@ Alaska Glacial Mud Company

By: Elizabeth Francois, Writer and Designer
Twitter: @elizfrancois
Facebook: Elizabeth's Note Book

Lauren Padawer strolled into the Shark Tank wearing a short sleeve, teal blue wrap round dress and black fur trimmed Wellingtons, (a fashion faux-pas perhaps). She is a commercial fisherman, the owner and founder of Alaska Glacial Mud Company, and was seeking $100,000 for a 20% stake.

As Lauren described how she discovered the buttery soft silky mud on a wilderness rafting trip down the majestic Copper River, visions of luxuriating in the mud danced in my head. I loved this product already. The Sharks however didn't seem to share my vision, eyeing Lauren a little hesitantly during her pitch. Her enthusiastic: “who wants to get their fins dirty and play in the mud with me?” elicited a lukewarm response from the Panel. Barbara put a voice to what everyone else seemed to be thinking: was Lauren the only one in the world to discover this miracle mud? Yes. (..well maybe not after the airing of this episode).

Lauren passed out samples of the different mixtures of the product her company carried. Kevin voiced his concern that a bear might have relieved itself near the mud source, and has to be reassured that the mud came from one of the cleanest wild rivers in the world and goes through a refining process for quality control. To substantiate this, Lauren offered to give Mr. Wonderful a "glacial facial" to which he graciously accepted, still unconvinced that there wasn't a little something extra that was about to be put on his face besides mud. The Sharks watched in amusement as Lauren carefully applied mud to Kevin’s face and answered their questions. As the mud dried and turned to the color of money, Mr. Wonderful’s secret identity emerged: he’s the Green Hornet’s evil twin brother! Mark even suggested adding horns really complete the look!

Feeling the toxins leaving his body as he headed back to his seat, the feel-good sensation in the Tank quickly changed when Lauren responded to Robert's query that sales to date is $36,000 a year. Robert's face puckered up as if he just tasted a Toxic Waste ball (the candy reputed to be the most sour candy in the world). Mr. Wonderful, feeling the relaxed effects of the glacial facial was unfazed by the low sales figure. The product cost $3 to make and retails for $34 (with free shipping on orders over $50). Until now the company only sold online, but Lauren's plans were to enter the spa market. Lauren elaborated on the difficulties of getting into that niche market, but did not explain her strategy for creating a foothold into it.

Lori liked the concept of the product but not the difficult entry into the spa market and was out, only to be shocked upon hearing that Lauren makes $100,000 as a commercial fisherman, fishing alone three months out of the year. Barbara perked up upon hearing this and jokingly offered to buy into the fishing business! All the Sharks were very impressed with Lauren’s prowess as a fisherman, but not as an entrepreneur in the mud business so they all went out. Except for one “Mr. Mud Face” as Lauren affectionately called Kevin! The toxins weren't the only thing that seem to have left Kevin’s body because he didn't deliver his usual verbal thrashing, considering in his opinion any business that isn't profitable after three years is not a business but rather a hobby. Instead, Kevin pointed out that anyone could go and pick up mud out of the Copper River, and finished it off with “I can't go down the river with you - I've got mud on my face" (..okay, that was lame).

As an avid user of mud masks, I am always on the lookout for all-natural products and it would seem that the Alaska Glacial Mud Co. is the holy grail of mud and has the potential to capture a much bigger market share. I disagreed with Mark's suggestion that Lauren should change the product's name. With all trends pointing to a growing interest in natural resources, research has shown that consumers purchasing on-emotions are already connected to and have a positive impression of what Alaska stands for.

In his book, About Face - The Secrets of Emotionally Effective Advertising, Dan Hill, founder and president of Sensory Logic, explains that 21st century marketing on-emotion is about "creating the right emotions for a particular person at the right time, and in the right way to fit the positioning of a given product."

As Barbara stated, Lauren needs to define whether she is retail or wholesale in order to create a successful strategy to grow her company. Lauren's success may be unprecedented as a commercial fisherman in the physically grueling male-dominated industry. Those same skills and strategies required for fishing can be applied equally to her fledgling mud company. An excellent example of how to execute such an application can be found in the book At the Helm, by Peter Isler and Peter Economy. I strongly recommend this book, as the insights gleaned from it can be applied to all areas of life as well. I hope Lauren can take some of these lessons to heart, and look forward to seeing Alaska Glacial Mud on store shelves everywhere!