By the time Noam and Irene Krasniansky’s Shark Tank pitch aired on ABC on Friday, February 28th, their reusable paper-towel product, Bambooee, was already available in northern California Costco stores, several Whole Foods stores, and thousands of natural food shops nationwide. It had won an innovation award at the 2012 International Home & Housewares Show, and was featured on Good Morning America, where three out of three mom testers approved.
Bambooee, which the Krasnianskys call "the un-paper towel," brought in revenues of $122,000 last year. They expect triple those sales this year. But help from the Sharks, they say, could help “take Bambooee to the next level.” Noam tells Yahoo! Small Business that he and his wife auditioned with 50,000 other entrepreneurs for a spot on Shark Tank because: “We’re not a large corporation with a lot of money, connections, and wherewithal for distribution. This is an innovative idea and we wanted it to grow quickly, so we needed the right partner who would understand our vision, not cut our wings, and help with distribution so that more people will have access to the product.”
Unlike the episode’s preceding three entrepreneurs who were laughed out of the room, the Krasnianskys captured the hard-nosed investors’ attention and walked away with $200,000 funding in exchange for a 10 percent stake in their company.
Noam, who has had a long career as a professional pitchman selling “As Seen On TV” products distributed by his business, CM National, Inc., says he has also “always been a tinkerer.” So, when his wife wished there was a sustainable alternative to paper towels, he embarked on a series of experiments to develop one.
He tested textiles made from corn and sugar, but settled on bamboo as the most renewable resource and ultimate material for a thin, absorbent, reusable cloth. “Why people don’t use it more often is beyond me,” he says. “Once you cut it, you don’t have to replant it. It grows new every year at a crazy rate. Some bamboo trees grow two feet a day.”
The Bambooee is packaged in a perforated roll that fits in a conventional paper towel dispenser. For cleaning up spills, absorbing grease, or wiping down counters or appliances, Noam and Irene say Bambooee “feels better” than a paper towel, leaves no streaks, works while damp, and can be bleached, machine washed, and reused 100 times. One 20-sheet Bambooee roll, which retails for between $12 and $15, replaces 286 rolls of disposable paper towels, they claim. They have a patent pending on a proprietary manufacturing process.
Noam says there’s an obvious market for the product: “People are addicted to paper towels. The leading brand sold almost $2 billion worth last year. About 3,000 tons of paper towel waste is produced per day.” But as people grow more environmentally aware, they feel increasingly guilty about killing trees. He’d like to see Bambooee eliminate all that waste and guilt.
The Krasnianskys go a step further to appeal to the green market: for every Bambooee roll sold, they plant a tree in partnership with Trees for the Future. They’ve planted more than 50,000 so far, and Noam says the goal is 1 million. Noam says Bambooee is a chance for him and his wife, who grows vegetables and raises chickens in their Los Angeles backyard, to make a bigger difference. “We’ve been in business a long time. I didn’t want to wait until I’m an old person to do philanthropic things. We said, ‘Let’s do this and do something we believe in’.” Shark Tank's Lori Greiner, a prolific inventor of successful retail industry products who holds 120 patents of her own, called them and their product “heroes.”
To other entrepreneurs who could benefit from the Sharks’ help, Noam says, “Go for it. Just apply; don’t have analysis paralysis. The Sharks have respect for people who work hard and are committed.”
He says it was a nerve-wracking, life changing experience, but anyone who watches the episode can attest to his winning salesmanship and Irene’s charming energy. “You have to be endearing and show something unique,” Noam says. It’s clear that the Krasnianskys also won the Sharks over with a smart idea, a well-defined business plan, and a track record of sales successes.
Here's that original pitch for Bambooee that garnered them so much success.