How two Brisbane photographers convinced Glen Richards and Andrew Banks to invest in lifelike baby mannequins (and upset Steve Baxter along the way)
Sandra and Brendon Moffatt admit they entered Shark Tank with a “super left field” product and they expected to walk out empty-handed.
But on Tuesday night, the two Brisbane-based photographers successfully pitched their business, Stand In Baby, to the five sharks and piqued the interest of Glen Richards, Andrew Banks, Steve Baxter and Janine Allis.
Stand In Baby claims to have produced the world’s first articulated baby that moves and is weighted like a newborn.
The Moffatts are newborn photographers and the idea for Stand In Baby came to them when they were searching for a safe way to teach their staff how to hold a baby’s head correctly and how to position them. Using real babies was out of the question and when they tried to buy a model, they couldn’t find one on offer.
“After much stress and a bit of a breakdown, we decided to make our own,” Sandra Moffatt tells SmartCompany.
The couple were banking on other newborn photographers facing the same problem they were and they soon found they were on to something.
The Moffatts started working on the business in 2014 and around Christmas 2015, they launched a Kickstarter campaign that raised “just shy of $240,000”, says Sandra.
It took the next year to manufacture the products and get them in stock, but during that time, they amassed around $500,000 in pre-sales.
The stock arrived in early 2017 and the business has now recorded over $1 million in sales from buyers in 91 countries.
The interest is coming from the photography industry, as well as those in the medical field and at universities and TAFEs.
Going on Shark Tank
With the Kickstarter campaign and $220,000 of their own money invested in the business, the Moffatts weren’t necessarily in need of external funding, but they say the opportunity to pitch to the sharks came about when Shark Tank approached them.
“We watch the show, we love the show [and] we have lots of friends and family who said ‘you should go on’,” says Sandra.
“We never felt our product was a Shark Tank product. We’re not TV people … it was super left field”.
But not ones to turn down an opportunity — “we believe in life you should say yes and see where it takes you”, says Sandra — the two decided to give the show a shot.
The goal was to get one of the three male sharks interested, says Brendan: Baxter because he’s a “passionate Queenslander”, Banks for his US connections, and Richards for his medical background.
They got two of three, plus Janine Allis too. The pitch was for an investment of $200,000 in exchange for a 20% equity stake, which would value the business at $1 million.
After what the Moffatts admit was a “trainwreck” pitch, they got individual offers from the four sharks, but countered with a request for two of the sharks to team up. At this point, Allis stepped back and the Stand In Baby founders negotiated a joint deal with Richards and Banks for 20% of the business for $200,000.
Unfortunately, the outcome left Baxter less than pleased: he wanted to make a counter offer and felt he was ignored by the Moffats. After some comments from the other sharks, he ended up storming out of the room once Sandra and Brendon left.
“It’s hard, we have a lot of respect for him,” says Brendon of the incident. “We felt extremely bad after it.”
“The trauma is real,” Sandra adds.
But Brendon says the fact that Baxter reacted the way he did shows just how passionate the sharks are about what they do.
“They know what they’re talking about,” Sandra adds.
What the future looks like
The deal with Richards and Banks is still going through the due diligence phase and the Moffatts admit the delay in getting it across the line has been at their end as it has taken some time to pull all their accounts together.
But Brendon says they also want to make sure the process is done properly.
The pair is hopeful that the deal will come through; in Sandra’s words, they’re “preparing for the best”.
“It will be nice to have someone who has walked the path before us … so we can fast-forward the mistakes,” she says.
But they are equally aware of what they have achieved without taking on investors.
“We’ve crossed the hard part without being completely in debt,” Brendon says of getting the business off the ground.
With or without the deal, the plan for the remainder of 2018 is to learn as much as they can about the local medical industry and get their product in front of more buyers. Next year, the target is the US market.
There’s also plans to redesign elements of their modular product design and further open up the “conversation about newborn photo safety” to make sure they’re “connecting the right people with the right answers”, says Sandra.
They’re hoping some of those conversations will take place on their new website, which features a forum to connect photographers with healthcare professionals.
The new site went live on Tuesday, the same day the duo appeared on national TV.
“We love our stress levels high,” laughs Sandra.
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Join the conversation!
As photographers we aren't necessarily experts on newborns health, but working with newborns means that we should always have access to the latest information.
So in an effort to keep our littlest clients safe we have created a Photorum (Photography Forum) that connects Health Care Professionals directly with Newborn Photographers.