This is a follow up story for Shark Wheel. If you're interested in reading how they got started, published about 2 years ago, check it out here.
Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.
My name is Zack Fleishman. My company is Shark Wheel, where we literally reinvented the wheel. My business partner, David Patrick, made a major scientific discovery and from the discovery, a seemingly impossible wheel was born. A wheel that was half cube and half-sphere, or more specifically a three-dimensional sine wave that mirrors the shape of shark jaws. One piece of David’s discovery shows how Nature always prefers a sine wave motion. The way fish and sharks swim, the way radio waves move, the way planets move around the Sun, and even how humans walk with an alternating gait defines a sine wave.
Watch our video here:
This biomimetic invention has been University tested, lab tested, and real-world tested. Significant advantages were found in longevity, rebound, abrasion resistance, friction in motion, and off-road performance. The Shark Wheel is now selling on skateboards, casters, roller skates, luggage, pallet jacks/forklifts and soon to be in the printing industry, on farming equipment, and on medical equipment.
Shark Wheels are currently in use by Fortune 500 companies in the pallet jack industry, Walmart for skateboards and can be seen on Samsonite luggage, Harley Davidson luggage, and SkyValet luggage.
Additionally, Shark Wheel can be seen on Shark Tank, the Discovery Channel, FedEx commercials, and much more.
FedEx Commercial 2
Harley Davidson Luggage
Shark Wheel has just enjoyed its best 2 month stretch with the last 60 days at over $725,000 in sales. Although the company is trending up quickly, an opportunity to appear on a new nationwide tv show called America’s Next Investment was too interesting to turn down. Shark Wheel expects to air in June or July 2020 on the new show.
A singular Shark Wheel inside of a cube touches all 6 sides of the cube perfectly flat.
Surprisingly, this shape rolls smoothly
Tell us about what you’ve been up to! Has the business been growing?
Shark Wheel has grown tremendously since the last time on Starter Story! There is no blueprint for making a sine wave-shaped wheel, so each application is unique and takes time for our team to commercialize. In many aspects, Shark Wheel has focused most of its efforts on R&D, investing heavily in prototyping for several industrial applications with the hopes of a big payoff down the road. Shark Wheel won a Phase II SBIR NSF Government Grant ($724,000) for its farming wheel application. Shark Wheel has another year to commercialize the technology and is hard at work prototyping, testing, and collecting data for one of the largest industries in the world.
Shark Wheel is also prototyping for medical carts, which is one of the largest current opportunities for the company with a booming medical industry (for reasons none of us want of course). Shark Wheel is anticipating an early 2021 launch.
No one can do everything on their own. It is crucial to find workers that believe in the company and strive everyday to grow the company as quickly as possible.
The most recent innovation for Shark Wheel is printing tape. The team never imagined making tape to solve one of the printing industries’ largest issues. In the printing industry, machines have issues centering material. It causes costly downtime issues and loss of profits. Shark Wheel’s solution is to apply sine wave tape to existing rollers inside of printers to auto-correct the centering issue with a gentle right-left-right-left correction as it moves through the machine. Initial testing has already shown a 20% advantage.
Shark Wheel’s pallet jack wheel endured 14 months of rigorous testing by multiple Fortune 500 companies. The end result showed a 33%-50% longevity advantage in analog (apples-to-apples comparison) tests. Shark Wheels dissipate heat in a sine wave path and tend to push small objects out of the way, unlike a traditional ‘steamroller’ wheel. Shark Wheel just signed a deal to release its wheels to the entire industry.
The skateboarding industry as a whole has been booming. With the closures of most retail locations in recent months, all sales have moved online. At the beginning of the pandemic, Shark Wheel launched an electric skateboard campaign and reached over 100k in sales with zero in ad spend. After seeing sales start to trend up organically, Shark Wheel decided to ramp up marketing efforts including SEO, Facebook/Instagram ads, and most recently Amazon ads and Google PPC. Sales have been trending up significantly and Shark Wheel finished May/June 2020 with over $725,000 in sales. With the recent successes, Touch of Modern (a popular men’s flash sale site with over 15 million subscribers) contacted Shark Wheel and set a campaign date in July 2020 for the electric skateboard to be featured in a 4-day run.
Although the majority of Shark Wheel sales and traction has been trending up at record pace, the hardest-hit industry (travel) to our knowledge has affected company sales negatively. Shark Wheel’s licensing partners have understandably hit a wall and the Q1 royalties reflected that. Even during these incredibly tough global times however, Shark Wheel was still able to add a new luggage partner that supplies the military with tactical deployment bags. This was a very exciting addition to the company’s portfolio and Shark Wheels will be on military deployment bags in 2020.
Here is a screenshot of our skateboard marketing efforts from Facebook:
Our standard skateboarding efforts were an uphill battle in the early stages of the company (2014/2015/2016). There was a tremendous amount of education needed, there was scientific evidence lacking at the time, and there were many skateboard ‘haters’ that were not interested in our new innovation and enjoyed writing in negative feedback on discussion forums without ever even trying the wheel. It took time to get hundreds of 5-star review on Amazon, it took time to get incredible content of showing what the wheel could actually do (instead of just telling people) and it took time for us to simply earn our ‘street cred’ and pay our dues in the industry. When we compiled user-submitted videos that the one below, this was all the explanation that was needed. People started to take the Shark Wheel seriously.
What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?
