Business Insider recently followed fledgling small-business owners hoping to pitch their ideas on "Shark Tank." Though some colorful characters were expected, none of them matched the wacky vibrancy of Banana Guy.
Banana Guy, also known as Brandon Vassallo, was a fruit-themed mascot for one of the 350 small businesses pitching at a "Shark Tank" open casting call at the Javits Center in New York. We followed him and his company's founders through the pitching process to see what it was like to get a venture onto the hit show "Shark Tank."
Banana Loca, the business Banana Guy dressed up for, pitched a product that could core a banana and fill it with a spread of the user's choice. The company was founded by Renee Heath and Bechara Jaoudeh two years ago, when the latter realized there was no kitchen appliance that combined his two favorite things: bananas and Nutella.
Here's what their pitching process looked like, as well as their advice for other small-business owners.
We first met Banana Guy (aka Brandon Vassallo) just after he had put on his banana suit. The day's pitches had only just begun, and Banana Loca was no. 38 out of about 350 pitches, even though they'd arrived at 6:05 am.
Another guy put on an inflatable shark suit nearby, showing how popular gimmicks were to the pitching process.
We later followed Banana Guy as he and the business owners prepared to pitch their product. They rehearsed a 60-second script as Banana Guy patiently waited for their turn. Heath and Jaoudeh had done their research, so they felt they knew what made a good pitch. "Captivating narrative, economy of language, precise word choice, [and] good posture," Jaoudeh told Business Insider.
After waiting nearly four hours, Banana Loca was ready to pitch. Jaoudeh and Heath smiled, made sure the pitch was high-energy yet focused, and learned their screener's name and used it often to build a sense of familiarity. Meanwhile, Banana Guy looked on in support. Then came the crucial part: the ask. "We really thought long and hard about how much we’d need from the Sharks and what percent of the business we were willing to exchange for their expertise and partnership," Jaoudeh said.
Jaoudeh demonstrated how to straighten and core a banana using the Banana Loca gadget.
The demonstration went smoothly; the banana was cored perfectly.
Jaoudeh then filled the banana with Nutella using Banana Loca's hand-operated nozzle. He pressed down on the pump, and the nozzle injected the banana with the creamy spread. The screener even tried the product. "We were told that they don’t sample a lot of the foods, but he grabbed the banana and took several bites out of it, so I think actions speak louder than words," Jaoudeh said afterward.
After the pitch, Heath, Jaoudeh, and Banana Guy were pleased with how they did. "I thought we did well," Jaoudeh said. "We’ll see. Maybe we’ll get a phone call in two weeks. We’re very excited, and we hope we win." And Banana Guy helped, too. "He’s our hype banana," Heath added.