The Skandalaris Center decided to swim with the sharks for our Summer with Skandy event series. The 2nd week of our event series involved contestants from the show “Shark Tank” who had secured deals with some of the most successful investors. We had the opportunity to listen to our panelists’ experiences within entrepreneurship and learn how the handshake deal impacted their businesses. This week’s event was held at Spark St. Louis, a coworking space in Ballpark Village. WashU student and St. Louis Entrepnreuial Fellow, Jonah Zacks, had the pleasure of moderating the discussion and a Q&A session between our panelists and guests.
Our panelists included:
Cedric Cobb, a native of St. Louis, Missouri, holds a Bachelor of Administration from Pittsburg State University in Business Management. Mr. Cobb invented arguably the best men’s furnishing of the 21st century—the “Best Pocket Square Holder. “It solves the age-old problem of how to secure a pocket square in a man’s chest pocket. After this invention, Cedric made the natural progression to start his men’s fashion technology company, Best Wardrobe Solutions. His company pays very close attention to the detail of a man’s wardrobe with custom accessories, wardrobe consulting services, and an innovative free mobile app. His invention has recently landed him on the #1 Reality Show, SharkTank, where he secured a deal with the FUBU fashion mogul Mr. Daymond John.
Talia Goldfarb graduated from Williams College in 1994 with a major in Psychology and received a master’s in social work from the University of Alabama in 1996. Motherhood altered her professional path, as her son’s sagging pants led to the invention of Myself Belts. Talia co-founded Myself Belts, a patented, one-handed, easy-to-fasten belt for children and adults, in 2004. Talia was featured on Season 6 of ABC’s Shark Tank in October 2014 and partnered with Daymond John. Myself Belts have been featured in numerous magazines such as The Huffington Post, People Magazine, US Weekly, Woman’s Day, and Forbes.com. Talia sold Myself Belts in May 2022 and is now focusing on her consulting business, Entrepreneurial Insight LLC, an entity that blends her training as a therapist with her entrepreneurial experience to provide guidance and support to entrepreneurs.
After losing his full scholarship to Howard University to study chemical engineering, Akeem Shannon was determined to out-earn his friends, who would graduate from university in less than three years. Akeem found great success as a salesperson at two large telecom companies before being recruited to one of the large fintech companies, Square. As he worked with hundreds of small businesses, that entrepreneurial itch kept growing inside him. In 2017 while on a late-night call with his Uncle, a NASA engineer, he learned of a reusable adhesive NASA had researched in the 70s. Within a few months, he created the Flipstik, taught himself to write a patent and trademarks, and launched his business on Kickstarter in 2018. Flipstik has seen incredible growth in two years, with over $300k in sales, winning 1st place at the 2019 CES Retail Pitch competition by TechStars, Impressing Sean “Diddy” Combs & Snoop Dogg with the technology and content creators nationwide after appearing on Shark Tank.
Throughout the panel, Zacks and our special guest engaged in meaningful conversation about the TV experience, being proud of St. Louis, and what’s next for our Shark Tank contestants. “Plant your seeds every day.” This is what Cedric Cobb said regarding a networking tip that has helped him make it to where he is now. “You never know when you’re going to grow. People plant one seed and wonder why growth is taking so long. You need to plant many seeds.” Panelists Talia and Akeem agreed by sharing stories that prove the success of planting seeds.
When we asked our panelists for advice for young entrepreneurs, Shannon added “Success is not climbing a ladder. It’s not a mountain that you’re going up. Success is a roller coaster. Success is going up, reaching an amazing peak, and then falling right back down…What you realize is that the momentum that carries you down is also the momentum that pushes you back up again…Never let those failures or those fears stop you because, at the end of the day, that’s life.”
The Skandalaris Center will continue its Summer with Skandy event series throughout the summer, with different themes and guest speakers each week. To stay up-to-date on all events, go to www.skandalaris.wustl.edu/events.