Shark Wheel learned that everything is moving even deeper into the digital world. Meetings will be held remotely more often and sales will occur online even more. Shark Wheel was attempting to make a greater push into retail stores before the global crisis occurred. While this is still a goal of the company, time and effort have shifted heavily toward SEO, PPC, and Facebook/Instagram marketing to drive online traffic and sales. This new world we are in makes us reconsider every move from a different vantage point.
A great lesson we learned was that once we became inundated with online orders this year, we started focusing on pre-sales on our website. It was something we had never done previously. The idea was to cast a wider net for the uptick in traffic for individuals that were interested in our technology, but for products, we did not currently have inventory for. The pre-orders have taken off and have given us the ability to pay for inventory with customer funds. It has accelerated our development and our inventory purchases for a wide array of different products.
A lesson we learned that made customers unhappy was estimating our new electric board line of products to be delivered months before the actual delivery date. We underestimated the delivery date significantly and did not account for factories to be short-staffed and unable to deliver to us on time. Unhappy customers are not a recipe for success and we should have stuck to the under-promise/over-deliver motto.
With so many businesses struggling or closing in these incredibly challenging times, Shark Wheel was reminded that businesses typically fail because they are undercapitalized. For that reason in an uncertain world, Shark Wheel accepted an offer to appear on America’s Next Investment, a new nationwide tv show launching soon. Previously, Shark Wheel only accepted investment funds at the minimal level it believed it needed. But, with the uncertainty of today’s world, Shark Wheel opted to raise additional funds to be able to grow without constraints.
On a completely different note, I have a new baby on the way (any day now). It’s very exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time. Baby #2 will fill the house with joy, but will also shorten my work hours in the first few weeks. I am a person that thrives on multi-tasking and being busy day and night. I wake up and go to sleep every day thinking about what I could possibly do to grow the company further. This leads me to late nights jumping to my phone to write yet another note so I don’t forget the latest idea. But, the new addition will likely push me over the edge. I wrote an email to our company asking everyone to help fill in for me whenever possible, in anticipation of having less time to complete tasks.
What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?
In the upcoming year, Shark Wheel plans to close more deals that have been in the works for a substantial amount of time. Shark Wheel has put in tremendous R&D efforts and has invested heavily in the future. In the next year, the company hopes that past efforts will translate into several deals closing. Shark Wheel has always believed that the company would be on the verge of explosive growth because of the unique wheeled-industry ecosystem. Although there appear to be countless different wheels in the world, the reality is that many wheels overlap. For example, wheelchair front wheels are the same as stroller wheels, which are the same as grocery cartwheels, which are the same as medical cartwheels, etc. Once we commercialize one wheel, we have effectively put ourselves in a position to commercialize dozens of wheels.
In 5 years, Shark Wheel aims to be a household name that is seen on a variety of products including roller skates, scooters, wagons, skateboards, luggage, pallet jacks, office chairs, farming equipment, medical equipment, waste management equipment and so much more.
Have you read any good books in the last year?
I listened to Rich Dad, Poor Dad on audio. There are some great, simple lessons to take with you into the business world. For those not familiar with the book, one of the overarching themes is the author’s ‘poor dad’ actually made a lot of money every year, but his expenses were so high that he classified him as ‘poor’ having to work so hard just to pay his current bills. His ‘rich dad’ actually made a lot less money, but his expenses were much lower, thus making him ‘rich’. This is easily translatable to the business world, where your gross revenues may be high, but your margins are too thin, or your expenses are too high making your business suffer. A good example is Kickstarter’s largest campaign ever, the Coolest Cooler that made over $13 million!
Wow, what a Kickstarter run. But, the company actually went out of business shortly after, not accounting for factory supplies, shipping costs, and other issues that could have been avoided with proper operations. It’s hard to imagine a company failing shortly after making its first $13 million, but it happened.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?
Shark Wheel won a government grant for its farming wheel and went through an incredible experience called the I-Corps program. The program teaches that most successful businesses work in the opposite model that most people are taught. Traditionally, companies are expected to write a business plan with financial projections and try to raise capital. Or they formulate a business plan, build the product, and then try to sell to customers. The model has been statistically proven to be antiquated. The government's statistics show it is best to go to the customer first and perform customer discovery interviews, finding out what the customer really wants and needs and what they are willing to pay for it. Then, after performing customer discovery, a business plan would be created based on what customers will buy. Multiple iterations and pivots during this process are expected as costs are uncovered and obstacles are encountered. Business is rarely a direct path. The advice is to embrace pivoting and to not fear it. It is a normal process. The Greek Philosopher Heraclitus said, ''There Is Nothing Permanent Except Change."
Another piece of advice is to build the best team you can. No one can do everything on their own. It is crucial to find workers that believe in the company and strive everyday to grow the company as quickly as possible. Although it is extremely difficult, sometimes it takes a period of hiring and firing to get the correct team on board. It is difficult to make the correct business decisions when emotions are involved.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
Shark Wheel is not looking to hire at the moment. As the company grows in the coming years, it expects to sign several licensing deals. This means that Shark Wheel does not expect to grow much in employee count.
Where can we go to learn more?
The Shark Wheel Founding Team (from left; David Patrick-CTO. Inventor, Zack Fleishman - COO. Co-Founder, Gary Fleishman - CEO Co-. Founder, Pedro Valdez - Head of Engineering)
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