A Burbank resident and co-founder of a company selling specialized sponges will appear on the television show “Shark Tank” next week, revealing the results of his efforts to attract investment money for the brand.
Chris Pavlica will appear with FTI Brands co-founder Kevin Consolo on Friday on the popular ABC television show, in which entrepreneurs present their products to a panel of investors, hoping to receive funds for their businesses.
But for Pavlica, who works at a design and production agency in Burbank, just getting on the show was a major opportunity. Up to 30,000 people apply each season, with about 90 selected to present their products.
So when Pavlica and Consolo went to the filming in Las Vegas late last year, they were fairly nervous.
“If you do mess up, you might endanger your future, but also everybody in the country is going to see it,” Pavlica said. “Not only do you risk failing your business partner and your company, or your family and friends, but it’s going to be on display to everyone.”
Pavlica said he can’t give the results of the pitch until the episode airs, but said he thinks he and his partner “didn’t look like idiots” and made the products look good — their two primary goals.
Those products are FTI Brands’ line of specialized sponges, with the main lines being SneakERASERS, GolfERASERS and AutoERASERS. Each claims the ability to quickly clean smudges and scuff marks from their related item — shoe soles, golf clubs and balls, and car surfaces, respectively.
The idea for the brand, Pavlica said, came when he was preparing for a pitch meeting and found his white sneakers soles covered in scuff marks. He looked online for ways to remove the marks, but only saw home remedies.
Sensing an opportunity, Pavlica later called Consolo, his roommate from Ohio University. They started FTI Brands five years ago. Neither had run a business before, but Pavlica said their out-of-the-box thinking has allowed them to remain flexible — a particularly necessary attribute during the pandemic.
“The world is different. The way that you have to do this is different,” he said. “And I actually think it helped us, not having a lot of experience … because we had to keep calling audibles and keep mixing it up and changing and pivoting every week.”
“It’s not the Wild West,” Pavlica added, “but it’s a new world, and you just can’t do it the way we used to.”
By early 2020, FTI Brands had launched all three of their flagship sponge products. The founders also applied to “Shark Tank,” realizing they needed help navigating the retail field.
Consolo and Pavlica have been fans of the show for years. For Pavlica, the series nurtured his longtime desire to be an entrepreneur; in college, he and Consolo spent many late nights trying to think up the next hit product.
“It’s just one of those shows … [where] you capture the imagination, essentially, led by the American dream,” Pavlica said. “Everyone thinks they can do something like this, and even us. … But watching a show like that just gives you a little extra boost to say, ‘Well, if these people can do it, maybe I can too.’”