Tara Williams, creator of the Dreamland Baby weighted sack, always knew she wanted to be on ABC's Shark Tank. She spent years watching the show, dreaming of the day she'd be able to pitch her very own product (even if at the time she didn't yet know what that might be.)
Well that moment finally came when her episode aired in May 2020, the culmination of more than a year spent trying to get her baby product in front of not only the sharks, but households all across the U.S.
As parents, we know those exasperating sleepless nights are worth it; but for Tara, it also meant her dream of entrepreneurship would finally become a reality.
A Business-Minded Mama Dreaming of More Sleep
New inventions and products are generally born out of a need, and what Tara and her husband, Rob, needed in 2018 was more sleep. Their 6-month-old son, Luke, was waking up every hour and a half.
As their fourth child, Tara tried to utilize the experience of having raised three other babies, but nothing worked. One night, desperate for some shuteye, Tara placed a heavy throw blanket over Luke while on the couch together. She noticed an immediate calm come over him. At that moment, the idea of the weighted wearable blanket for babies was born...and there was no looking back.
Lucky for Tara, she had a mother-in-law who knew how to sew. The first prototype was created immediately and on the very first night she put it on her son Luke, he slept 12 hours straight! And that's when she knew she had to get this product into the hands of bleary-eyed moms and dads who just needed their babies to sleep.
Tara quickly began the next steps of turning her dream of becoming a successful entrepreneur into a reality.
Dreamland Baby's Journey to the Shark Tank
Tara knew she had a good thing going as she watched her son peacefully doze off to dreamland night after night. What she needed to do next was prove to everyone else that adding weight to a sleep sack, due to its ability to increase serotonin and melatonin to induce relaxation and sleep, would be the ticket to helping babies fall asleep and stay asleep. She partnered with pediatricians, NICU nurses, and Certified Sleep Consultants to get the product just right.
She always dreamed that Shark Tank would be in her future and when people kept repeatedly telling her, "You need to be on Shark Tank!" as she shared her product idea, she knew her moment had come.
Shark Tank Q and A with Dreamland Baby Creator Tara Williams
I had the opportunity to interview Tara and find out exactly what that process looked like from start to finish...one she questioned every day if she'd move on to the next step. With persistence, resilience, and not willing to take no for an answer, Tara finally made her dreams come true.
What were the steps that led up to you getting on Shark Tank?
I first applied in March of 2019. I submitted my application on the Shark Tank online portal and I heard back about a month later. There was a lot of paperwork and several more steps. I was finally “accepted” in July 2019 and told we would be filming in September.
What kind of challenges did you face to get on Shark Tank?
There were so many! At any step in the process you can be cut, so every time I spoke with the assistant producers I was super nervous.
I didn’t have any of my legal or financial in order at the time because we hadn’t shipped any product at that point.* I had to work overtime to incorporate the business, get commercial liability insurance, become a c-corp, register all my domains, etc. Because you are pitching for an investment, it's like any other Venture Capitalist pitch, and all the behind the scenes business stuff needs to be in line.
*Tara launched the Dreamland Baby campaign months later on Kickstarter and it fully funded in 72 hours!
Have you been a long time fan of Shark Tank?
YES! Shark Tank is one of my favorite shows. I have been watching since college. I remember every time someone would present I would say, "I could do that! That could be me!"
Although I didn’t know what my product would be, I always dreamed I would have the opportunity to pitch to the sharks one day. The theme of season 10 was “A Decade of Dreams.” Every time I heard the commercials saying those words, I would get teary-eyed, imagining myself standing in the tank.
How did you feel on the day of taping as you were waiting for your turn to present Dreamland Baby to the sharks?
I can’t even describe it. So many different emotions ranging from “you got this,” being totally prepared knowing all my numbers and business strategy to being completely terrified (especially of Mr. Wonderful), to just pure excitement.
Was there a lot of waiting during the process? What about the day of?! Tell us about that and how you felt.
It was such a rollercoaster of emotions, that started in March 2019 and didn’t conclude until May 2020 when we aired. It was over a year of not knowing what the next step or outcome would be. Even when you are invited to pitch to the sharks, at every step you are told you could be cut.
On the day of filming we were waiting around basically all day for our turn to present our pitches. Some had gone longer than expected and they ran out of time. Another brand that we had been hanging out with wasn’t able to pitch. It was devastating for them to make it all that way just to be told to try again next year.
When it was finally your turn, what did it feel like when they opened those doors and you walked into the Shark Tank?
It was surreal. It was such an out of body experience. In my mind’s eye I had seen myself walking down that hall and through those doors a thousand times. When it was go time, I felt like I was operating in automatic. It was like I was floating down the hall.
Was the experience in the Tank what you expected?
Yes and no. My situation was a little different than a lot of other entrepreneurs because we had just launched three weeks prior to pitching. I came in with a really fair valuation and looking to make a genuine deal. There wasn’t much to “beat me up about,” as Mr. Wonderful would say.
Overall the experience was super positive and the sharks gave me some incredible advice.
What kind of deal were you seeking and did you hope to make a deal with a specific shark?
I was initially going to ask for $150,000 for 9% equity, but I decided to ask for less the day of. I really wanted to make a deal so I wanted it to be more enticing for the sharks.
I went there for Lori. She is such an inspiration to me as a woman in business. She is also so kind and genuine; I knew she would be the perfect partner. While in the tank I focused on answering her questions first and directing my attention to her while I was sharing my story and other facts about the business.
What were your feelings when you left the Tank?
Pure joy. I have never been so excited in my life. As I was exiting the tank I remember thinking: "don’t ever forget this moment because your life is about to change."
Do you have any advice for someone else with a baby product trying to get on the show?
After I received the initial email from them with interest I didn’t hear back for several weeks. I reached out a few times with business updates, including a video of myself sharing some of the exciting things we had going on. When I got to LA one of the executive producers said to me, "I think you may be the most persistent person to ever pitch in the tank. We all admire how much you want to be here."
What was one of your most memorable moments of the experience?
After I finished my pitch there is a post-interview to give your final thoughts. I thought my husband had watched the pitch and that they hadn't taken him back to the trailer until I was doing the post-interview. I didn’t realize after he finished his acting part during my introduction he was taken back. He hadn’t seen me pitch!
When I opened the trailer door he was so excited and asked what happened. I started crying tears of joy and literally fell into his arms while I exclaimed, “I made a deal with LORI!!!!!” We hugged for probably 10 minutes.
"It was such a magical moment I will remember for the rest of my life."
Dreamland Baby Makes a Deal with a Shark
On May 15, 2020 sleep-deprived moms and dads tuned in to watch Dreamland Baby make a deal for its weighted wearable blanket.
Tara told us that Lori Greiner has always been her favorite shark and that if she made a deal with anyone, she really wanted it to be her. Her dreams came true times two when Lori countered Tara's counter with a deal of $100,000 for a 22.5% stake and Tara replied, "Let's do it!"
In case you missed Tara Williams pitching the Dreamland Baby weighted sack to the Shark Tank, you can watch it here!