Every year, the "Shark Tank" casting team holds open calls for the hit ABC show, and hundreds of people line up for the chance to get their big business idea on TV.
The pitchers spend a lot of time honing their prototypes and business models, but they're only allowed one minute to present to the casting team (the Sharks themselves aren't there). The casting team, meanwhile, has the tough task of deciding which pitches are good for the show. What makes a good pitch? According to those in attendance, it's energy, personality, an interesting backstory, and of course, a good product.
Here's what it's like to pitch your business to "Shark Tank."
The "Shark Tank" open casting call is held at the Javits Center in New York every year. The casting team criss-crosses the country for five months, traveling to nearly a dozen cities to cast each season.
On the big day, over 400 people wait in line to pitch, with many of them bringing along friends and family for support. Some arrive as early as 6:30 am. Some drive or fly to New York just for the opportunity. The casting team hands out numbered wristbands to everyone while they wait, one for each pitch.
The first group of 100 pitchers waits for their turn. Some rehearse their spiels, some set up their props and prototypes, and some calmly wait (naps are not unheard of).
Mindy Zemrak, head of casting for 'Shark Tank,' gives a welcome speech to the fledgling entrepreneurs. She gives them some pitching advice, and then warns them not to tell anyone if they get cast for the upcoming season: "If you move forward in the process, it's like 'Fight Club.' What are the first and second rules of Fight Club?" When no one answers, she explains that the first rule of Fight Club is never to talk about Fight Club.
Then the pitches begin. There are four tables arranged close together, so there are a lot of different voices and distractions happening at the same time. The pitchers only have one minute to present, but the casting team isn't timing them.
The pitchers may have arrived early for a spot in line, but the casting team has a much longer day ahead of them. They see about 100 pitches each, and their days typically run for 10 hours or more. On one open call in Los Angeles, they didn't go home until midnight.
Most pitchers bring prototypes of their products to prove that they work. Some wear their prototypes, like this woman, who made glasses with detachable temples so you can read in bed on your side.
One of the other eye-catching products is a Phillies baseball hat that's also a Santa Claus hat.
While most people dress more or less normally, some up-and-coming businesses bring along mascots to promote their products, like this banana man. Some serve as their own mascots, like this inflatable shark.
After their one-minute pitches, which sometimes end up running for as long as five minutes, the pitchers get to go home. Two weeks later, they'll find out whether or not their pitches got them a spot on 'Shark Tank.' Most pitches don't get accepted. But if they do, a year-long process is started — getting on the show, pitching to the Sharks themselves, and maybe even making their businesses a reality.