Not all spouses make good business partners. But there’s always an exception, as proven by Kim and Tim Lewis, the husband-and-wife team who appeared on the TV show Shark Tank in Season 10 to pitch their business CurlMix, a line of hair care products specifically made for curly hair.
The couple received a generous offer from one of the sharks in the show, but decided to reject the deal to expand the business in their own way. Even without the help of the Sharks, the business has grown and is now valued at $12 million!
Read on to find out what happened to CurlMix after the pitch on Shark Tank and what the company is doing now as a million-dollar business.
How did CurlMix start?
The longtime sweethearts Kim and Tim Lewis bootstrapped the business and has turned an ubiquitous hair care ingredient into a natural hair product that paved the way for a multi-million beauty business catering to women with naturally wavy or curly hair.
But from way back, the Lewises did not start out with a cushy fund or a chemistry degree. Their very first venture was actually a social media network called “Natural Hair Academy”, which targeted women with curly hair and discussed natural hair care. Interestingly, the money for this business came from a trivia show contest.
The husband of the duo, Tim Lewis, won $100,000 from the show Who Wants to Be A Millionaire. This windfall prompted Kim to resign from her job and to focus on building “Natural Hair Academy” out of the prize money. Unfortunately, the venture was not very successful but it had interesting beginnings that served as the predecessor for CurlMix.
Shortly after “Natural Hair Academy”, Kim began working on CurlMix. Initially, CurlMix was a subscription box containing natural hair care products for curly hair. But months into the business, sales were still low and margins in the subscription box business were declining.
They had a light-bulb moment after talking to a venture capital advisor that asked them, “What’s your best-selling product?”
Their answer: Flaxseed gel. Tim and Kim had already noticed that people kept going back to their pure flaxseed hair care product in the subscription box that does wonders for wavy or curly-haired customers.
The consultant’s advice: “Focus on selling that.”
They decided to make “Pure Flaxseed Gel” CurlMix’s flagship item when they pivoted the business in 2018. That proved to be a wise move as they eventually got $25,000 in funding from BackStage Capital which helped propel sales to record levels. By the end of 2018, the company recorded gross sales of $1 million. This is one reason why they were eventually accepted to make a pitch on Shark Tank.
Did CurlMix get a deal on Shark Tank?
Long story short: No, they walked away from Robert Herjavec’s $400,000 deal that he offered to them.
In Season 10 episode 14 of the Shark Tank TV show, the CurlMix founders made their appearance and impressed the sharks in the tank. Alli Webb, CEO of blowouts salon chain Drybar, came in as a guest shark for that particular episode.
Tim and Kim’s initial ask was $400,000 for 10% ownership of the business CurlMix. This gives a valuation of $4 million for their business which, they said, was based on their sales forecast of over $1 million for the year 2019. They came into the tank knowing fully how much their business was worth.
“We’re cash flow positive and in 1 month.. in 2 months, we’ll be profitable,” Tim explained. “We’re projecting $180,000 in profits this year.”
What were the Sharks’ deals for CurlMix?
The male sharks couldn’t even distinguish between curly and frizzy hair, but Kim carried herself well in defending her product. Shark Mark Cuban was first to decide that “I’m out” because he doesn’t understand the market space well enough.
Shark Kevin O’ Leary, as expected, had an issue with CurlMix’s valuation of $4 million and decided the business was overvalued and not worth the risk for his investment. Lori Greiner followed O’Leary and explained she also doesn’t have experience in CurlMix’s business space so she’s out.
Guest shark Webb weighed in and said that from her own beauty business experience, there really is a great demand for curly hair enhancing products but, according to her, she’s “in the business of making curly hair straight.” She declined to give Kim and Tim an offer and other sharks actually wondered why Webb did not offer a deal despite the fact that it’s within her niche of beauty products.
One shark remained and Robert Herjavec, encouraged by Webb’s insider input on the demand for the product line, offered the couple a deal of $400,000 but asked for 20% stake instead of the 10% that they asked.
The other sharks commented that it was already a fair deal but Tim and Kim decided to walk away. The sharks, including Herjavec, were left amazed and wondered why the couple did not take such a good deal. They did praise, though, the couple’s confidence in their product.
In an interview with Chicago’s The Jam TV show, Kim justified their decision: “Going into the tank , we’ve felt like our numbers come in at a $7 million valuation. But we offered a $4 million valuation and Robert’s offer was a $2 million valuation.”
Tim added that Robert’s offer was “too big of a discount.”
“We’re worth more than that and we’re growing to a billion dollars one day, hopefully.”
Kim and Tim surely had other plans for the business. Before guesting in the show, they collectively made a firm decision not to give away more than 15% of their company no matter how much the sharks will offer for it.
They did this because they anticipated additional stakes will be up for grabs when they conduct another round of funding with other investors. They did not want to end up losing their majority stake in the company due to excessive fund rounds. This unwillingness to compromise on something so important to the both of them makes their partnership work so well.
What happened to CurlMix after Shark Tank?
Despite rejecting the $400,000 deal from Herjavec, the interest over their business was sustained and the appearance on on Shark Tank really helped propel the business to the next level.
Days after the Shark Tank episode aired in March 2019, an undisclosed amount was invested by venture capital firm Next Play Ventures. CurlMix was also named as a finalist for the “Pitch to Win” contest for a $100,000 funding grant.
Is CurlMix available on Amazon? Yes! As of 2020, CurlMix has several products that are on sale at Amazon, including :
- Pure Avocado Moisturizer with Organic Sweet Almond Oil – $19.99
- Pure Homemade Flaxseed Gel (Vanilla Berry Fragrance & Organic Castor Oil) – $46.99
How much is CurlMix worth now?
After the Shark Tank episode aired, CurlMix successfully secured and received $1.2 million investment from the founder and Executive Chairman of LinkedIn himself, Jeff Weiner. This puts the total net worth of CurlMix at a $12 million valuation, according to the Black Enterprise.
As of 2020, the business has already sold their products to more than 200,000 customers, according to the company. Setting the minimal one product, priced at $30, for their 200,000 customers already puts an approximate conservative estimate of at least $6 million in sales for the last three years.
Is CurlMix still in business today?
Yes, they are still in business and they are thriving. At present, CurlMix has added more than thirty employees and served over 200,000 customers in the last 3 years. Aside from their appearance on Shark Tank, they were also featured in other prominent feature lists like Forbes 30 Under 30 and Crain’s 20 in their 20’s.
They continue to be active on social media and posts about natural hair care processes and updates on the business, as well as an insider look in their manufacturing process. They recently participated in an online campaign promoting businesses that were created by people of color as part of their support for #BlackLivesMatter campaign against racism.
Lessons from CurlMix on Shark Tank
What’s interesting with Kim and Tim Lewis’ success story was the relentless capacity of the couple to intelligently sustain and change directions in the business when something was not working.
In 2018, they only made $3,000 and almost tanked the business before the $25,000 seed funding came in. When the seed funding came in, they were also able to adjust their approach and removed the focus from beauty subscription boxes into separate sellable flaxseed gel items. While Kim was 7 months pregnant, she tried 50 different mixtures of the flaxseed gel until they got it right. They did not stop until they got it right, and they did not need a chemistry degree to pull it off.
Unlike other contestants in the Shark Tank, they were also fully prepared and unflustered by the dazzle of the show. They spent months getting ready for their pitch, watching old Shark Tank episodes, and preparing for potential questions (they made flash cards!) that may be thrown their way.
It paid off, as they remained unfazed in the heat of the pressure. With their preparation and confidence in their product and numbers, they were able to answer all the questions of the sharks, and as such, they can do the same for any other potential investor for that matter.