Desiree Davis Stolar (Des), a graduate of the University of Virginia and Harvard Business School, spent most of her career as a research consultant for Fortune 500 media, tech and retail companies on brand strategies, loyalty programs and product features. During graduate school, she and a few classmates launched a patent-pending product (Unshrinkit) that unshrinks wool clothing that accidentally shrunk in the washer or dryer. Unshrinkit has been featured on The Today Show, Bloomberg and Boston Magazine, and it is has been a top finalist with HBS, Intuit and MassChallenge.
1) How did you come up with the idea for Unshrinkit?You can go to class at Harvard Business School in relatively casual clothing. However, you can not attend an HBS class in a crop top…!
A few weeks earlier I accidentally shrank a gorgeous cashmere top my sister had just given me. I thought I had saved it using a home remedy. However, the warm water & conditioner method didn’t work, and the top had shrunk three inches over the course of the school day. I left class determined to fix the problem of clothing shrinkage permanently.
2) How difficult was it to get a deal on Shark Tank as your product would stop people from going back to the shops to buy another one?
Interesting question! Ironically, we help some retailers sell more cashmere and wool items. People are concerned about shrinking their clothes, particularly the more expensive items. Having Unshrinkit almost serves as an insurance policy for those who customers normally would not purchase a premium wool sweater, but now are less concerned about the laundry care. In addition, most of the sharks immediately saw the potential for our product.
3) How did your experience on Shark Tank help you and your business?
The experience pitching, prepping and negotiating on Shark Tank was invaluable. We spent hours every day working toward that moment on the set. The experience made us sharper for competitions, investor calls, and accelerator pitches. The experience also made us laser-focused on sales and customer service heading into the “sweater season.”
4) How has Mark Cuban been as a investor and mentor?
We did not close our deal with Mark Cuban. We learned a great deal from engaging with his business team during the negotiations though. The experience of briefly working with them made us wiser about retail relations, due diligence and product quality. In addition, I think they were pleased to unshrink a couple sweaters!
5) What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs who want to start a business?
Start a business that solves not just a problem, but a true pain point.
If you have developed something unique, do not hesitate to file for patent protection.
Never underestimate the value of intense and extended preparation.
Remember that no business lasts forever. You should engage transparently and respectfully with customers, partners, investors, co-founders, and supporters.
Thank you to Des Stolar for speaking with us.