Last year, Ashburn entrepreneur Krista Woods began the chaotic, tumultuous and emotional journey that culminated with her successful appearance on “Shark Tank” and resulted in, not only a deal with two sharks but an experience that would change her life.
Now, with 12 months of perspective, hindsight and no longer encumbered by non-disclosure agreements, Woods says knowing exactly who she was and what she wanted going into the show helped her through the process and also helped her be proud of the person she became during the incredible odyssey.
“[I]t was a fantastic experience for me, personally and professionally,” said Woods, who created her own company around an idea called GloveStix, an odor management system for athletic gear. “You have to do your homework and you need to remember, through it all, that it is a TV show. EVERYTHING is done to make a more dramatic show.”
Woods already had experience pitching herself and her business on television, and had even been declared the winner a year earlier on “The Next Big Thing” segment of NBC’s “Today Show.” Now that she is free to discuss her experience and actually helps others considering the same path, she wants to share three important conclusions she reached about “Shark Tank” and so-called reality television.
- While her overall experience was positive, it can and will destroy people who don’t do their homework or are naive to the process.
- EVERYTHING is controlled and manipulated, even to the point of editing video and audio to make someone sound like they said the opposite of what they actually said. NOTHING is sacred in the quest to make a better “show.”
- “The deal” you see on TV is NEVER the real deal.
Woods asserts that divine intervention was at work in arranging events so she even auditioned for the show.
She had been invited back to the “Today Show” as the defending “Next Big Thing” champion and to help introduce and launch the new season.
“I had it in the back of my mind to try out for “Shark Tank,” but I had been making excuses and procrastinating for the last year and half,” she said. “About two weeks before I was going to be in New York City (for the “Today Show”), I googled Shark Tank to see when open casting was going to be. It was the next day and two blocks from where I was going to be. Fate was forcing me to say, ‘what the heck.’”
She dusted off her Next Big Thing pitch and used her husband and three children to help her prepare for what turned out to be her ‘next big thing.’
“I changed my sunroom into the Shark Tank set and made my pitch to my family,” she said. “They were the sharks.” Woods had done this previously in preparation for Today’s Next Big Thing.
After two weeks of daily endless strategizing and fine-tuning, Woods admits her day-of preparations, her first shark tank pitch to producers, one of many such pitches to reach a broadcast appearance, were lacking.
“I forgot my coat, I forgot my chair,” Woods said. “There I was, in New York, standing in line in the freezing cold at 5 a.m. with 100 strangers who all had chairs and even little tents. We watched the sun come up, and they finally start letting in small groups at a time.”
Woods said her first pitch went very well, but there was no feedback from the handful of producers who witnessed her presentation.
“It was ‘Good job. Thanks’. Next.”
This was the first – and shortest – of what Woods said was a seemingly endless cycle of high-pressure peaks followed by agonizing, long valleys of silence.
“THE WAITING IS THE HARDEST PART”
A few days after her pitch in New York, Woods was contacted via email and told she would receive a phone call from the head open casting producer, Mindy.
“She told me I had made it to the next round, but there are many, many rounds,” Woods said. “I had to prepare a video, send samples and fill out paperwork. There were probably 40 to 50 pages of questions. Then, if you made the next stage, they would ask for more stuff.”
Each agonizing step brought Woods closer to June, when the fall episodes would be filmed in Los Angeles. She faced background check and had to submit business and personal tax returns and was subjected to interview after interview with different producers grilling her on the business, personal life and any aspect of her life they saw fit to dive into.
Finally, I got [assigned to] Heather, who is the executive producer on the show,” Woods said. “Heather was extremely nice and I loved dealing with her. She was very good at interviewing me, getting close and finding out a lot of things about me which was her expertise and had a purpose for the show.”
During this period between April and June, Woods said she spent 15 to 20 hours a week providing paperwork and conducting interviews for “Shark Tank.” She had to do all of it without talking to anyone about what she was doing.
