ustin Rietema and Doug Schultz are landscape architects by trade, but boaters at heart. So the Fort Lauderdale area residents spent six years developing a life-saving flotation jacket, called the Human Bobber, in the hopes of achieving financial independence.
They took a major step in that direction when they successfully pitched their invention on ABC-TV’s Shark Tank program, winning support from two nationally prominent entrepreneurs.
On Sunday night, Shark Tank revealed on its latest episode that Kevin “Mr. Wonderful” O’Leary, an investment fund operator and software entrepreneur, pledged to back the inventors with $120,000. At the last minute, Mark Cuban, technology entrepreneur and owner of the Dallas Mavericks NBA team, said he would provide accounting and other business expertise.
“We had a great little watch party last night. Our phone was just blowing up for three hours straight,” Schultz said. He said sales of the Human Bobber spiked Monday morning after the show aired.
Schultz said just having the Sharks on board makes the Human Bobber, a flotation device that can be worn like shorts, more marketable to wholesalers. “We have the backing of two major brands [Kevin O’Leary and Mark Cuban],” he said.
Rietema and Schulz entered the Shark Tank seeking $120,000 in exchange for 15 percent of their business. They ended up awarding 33 percent to O’Leary and 10 percent to Cuban.
While gave up a bigger share of their business than anticipated, Rietema said he and Schultz are happy with the deal. They believe O’Leary will help them market the product while Cuban can lend his expertise both with Amazon Exclusives and the business end of the operation.
Shark Tank is a reality show where budding entrepreneurs pitch their businesses to a panel of successful entrepreneurs including Cuban, O’Leary, QVC-TV queen Lori Greiner, real estate magnate Barbara Corcoran; technology entrepreneur Robert Herjavec, and FUBU lifestyle brand founder Daymond John.
The Sharks, who are all multi-millionaire to billionaire entrepreneurs themselves, don’t usually make investment offers to businesses that lack at least a few years of revenue or whose owners work their business part-time.
For the Human Bobber founders, the process to develop a business has been slow. They both have full-time jobs, and it has taken time to get a prototype made, file for a provisional patent, and get their invention approved by the U.S. Coast Guard. The latter occurred in May 2016, Rietema said.
But Rietema said it was clear the Sharks liked their product during a Shark Tank show audition they did in Miami in 2015, with more than 4,000 other people.
The Human Bobber products include the Coast Guard approved “Bottoms Up,” which inverts to sit in and float — perhaps relaxing with your drink of choice or cleaning the underside of your boat, Rietema says. Other models are the Scuttlebutt, an aquatic chair, and a kayak model that can replace kayak seats. Prices range from $64.95 to $89.99, according to the company’s website, https://h3osports.com/.
The friends, who came up with the idea while boating on the Intracoastal Waterway, say they will continue working as landscape architects even though they scored a Shark Tank deal.
“We’re not going to jump feet first with this,” Rietema said.
Rietema’s wife, Amy, and Schultz’s wife, Lauren, will take over the day-to-day operation of the Human Bobber business. Justin and Amy are expecting their first child while Doug and Lauren are the parents of three young boys.
“The deal was when we decided to have a third that she got to stay home,” said Shultz, who said his wife formerly worked in human resources.