What It's Like to Be on 'Shark Tank'

Behind the scenes of Mitchell Allen's nine minutes of fame.

Mitchell Allen’s first pitch competition was “Shark Tank.” The self-proclaimed “head elf” at Hire Santa — a Southlake-based Santa hiring service that helps customers book Santa gigs for events — had always been a fan of the hit ABC show but never experienced a business competition before. So, he took the leap, brought 20 Santas to the “Shark Tank” set and came out with a deal with Barbara Corcoran.

Here, he shares how he got into the tank — and survived.

The product
Allen says his edge was having a product that was visual. He wouldn’t have pitched his internet advertising company, LeadRival: “That’s just not a company you see on ‘Shark Tank.’”

“You have to really cater toward the producers and casting agents ... their job is to make the show entertaining,” he says.

The audition
Allen’s first open audition took place during a small-business expo in Dallas, where he waited in line for a full day to give a one-minute pitch to the casting crew. The prospective companies varied, from people with full-fledged businesses to folks who just had an idea.

What impressed the showrunners, he says, was the fact that his company had revenue, a fun service and an interesting story. They told him to not expect to get called back — he got a callback in less than a week.

The next step was to create an audition tape that not only explained the company but showcased his energy. Allen’s 10-minute video got him another callback in less than a month. He was then assigned to producers whom he spoke with over the phone each week. They went over his pitch, made sure financials were in order, signed contracts, then started working on how the show would be filmed.

The prep work
Allen says he overprepared: He DVRed reruns, watched almost every episode several times and took notes on the types of questions sharks raised on the show. He also did four “dress rehearsals” with members of EO.

“It’s not shown, but whenever I was on the air, there were 25 minutes of negotiating … I had multiple scenarios about how to negotiate, so when I walked into it, I was ready to get it over with,” Allen says. “Because of all the preparation, I didn’t have the nerves that I would have otherwise had.”

The debrief
Once filming ended, Allen says the show has a psychiatrist talk with the contestants to make sure they’re OK — he was. He was then assigned to one of Corcoran’s staff that manages her portfolio of companies. From there, Allen and Corcoran began a due diligence process standard to buying or a selling a company. As of press time, Allen was still in the middle of due diligence, but he says the exposure from the show has already increased business.