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In May this year, students from Provo CAPS (Center for Advanced Personal Studies) and other Juniors and Seniors took the plunge with a few sharks– some entrepreneurial sharks– at the District Provo CAPS Shark Tank event.
The Shark Tank event is a Utah Valley Chamber of Commerce project planned and organized by Provo CAPS students in the Business, Marketing & Entrepreneurship strand and held at and hosted by Nu Skin Enterprises. The project allows aspiring entrepreneurs to pitch their business proposals to real business executives who offer cash prizes to fund their favorite pitches.
We interviewed last year’s winner, Isabelle Kaul, who now operates a mobile detailing company funded by her win. Isabelle spoke about the turbulent life events propelling her to launch her business, the challenges of young entrepreneurship, and how the Shark Tank competition helped her build a lucrative business.
If you’re a student looking to win the upcoming Shark Tank event, seeking an upper hand in developing a business, or are even remotely interested in learning the keys to entrepreneurial success, check out Isabelle’s interview, and start prepping for the Shark Tank event now.
Find more information about last year’s Shark Tank event or Provo CAPS.
Q: Could you share a little about your experience as a young entrepreneur? What troubles have you experienced?
A: I’ve been an entrepreneur from as long as I can remember, but it’s always been a waiting game regarding my age.
At fifteen I applied for any jobs that would take me but had to wait until I was sixteen because of working laws at the time. At seventeen, I started my business, but I couldn’t get any business licensing for my LLC. I didn’t have a FICO score, so I couldn’t receive any business loans. Recently, at eighteen, my company grew to require commercial insurance. I discovered you have to be nineteen to be approved for commercial insurance.
I’ve always found creative solutions to my problems. At sixteen, I called back for a job that failed to call me back, and that call got me the job. I registered my business on my eighteenth birthday while applying for two grants totaling $3000 to fund my company. For commercial insurance, I found the only company that would support my request and received insurance.
All of these setbacks felt like the end of my company, but I continued to resolve each issue. That’s what it takes to be an entrepreneur. Stay the course and nothing can stop you.
I have been so blessed with many people and mentors to help me on this journey. Having mentors can help you grow faster; every entrepreneur should have one.
Q: So, who are those mentors that helped you start your own business?
A- The first mentors to show me the ropes at seventeen were Taliah Hansen and Meghan McFall. They took me under their wing and did everything possible to prepare me to win the CAPS Shark Tank and other grants.
It’s hard to list every single person that has helped me because I’ve learned and taken something from every person I’ve met and I am so blessed for that.
Fast forward to now, and many of the Sharks have become some of my closest friends and teachers.
Q: Tell us a little bit about your business.
A: ZMD Z’s Mobile Detailing is a car detailing service based out of Utah County. I’m Z, short for Izzy. We’re a mobile detailing car business. Our motto is clean car, clean mind, clean money. A clean stress-free environment is the key to success.
Q: Where did you come up with your business idea?
A: In my Junior year of high school, I had saved enough money to buy my first car cash. I got into a prank war with some friends that escalated quickly. I ended up with Vaseline on my windows and flour in my engine– It was a mess. This event led to my diagnosis of Alopecia Areata, where I lost half of my hair mass– which has since grown back, don’t worry!
My family was dealing with an unrelated trauma, and I was going through a breakup. It was a lot.
I was so mad. I felt betrayed. I decided that I was going to make something out of the experience.
So, I took my experience trying to clean my car from the incident. After a meaningful conversation with my Uncle Dave, and doing some market research on the barrier to entry and overhead, I got going.
Q: Where do you see yourself in five years?
A: We’re finally hitting five figures a month, and I’d like to scale up. It’s my baby, and I want to take this as far as possible.
Q: Do you remember the Shark Tank Competition? What was your presentation strategy?
A: I worked hard on my pitch. I tried to memorize it, read it aloud, recorded myself, wrote it on my mirror, and watched my facial expressions. Public speaking is a skill, and it makes a difference when pitching.
Q: Do you remember what the Sharks asked you during your pitch?
A: They asked me what my differentiator in the market was. First, that I’m a women minority in a male-dominated industry, which gets me into government contracts. This gives me the ability to get to detail police cars, buses, school vehicles, and other things like that.
Another is Industrial Equipment. Not many details target the dirty jobs, but there is a market for it.
Having a differentiator is key to both the competition and your business. Find out what makes you and your business different.
Q: Did the Shark Tank Competition help you hone your skills and better prepare you for owning a business?
A: Yes. Absolutely. When you’re practicing your pitch, you quickly learn the things you don’t know about your company. You have to know your company like the back of your hand. Margins, Growth Rate, Quarterly Projections, and costs of labor of goods are a few subjects you must absolutely know. If you don’t know your stuff, that’s money lost.
Q: How did you spend your Shark Tank winnings?
A: My pitch was specifically the down payment for my van since I didn’t have a FICO or business accounts to get a car loan.
Wheels hit the road with the Shark Tank investment; we’ve since made many improvements and upgrades to our first rig.
Q: What advice would you give any student wanting to start their own business?
A: Stick with it. Don’t quit and find a new job when you run into a rough patch. You have to stick with it.
Also, find a good mentor that believes in you to show you the ropes.
Q: Any advice for students competing or planning to compete in the Shark Tank event?
A: Build a solid business plan and strategically execute– I’ve stayed in contact with all of the sharks, who’ve helped me exponentially– and they said execution was a critical factor in my win. My company had generated revenue.
Lastly, practice more than anyone else. Be the best.
Q: You’ve mentioned that you’ve kept in contact with the Sharks after the competition. How has networking after the event helped your business?
A: First, Joy Wu is always available to answer any questions I have and gives her honest insight. I can contact her about anything.
Ryan King and Mackenzie Bauer from Thread Wallets always offer tons of advice.
Sam Taggart, the king of door-to-door -I totally relate to him– a natural born entrepreneur, he started his journey at a young age as well. He is very involved with the Street Smarts program and is always helping me get my foot in the door. I am always catching the good words he says about me. He’s very supportive and I consider him a good friend.
Victoria, the owner of Wilkinson’s, has helped me tons, always willing to talk about new ideas for the company and strategy.
Cody Mack is excellent. I work on detailing Cody’s solar team. Cody is a really great friend of mine, very supportive and intelligent. Always willing to give insight and direction with any new business and personal endeavors.
Their network is so powerful. They’re fantastic people and want to see people succeed. Lucky to have them in my corner.
Q: Are there any school programs you’d recommend for students to get ahead now?
A: The Provo CAPS program and DECA. I wish I had known about them while I was in high school.
I’m so glad there are programs and people to actually help young entrepreneurs. Rather than creating workers, CAPS creates entrepreneurs. These programs are a great leg up on the competition.