Lani Lazzari has been making skincare scrubs since she was 11 years old. She’s grown up running her company, Simple Sugars, and at the experienced age of 21, she’s not content to sit at $3 million in sales.
“The goal is to turn Simple Sugars into a $30 million company within the next five years,” says Lazzari, the company’s president and CEO.
It was her appearance on “Shark Tank” in March 2013 that put Simple Sugars on the map, and to date she’s one of the most successful entrepreneurs to appear on the show.
Lazzari — and Mark Cuban’s investment — turned the company from three employees and about 40 retail locations to 25 employees and more than 1,000 national locations.
A creative approach to funding
Lazzari made all-natural skincare scrubs for sensitive skin as a hobby until her junior year of high school. That’s when she got serious about turning Simple Sugars into a legitimate business.
It was after a national public relations tour in 2012 that she caught the attention of a “Shark Tank” producer who reached out and asked her if she’d thought about appearing on the show.
“And at that point, I really hadn’t. I’d seen it maybe a couple of times in passing, but I wasn’t really a fan of the show,” she says. “But I started doing some research and realized it was a great opportunity, so I said, ‘Why not?’ and sent in an application and never really expected to hear anything back from them.”
She had just turned 18 and was finally able to put the company in her own name, but like many small businesses struggling with cash flow, Lazzari needed funding to grow.
“Since the business was in my name when I went to the bank and asked for a loan they basically laughed in my face,” she says.
“I needed to be able to get a little bit creative and find an alternative way to fund the business because, up until that point, it had been financed entirely on my mom’s credit card, and she was pretty much tapped out at that point,” Lazzari says.
‘We blew all of the projections way out of the water’
After making it through the application process, Lazzari’s episode was filmed in September 2012.
“Shark Tank” is very much like you’d expect from watching it, she says. The pitch is longer — hers was almost two hours — than you see on TV, but the only help producers provided was with rehearsing the introduction.
The show, however, films more people than it needs, so you don’t know whether your episode will air.
“That was the most stressful part of the whole thing,” Lazzari says. “It wasn’t actually going and doing the pitch; it was just waiting to hear — waiting for them to get in touch with you and tell you if your episode was going to be on TV.”
With the due diligence process behind her, she got her funding from Mark Cuban at the beginning of March, and then found out in the middle of the month that it would air in two weeks.
“Mark and his team couldn’t really help us that much until the episode actually aired because no one was allowed to know that we were partnered up yet,” Lazzari says.
She was told to expect to sell $20,000 to $30,000 worth of product on the night the show aired, which was an entire year’s worth of online sales. So, Lazzari moved Simple Sugars into a larger fulfillment center and the employees worked to stock up.
“And then the show aired, and before I was even done pitching we already had done that $30,000. And within an hour, we’d done $150,000 and within four hours we’d done $200,000 and then through that weekend we did $600,000,” Lazzari says. “And then we hit $1 million within six weeks. Basically, we blew all of the projections way out of the water.”