Deborah Paul: Hey Shark Tank, Bite on This
Dear Shark Tank,
I regret that I haven’t yet appealed to your TV panel of billionaires about my great business ideas. However, with no patents, prototypes, or profit, I feared you would-be investors would not invest and, even worse, call me a cockroach. I’ve heard that epithet hurled on the show, and it might hurt my feelings.
Here’s the deal. Two Hoosier inventions have hit the big time, and my concepts are better. I mean, would you buy potato chips flavored like Southern biscuits and gravy? I’d sooner eat filet of genetically altered salmon. The lady who cooked those up is from Noblesville, Indiana, and only 25 years old, and she won $1 million from Lay’s! And two Carmel guys successfully created a “smart” 4-inch silicone duckie named Edwin that interacts with children via an app. Our local newspaper described the toy as intelligent and trustworthy. Well, so am I.
You devoted an entire episode last season to millennials, which I consider outright ageist bigotry if not elder abuse. One contestant showed up wearing flip-flops and another funded his invention with his Bar Mitzvah money. Believe you me, even at 60-plus, I’m every bit as hip as those kids. Why, I recognize at least half of the celebrities in Us Weekly. Well, 30 percent. Okay, 20.
But forget about all of that for a minute. This all started years ago, when my sister and I both had young children, and we thought up baby bibs packaged in a roll like plastic bags. (In those days, plastic bags came in a roll. Trust me.) Just pull off one at a time and throw it away after use. I’ve got your attention now, right? And I always thought hospitals should have sick daycare centers where working (or rich, lazy) parents could drop off their ill kids, who would be tended by nurses and housed in the empty beds that hospitals are always trying to fill. (I once served on a hospital board and know this for a fact.) Granted, the communicable-disease aspect might render this brainstorm moot, but you have to admit the notion has legs.
I never could get up the nerve to contact McDonald’s, but I still think they should sell baby meals, which would include teeny portions of strained foods in little squeezable pouches. You’d have your partitioned plastic dish, your wee spoon, and even a few ounces of formula in your disposable bottle. If McDonald’s ever decides to do this, let it be known I thought of it first.
I have some new inventions that are timely and relevant. Just listen. You know how parents make excuses for not potty training their kids, some of whom prance around in pull-up diapers well past 3? So here’s my solution … wait for it … a company called Booty Camp (so clever!) that dispatches trained representatives into private homes to teach toddlers the proper toilet techniques using a scientific reward system, something akin to Pavlov’s dogs, only for humans. We pay the kindly reps—who will be screened to look like Mrs. Doubtfire—half of what we charge, hence our profit. This is an idea whose time has come.
If you do not take me seriously, I will have no choice but to hand my creative concepts to your competition.
But wait, there’s more. I am offended by the pen-like implement we use to sign for our charge transaction at pharmacy counters. Who could be more contagious than people picking up prescriptions for Tamiflu, leprosy medicine, or worse? My company will manufacture and sell plastic sleeves for the pens, not unlike those used for oral thermometers. I assure you that after 60 Minutes exposes the staggering germ count on these devices, pharmacies will order them by the truckload.
And while we’re on the subject of germs, do you not worry about the Starbucks clerks who take your dirty money and then press down the lid of your cup—right on that little slot where you sip? We will extend our product line to include peel-off plastic shields for the coffee lids. The customer zips off the shield, and goodbye microorganisms!
One final breakthrough: I plan to hire a team of techies to help me invent a high-def security camera. Why should criminals get away because we can see only their shadowy, fuzzy forms? Nineteen eighty-five called: It wants its surveillance systems back.
If any of you steal my ideas, you are, in the vernacular of your own Mr. Wonderful, dead to me. This communication is private, intended only to pique your interest enough to invite me on the show. If you do not take me seriously, I will have no choice but to hand my creative concepts to your competition. Do you have competition? No? Well, then, never mind. But don’t come crawling back to me after I become rich and famous on my own. To quote an astute former colleague who hails from the deep South: “I got ideas I ain’t even thought of yet.”
Illustration by Elvis Swift