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Finance grad pitches his invention on ‘Shark Tank,’ lands sweet deal

Nov 28, 2017

Joshua Esnard was still on an adrenaline high when he visited the Florida State campus, just two days after his episode aired on ABC’s “Shark Tank.” He had pitched his invention – The Cut Buddy – to a panel of five investment capitalists four months earlier, walking away with a $300,000 deal and partnership with Shark Daymond John, founder of FUBU.

The 2008 finance graduate returned to his alma mater to speak at the Jim Moran School of Entrepreneurship’s annual 7 Under 30 Speaker Series, which features seven FSU alumni who launched successful businesses before the age of 30. Esnard regaled students with stories about how he developed his multi-curve hairline and beard grooming tool and how he ended up on “Shark Tank.”

Last July, Esnard flew to Culver City, Calif., where the show is taped, and spent four days rehearsing his pitch in front of the show’s producers until he nailed it and was ready go live in front of Sharks John, Mark Cuban, Kevin O’Leary, Lori Greiner and Robert Herjavic. O’Leary offered him a deal, too, but Esnard chose to go with his idol John, whose partnership he had set his sights on.

“The whole process of preparing to make the pitch was exhilarating, and incredibly nerve wracking,” Esnard said. “Even though the product was selling great already, finding out these wildly successful entrepreneurs were impressed by it and willing to invest in it was affirming and exciting.”  

Since making his live pitch, Esnard has been working with John to grow his customer base by connecting to retail and licensing opportunities. Esnard said he was kept in the dark about whether his episode would be aired, and was thrilled when he learned it was a go for Nov. 12.

Esnard was living in Fort Lauderdale and working at Broward College when he caught the attention of “Shark Tank” producers after a demonstration of The Cut Buddy on YouTube went viral, garnering 10 million views. He sold thousands of the $14.95 product within a few hours. He was able to quit his day job and concentrate on his startup business. The Cut Buddy went on to produce more than $700,000 in sales its first year on the market and became an Amazon.com No. 1 best-seller in the United States and Canada.

Esnard said he invented the hair and beard shaping tool when he was 13 years old out of desperation. He couldn’t afford to go to the barber and didn’t want his dad, a professor at Cornell University, cutting his hair, so he began doing it himself. The results, he admitted, were not pretty. Though he used the template himself throughout high school and college – and tested it on friends and his brother – he didn’t consider taking it to the next level until 2015.

He credits his fiancée with putting him on an upward trajectory when she admonished him for “not showing up for life, not finishing anything he started.” That prompted him to leaf through the “book of inventions” he had been compiling since childhood and to visit a patent attorney. He discovered there wasn’t anything like The Cut Buddy in the marketplace.

Esnard and The Cut Buddy have been covered in GQ, Black Enterprise, Forbes and the Huffington Post, and was featured on National Public Radio’s “How I Built This with Guy Raz” podcast about innovators and entrepreneurs.

“I plan to keep inventing useful tools that help people with their struggles,” Esnard said. “To know that a wounded veteran, whose hands shake from his medication, can hold my template and make a perfect cut, or a mother, who can’t afford haircuts for her three children, is benefiting from my product, makes me feel I’m accomplishing something good.”

By Barbara Ash





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