“If they find out you are telling anyone, they will disqualify you,” she said. “I didn’t even tell my parents until the week before I was going (to the filming). I was worried that it just had too much juice and it would be impossible for them not to tell someone. I didn’t want to put them through that.”
Finally, she was told she would be flying to Los Angeles – in three days. But, there was still one more pitch before getting on the show.
“They said you have made it to the last round, which is pitching in front of all the producers in a warehouse,” she said. “I was allowed a minute and half. When I finished, it again was, ‘Good job. Thank you.’”
FILMING DOESN’T MEAN YOU “MADE IT”
When she found out she was invited to the filming, Woods actually stepped up her preparations.
“I talked to six or seven who had been on Shark Tank and asked them for the inside scoop on what happens,” she said. “I watched every episode. I wrote down every question. I scouted each of the Sharks.”
After the final pitch in Los Angeles, she found out she was be filming on Wednesday and that baseball star Alex Rodriguez would be her “Celebrity Shark.”
“They film all the episodes for the whole season in just 16 days, and there is a different guest Shark on different days,” she said. “I was given a number and I was the second pitch of the day. I know another guy who was the ninth pitch of the day, and he didn’t get to pitch. They ran out of time. They flew him back the next day. That was it not even the opportunity for a deal.”
Woods said her main goal was to connect with Mark Cuban, the colorful owner of the Dallas Mavericks of the NBA. When she found out about Alex Rodriguez, she had more of a fantasy than a goal regarding him.
“I knew he was dating J-Lo (Jennifer Lopez), so I pictured myself on a boat with A-Rod and J-Lo,” she joked. “I know it’s not really like that, but I got swept away.”
The day of filming became a blur to Woods, and she admitted that she blacked out on the chain of events for a few weeks after the big day.
“That morning, we got a tour of the warehouse and the set and where we would stand and then we all went back to our trailers,” she said. “Then, it was time for hair and makeup, and I could hear the first pitch and what was happening. It turns out it was the Gronkowskis (brothers of NFL tight end Rob Gronkowski). I knew they got a deal with Mark Cuban and A-Rod and that kind of got into my head and I started getting nervous.”
It was her turn, and Woods said she left makeup and went through one set of doors and down a short hallway and stood behind another set of doors. While she waited, she said she started having a full-on panic attack.
“I knew the Sharks were waiting on the other side of those doors,” she said. “I started shaking uncontrollably, and I knew I had to twist the cap and pull out the insert to demonstrate my product. I couldn’t have done that because I was shaking and sweating so much.”
At that point, Woods said he was blessed with another moment of divine intervention.
“The doors wouldn’t open,” she said. “I heard a voice say, ‘The doors won’t open; just give us a second.’ That made me stop shaking because it distracted me. He said, ‘Go’ and the doors opened and I walked out I front of the Sharks.”
Woods then faced another agonizing wait.
“What people don’t know is they show you walking out there and you start your pitch, but you walk out and stand on this ‘X’ and you have to stand there for about 45 seconds while, I guess, they adjust the sound and the lighting,” she said. “That was probably the longest minute of my life. I was standing there staring at the Sharks and they were staring at me, and then they said, ‘1-2-3 Go,’ and I started.”
WHAT “REALLY HAPPENS”
Woods said what aired on TV was very different than the reality of the situation. Editing.
“I was in there with the Sharks for about 45 minutes for a 12-minute episode that actually aired,” she said. “There is 30 minutes that you don’t even see. I knew it was heavily edited, but I didn’t really know how edited it was.”
Woods said the most egregious example was when they edited one of her statements to completely change the meaning.
“I said that I got pregnant when I was 19 and had to drop out of college one year out of high school,” she said. “They edited it so on my episode it looks like I said I dropped out of high school. They edited it because that makes better TV.”
Woods said they also changed the order of events in the editing to make the situation look more dramatic.
