Funderdome Part 1
Read How Epic Wipes Got Massive Exposure In the Spotlight on Steve Harvey’s Funderdome.
Epic Wipes founder-inventor and CEO Aeneas Janze discuss the experience of going on a national hit television show, Funderdome. Joining him is James Haugland, Creative Director for Epic Wipes. Together, they discuss the journey of getting on the show and the hard work that went into getting ready for a national audience.
Interviewing Aeaneas and James is Marketing Director Mike Volkin.
Part 1 - How, When and Why We Decided to Apply for Funderdome
Interviewer: Hello gentleman, thanks for taking time to talk with us and to tell us about your time on the Steve Harvey Funderdome show. With us today are Aeneas Janze, founder of Epic Wipes and his friend and Creative Director James Haugland. Aeneas and James have known each other since High School and both have a theater background, although James experience is much more extensive. But for two people who have experience getting in front of a crowd, did this moment in the spotlight turn out anything like you thought it would? Whose idea was it to try and get Epic Wipes on the show?
Aeneas Janze: Well, we initially applied to Shark Tank. There’s a whole process with that and while we were applying, Funderdome contacted us and asked us if we wanted to be on their show. But then I found out that both the shows were owned by Mark Burnett, so I called, because I doubted we would be allowed to do both shows. They said, “Yes, you’re right, good luck with Shark Tank.” But we ended up not getting on Shark Tank. They said they liked us and asked if they can hold on to our file for the next season.
James: Well, in retrospect like I think it’s serendipitous that we didn’t get on there. As I got to know that show better, I learned they’re looking for businesses that already had more than just a groundswell of community support. We saw support beyond our expectations thru the Kickstarter process, but we didn’t have the financial history to demonstrate a trajectory yet.
We were an awesome product but didn’t yet have the kind of growth and infrastructure that I think they look for in Shark Tank. In Funderdome, it says right in the name. It’s fun. It’s Steve Harvey. It’s about the story behind the product. It’s about the enthusiasm and personality of the inventor. And in this case, it included his sidekick who felt really lucky to be along on the adventure. So I think we were really lucky with the way it worked out, to be on Funderdome like we did. What do you think Aeneas?
“But we ended up not getting on Shark Tank. They said they liked us and asked if they can hold on to our file.”
Aeneas: Yes, I mean I was worried. I’m a big fan of Shark Tank. It’s a cool show and I’ve watched every season, so I kind of just want to live that dream. But I’m familiar enough to know that we would’ve gotten grilled. We did really well in our Kickstarter campaign, but we were in our infancy. I think if we were to be on Shark Tank now, we will actually do pretty well, because we actually have financials to back things up. But that’s really long answer.
Interviewer: It sounds like you applied for Shark Tank but you weren’t quite a fit for 1 or 2 reasons, but you are much better fit for Funderdome. So the producer who owns both shows ended up putting you on the more appropriate show?
James: Yes, and we spent more time than was probably necessary preparing to do both, but it paid off because it’s really sort of synthesized the whole story down to an 80-second pitch and a 10-minute video for Shark Tank. So we spent the time getting Aeneas ready to say all the stuff that we wanted to get out there.
And then we had to do a 5- or 6-minute video for the Funderdome application, but we took a totally different tack with a really playful approach. It was very honest about telling how Aeneas came up with the idea and how we had worked together to strategize it out over some time. I think it was a lot more fun and a lot more suited to a sort of a tag team.
Aeneas: You also need to remember that no one has seen the show yet. It’s new and hasn’t aired yet. So all we knew was the rules and what’s generally going to happen. As we went along we were educated about it more, but it would have been I think a lot easier for us to apply if we have seen the show.
James: Oh my gosh, yes. We went through several iterations of our video and our approach to the script. But it was useful, because when we finally got it down to why Epic Wipes are so good. We already discovered that everybody who tried it loved it. Once they feel them, once they smell it, once use it in a host of situations, they love it. So we tried to make our presentation very playful and we kinda had fun with it. It was a good time.
Interviewer: So where did you leave it with the producers of Shark Tank?
Aeneas: I think Shark Tank actually contacted us. I think what happens, and this is why I always tell people that they should do a Kickstarter even if they have money, is that I think shows like Shark Tank and Funderdome comb through Kickstarter. They use it to see what’s cool and what isn’t.
And there was a huge media float. I think we have articles written about us in over a dozen different languages. Everywhere from Turkey, Norway, Ireland, Germany. It was kind of surreal that all these places are taking interest in wet wipes.
James: Well, it was the idea of using a giant, high-quality wet wipe as a shower replacement, but isn’t part of the disposable economy like other products that pollute the environment. I think we built excitement around not only this really great idea of a massive wipe, but also a better way of making wipes.
And the story of how Aeneas came up with the idea, being a doctor in the military resonates with people. Showers were unavailable a lot of the time and this is a logical utility for a doctor to dream up in those circumstances. So I think that narrative is as much a part of the story as the product itself. And once people tried it, it just caught fire. Just like the critical mass Aeneas described with the press, we sort of hit the tipping point and things just went from there.
Interviewer: It’s amazing how some things lead to another.
Aeneas: Yes, I didn’t know how difficult it was going to be to make it on the show. But I figured if we could actually land something like that, it could be the perfect launching ground for Epic Wipes. Even the products that “fail” on Shark Tank end up tripling their business. It’s just a matter of trying to get that exposure. We didn’t have a big plan or anything. People just thought that it was a cool product. We thought we would try to make it happen, so we rolled the dice and got lucky.