Spokane Valley-based SquareKeg will be on the national stage this week as a participant on ABC’s popular reality show “Shark Tank.”
SquareKeg founder Tim Loucks will be pitching the startup’s minikegs to a group of celebrity tycoons on Friday at 8 p.m. in hopes of securing an investment deal.
The startup developed SquareOne, a stainless steel keg that holds up to 128 ounces of beer, wine, cold brew or kombucha, and SquareOne Nitro, which is designed for cold brew and nitro beer.
The kegs can fit inside coolers and refrigerators, allowing consumers to enjoy draft beverages while camping, at barbecues or at home.
Loucks, who is an avid viewer of “Shark Tank,” said appearing on the show was an “unbelievable experience.”
“It was super exciting and scary all at the same time. Just to see yourself on a national stage is kind of weird. I’ve never been in that environment before,” Loucks said. “It’s really expensive to advertise and reach a massive audience. It’s really cool to have our story out there and even cooler to have it through ‘Shark Tank.’ ”
“Shark Tank” is a reality television show on which entrepreneurs pitch their startups to investors for a chance at funding for their businesses.
The investors, known as sharks, usually request a percentage of ownership and a share in profits for exchange in investing in the companies.
A “Shark Tank” associate producer approached Loucks via LinkedIn in April after hearing about SquareKeg’s products, he said.
“They try to find cool brands and companies that are a fit for the show,” Loucks said. “We started talking, and they loved the culture of what we are doing.”
Loucks then began a rigorous application process that involved sharing extensive details about the business without a guarantee of a taping date or that the episode – if filmed – would be aired .
Loucks is unable to reveal the outcome of his pitch to “Shark Tank” investors, but shared that he’s excited for millions of viewers to learn more about SquareKeg.
“All we hope for is to be able to have millions of Americans see our story,” said Loucks, who co-owns SquareKeg with his wife, Birgitta. “Hopefully, that platform will allow us to connect with people that would have not otherwise known about us.”
Loucks, a former health care software salesman, launched SquareKeg in 2017 to transform how consumers and commercial suppliers consume, distribute and serve beverages.
He researched the idea of a square minikeg and found there wasn’t a similar product on the market, which further validated his business plan.
About 1½ years ago, SquareKeg began shipping its products to customers nationwide from its manufacturing facility in Spokane Valley. SquareOne costs $279 while the SquareOne Nitro is $399, according to the startup’s website.
“Overall, customers are having a lot of fun with it. People find cool new uses for it that we’ve never even thought of,” Loucks said. “The market is telling us, ‘We want a bigger size.’ We are developing new products as well as an option for wine in the next few months.”
SquareKeg has seen a boost in sales, added new employees for a total of five and plans to hire more in the future, Loucks said.
Loucks declined to disclose specific company sales data, but mentioned he’s sold “several thousand” minikegs.
To prepare for the “Shark Tank” taping in Los Angeles, Loucks practiced the business pitch he would give to investors on the show hundreds of times, he said.
“Right until I walked in, I was still practicing,” he said.
SquareKeg is among a handful of Spokane-area companies that has appeared on “Shark Tank,” said Tom Simpson, CEO of Ignite Northwest, president of the Spokane Angel Alliance and managing member of Kick-Start angel investment funds.
Some of those companies include former startup iCPooch, which pitched a product that allowed dog owners to chat virtually with their pets, Coeur d’Alene-based drone company xCraft and Spiceology, of Spokane, Simpson said.
“I think the real value of being on ‘Shark Tank’ is you bring national awareness to your product,” Simpson said. “Now, all of the sudden, you have all those eyeballs learning about your product. A small startup would never have the advertising budget to access that many people.”
Simpson said, however, dialogue between “Shark Tank” investors and entrepreneurs is not necessarily an accurate representation of discussions that occur in real life between startups and venture capital and angel investors.
If “Shark Tank’s” investors say derogatory comments about a startup on the show, the publicity may not be to its benefit, he said.
“There’s a real art in talking to companies that are raising money,” Simpson said. “You want to say no in a way that makes them feel they got some constructive feedback.”
Loucks hopes his appearance on “Shark Tank” helps put Spokane on the map and motivates other local entrepreneurs to launch startups.
“A lot of other people across the country and in Spokane have great ideas but never take the first step,” Loucks said. “The biggest thing I’ve learned is if you keep plugging away and keep turning over stones, good things happen.”
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