For the sixth stop of the nationwide Shark Tank Diversity Tour, the casting team for ABC’s Shark Tank visited Detroit, where entrepreneurs pitched their business concepts at Detroit Center for Design + Technology. Here, Brandon Andrews engaged in a Q&A session with entrepreneurs at the casting call, and the organizations that support them, including Christopher Ray, co-founder of Hashtag Props.
Below, Andrews’ discusses the evolution of Ray and his wife’s business, Hashtag Props:
Brandon Andrews: What’s the Hashtag Props story?
Christopher Ray: Hashtag Props was developed almost on accident! I own a photo booth company, and I wanted a handheld sign that read “#PHOTOBOOTH313.” I searched the internet for weeks and called several companies. It quickly dawned on me that there were no companies that specialized in creating custom, hashtag props, per request.
Through trial and error, I was able to develop my first sign, and I received such positive feedback. I began to market our signs on social media, and the company immediately took off. We have shipped more than 2,000 signs in only five months.
Andrews: How does the process for ordering props and signs work, and who makes them?
Ray: Right now, we have a main vendor that produces all our signs for us.
The ordering process is very simple. First, visit HashtagProps.com. There, you can enter in the specifications for your sign(s), including the colors, font, and details.
Andrews: How will you scale your operation as the demand increases?
Ray: We take on approximately 50 to 100 orders per week. As the demand grows, I would ideally like to have all production under one roof, owned and operated by our company. I would like to increase the number of machines that cut the signs, so that more can be produced with a faster turnaround.
Andrews: You pitched at our Shark Tank casting call in Detroit. What does the opportunity to be on Shark Tank mean to you?
Ray: The opportunity to be on Shark Tank is one of my dreams. I have watched Shark Tank for years and wondered if I could, one day, develop a product that was genius enough to land me a spot on the show. I feel like [my wife and I] have developed that product!
Andrews: As half of a husband/wife business team, how do you balance business and family?
Ray: As husband and wife, we are very excited about the potential of our business. We feed off of each other’s energy. We encourage one another and share ideas on how to take our product to the next level.
Hashtag Props has not caused any stress in our family, because we have not incurred any company debt, nor have we taken any losses. We love the company we have developed. Our goal is to [one day be able to] walk away from our employers to run our business full-time!
Andrews: How do you plan to grow Hashtag Props in 2017?
Ray: So far, we have shipped to 29 states within the U.S., with the majority of our orders coming from our home [state] of Michigan. [However], we want to advertise and market our product worldwide.
We also want to own our distribution facility, so that we can control production. We are the innovators and industry leaders in customized, handheld props—many will try to duplicate, but we have created our niche.
During 2017, Values Partnerships has been leading a nationwide casting tour for ABC’s Shark Tank. This casting tour is focused on to giving diverse entrepreneurs the opportunity to pitch their businesses and appear on the show’s ninth season. In addition to having the opportunity to audition for Shark Tank, Values Partnerships has also held discussions on access to capital, offered pitch prep sessions, and shared entrepreneurship resources with entrepreneurs from around the country, all throughout the Shark Tank Diversity Tour.
To apply to audition for the ninth season of Shark Tank and find out more information on the Shark Tank Diversity Tour, visit www.sharktankdiversitytour.com.