity: What was your first reaction after discovering you’d be featured on Shark Tank?
E&N: When realizing we would be on Shark Tank our first reaction was extreme excitement followed by nervousness. We didn’t want to blow it!
Affinity: Your website mentions the days before the show. Talk a little about the “magical” fortune cookie!
E&N: The day before filming we decided to go eat some Chinese food and like many Chinese restaurants they give you a fortune cookie at the end. To our surprise the fortune inside said: An investment opportunity will profit you. We really couldn’t believe that was what was inside the cookie and couldn’t help but take it as a sign of good things to come! When we ended up filming our episode and getting an offer from Robert and Mr. Wonderful we remember thinking back to the cookie and that it was coming true.
Affinity: After gaining an investment from Shark, Robert Herjavec, what was the first thing the money went towards?
E&N: At the time our biggest need for cash was to buy more inventory so initially we took the money and expanded our product lines. After another year of growth we used the profits to expand our team so really the investment had a multiplying effect.
Affinity: Since the show and investment in 2013, how has Tipsy Elves benefited, changed, or grown in the last five years?
E&N: Tipsy Elves is still following our core belief that everyone has the right to have fun but we are doing it in vastly expanded ways. The size of our business has grown exponentially both in terms of revenues and employees. We now sell products for every day of the year from Halloween costumes to 4th of July apparel to swim trunks and hawaiian shirts for men and women.
Affinity: If you weren’t running Tipsy Elves, what would you be doing?
E&N: If we weren’t running Tipsy Elves I still believe we would be running some other kind of business. Now that we know what it is like to work for ourselves and what it feels like to create something that can have positive impacts and help people create memorable experiences I don’t think we could ever return to our old jobs.
Affinity: Looking ahead, where do you hope to see Tipsy Elves in the future? What new designs can customers be expecting?
E&N: We want to continue growing our brand and helping people express themselves. We want to help people not take life too seriously and remember that laughter and having a good time is extremely important in life. We want to see Tipsy Elves as the go to resource for people who are looking to let off some steam, create a few smiles and make some lasting memories with family and friends. Stay tuned for new designs – we have a really exciting product launch coming this fourth quarter!
Affinity: Would you ever consider opening a permanent location, or is Tipsy Elves best managed online?
E&N: We are in the process of starting to launch pop up shops. We’ve fun a pop up in San Diego the past couple years and are looking to expand that into new locations in the coming years!
Affinity: What’s been the best part about starting Tipsy Elves?
E&N: The best part about starting Tipsy Elves, personally, is the freedom of working for yourself and feeling pride in creating a business that has created jobs for others while having a lot of fun in the process.
Affinity: If you could give one piece of advice to young entrepreneurs, what would it be?
E&N: Don’t over think things when you are first getting started. If there is a demand for your idea and you are solving a problem be willing to take calculated risk. Overthinking or asking everyone for advice will paralyze you and you won’t ever get off the ground. Be brave and be willing to fail – worst case scenario your prides a little hurt and you learn some really great lessons. Also once you have some sales and can afford it, hire a great accountant or controller, it will save you in the long run!