She said after Kevin O’Leary passed, Cuban was next to go out. Rodriguez and Lori Greiner began negotiating for a deal. Then, Barbara Corcoran passed and a deal was made with Rodriguez and Greiner.
After editing, however, the episode made it look like Woods was down to the last two, even taking a commercial break before showing the deal she actually made earlier in the timeline.
Woods also said the editing completely changed the interaction between the Sharks and her.
“When you watch the show, you see us talking back and forth in one-on-one conversations,” she said. “That’s not what really happens. They are all shouting things at you all at once. It’s completely overwhelming.”
This is also when she learned why the producers spent so much time interviewing her and getting “friendly” with her.
“I believe genuinely that the Sharks don’t know about you or your product before you get into the tank,” she said. “I could tell they all had earpieces, and the producer was feeding them things to hit my hot buttons – to get me off my game.
“For example, I was trying to answer a question from Mark Cuban and Barbara Cochran called me a perfectionist. That came right out of the blue. I was like ‘Where the heck did that come from?’”
Woods was shocked at the level of manipulation exercised by the producers.
“People are confused about “Shark Tank” and they think that’s really what happens. It’s a TV show.”
THE PSYCHIATRIST … AND MORE WAITING
Woods was ecstatic as she returned to her trailer after filming her episode. Even though she hadn’t achieved her main goal of connecting with Cuban, she had secured a deal and gotten great exposure for her product and business.
Another surprise was waiting for before she could even talk to her husband back in the trailer.
“Before we could talk to anyone, we had to meet with a psychiatrist and have a session,” she said. “He started telling me about all these things that were going to happen to me (psychologically). I thought it was crazy. I told him I was fine.”
As it turned out, her emotional ordeal was far from over and she even considered contacting that psychiatrist in the months after she filmed on “Shark Tank.”
“The crazy thing is I couldn’t really remember what happened,” she said. “I had this kind of blocked memory. Then, it was two weeks later and I hadn’t been able to sleep. I would wake up at 2 in the morning and I would remember something that happened. Plus, I still couldn’t talk about it with anybody.”
Even though she had gone through the recording in June, she still was not guaranteed her episode would air, and she heard nothing back from “Shark Tank” for several months.
“Even after you film, it doesn’t mean you are going to air,” she said. “Between 130 and 140 get sent to film and only 80 to 90 actually get aired in the season. I was just waiting and waiting – and nothing.”
It was October before she was told her episode would air, and only then did the Sharks begin negotiating the real deal.
“I had six days notice of my air date – which was going to be Nov. 5,” Woods said. “Two days before the date it was going to air, I heard from Lori’s team and A-Rod’s team and they wanted to renegotiate the deal. I told them I wasn’t interested in changing the deal and we never could come to an agreement. My air date came up and they just kind of let it go.”
“That’s OK, because I learned that most of the deals fall through and they didn’t actually happen, and even if they do the Sharks hardly ever put a dime of their money into it. I could give two hoots about that because I didn’t have to give up part of my company and I can still do it the way I want to.”
Once Woods’ episode aired, sales took off and she could finally relax.
“It was amazing,” she said. “I did more business in the first month after it aired than I had done the whole year before that. I got another smaller spike when it aired again in February, but it was after the Super Bowl and was up against ‘Last Man Standing.’
“I didn’t have a full night’s sleep from when I filmed until my episode aired. The night after it aired, I slept like a baby.”
A year after her adventure began, Woods sees it as an incredibly intense experience that, in the end, was overwhelmingly positive.
“Right after I filmed, I was able to join a private Facebook group that is only for people who have been through this,” she said. “Some of them regret doing “Shark Tank,” but for me it was an incredible experience.
“For me, the most inspiring thing has been all the response I have gotten from it. They warned me about some of the contestants who were getting just horrible emails and comments on social media. Some even would get death threats. I have not had one bad tweet or one bad email. I have gotten hundreds and hundreds of emails from people telling me I inspired them. It was, honestly, the best thing that ever could have happened in my life. Truly.”