Tristen Ikaika’s eponymous company, which he founded at the age of 23, has grown to be one of Shark Tank’s most successful… [+] examples of success
Tristen Ikaika, a Shark Tank entrepreneur, had no idea what he wanted to achieve with his life until four years ago.
Not surprising, given that he was only a few years out of high school at the time, but interesting nonetheless, given that the first business he started was an investor-fighting jewellery business worth over $1.6 million.
“I wanted cash as a younger, naive, broke 19-year-old,” Ikaika reflects on his career. Although he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do professionally, he was acutely aware that the influencers and bloggers he followed had strong personal brands, so he built an Instagram following that would add value to whatever he decided to do.
“I noticed a comment on one of my Instagram photos asking if anyone knows where Tristen will acquire his rings?’ The lightbulb went off sooner or later. I’ve been producing spoon rings for myself since I was 12 years old; perhaps I can share my passion and produce rings for those who have asked.”
With around 20,000 followers, he had a chance to turn the 25-cent spoons he’d been stealing from his mother and father’s kitchen into a profitable side job, but reality greatly exceeded his dreams.
“I expected I’d sell rings once, but I had no idea I’d be beginning a seven-figure enterprise!”
Curiosity grew after he said he would be launching a limited-stock drop of hand-made rings styled after his own. The event was so popular that it sold out in minutes.
“It was the biggest rush of adrenaline I’d ever experienced,” he adds. “The first drop was the most difficult; figuring out how to use a website, print a shipping label, everything felt so foreign.”
“I advertised on Instagram that I’d be launching at 6 p.m., but I spent the entire day photographing and filming around the city.” When 6 p.m. rolled around, I was still importing the stuff from our kitchen table onto my website. With so many different SKUs, I underestimated how long it would take.
“It’s 6:05 a.m., and I’m working at a breakneck speed, under extreme duress, to get all of these in.” “You’ve got a brand new order!” and “You’ve got a new order!” flooded my inbox as I switched tabs and refreshed my e-mail. It used to completely blow my head.”
With the press of a button, he’d made $4,000.
“It was perhaps the most money I’d ever seen.” So many people who wanted to buy a hoop from me made me feel both humbled and ecstatic. I assumed I was hallucinating.”
Indeed, the delights were quickly replaced by the stress of manufacture and supply, which began with modest expectations.
Ikaika needed to measure, cut, grind, and bend over 200 spoons and forks into custom-sized rings but couldn’t figure out how to get sizes from the website, so she e-mailed each customer individually.
He confesses, “It was unstructured pandemonium.” “There were pieces to this puzzle that I didn’t even aware were there.”
However, being pushed into the deep end worked in his favour. He began to develop ways that helped him to work faster, better, and more creatively, as he enjoyed the “scrappy hustle.”
Tristen Ikaika grew to become not only his full-time worker but also a model large enough to employ people in a matter of months.
Tristen Ikaika’s drops frequently sell out the same day they’re released, though he has a core… [+] A variety of rings are available between drops.
It was partially pushed by life-changing events that had occurred simultaneously in his personal life.
“In February of 2016, my father suffered a heart attack and underwent open heart surgery, and a few months later, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer,” he recalls.
“It was a difficult, terrible moment in my life that I never want to go back to, but I’m eternally grateful for what it taught me.” I don’t think I’d have the same outlook on life if my family hadn’t gone through what they did. It forced me to value life in ways that I might not have noticed otherwise.
“I realised I had to work hard today to achieve my objectives.”
Ikaika spent the next two years travelling the world collecting spoons and forks to display in rings, knowing that it would give his collection an even bigger USP.
“From bending hundreds and hundreds of rings, my fingers have been wounded and burned,” he acknowledges, albeit to $2.1 million in gross sales by 2021.
As the company grew from a few to hundreds of rings per month, Ikaika put his money where he wanted it most: manufacturing (moving from hand-made to machine-made rings) and marketing (sending samples to influencers encased in dry ice-filled packaging—ideal for social media promotion).
And, for his piece of the pie, a stake in those who had put the most faith in him.
“I knew my mother and father’s financial situation wasn’t good because they had a lot of medical bills and my father was disabled. It shattered me. I knew it was something I wanted to do if the day ever came when I was ready to return their home.”
That day had arrived by 2021.
“I went to the bank to settle their mortgage, but when I got there, no one would provide a 22-year-old lad information on his family’s living expenses,” he laughs. “I used to feel irritated. I told them what I was trying to accomplish and went into four separate branches, hoping.”
Unsuccessful but undeterred, he scoured their house from top to bottom for account numbers and convinced a family acquaintance to accompany him to the bank to vouch for his intentions.
His mother and father did not have a mortgage a few hours later.
“I was overwhelmed on my way home from the bank, and I found myself crying alone in my car.” Many people wish to one day be able to care for their mother and father in the same way that they have cared for them.
“It’s still difficult for me to fathom a business built on a stolen spoon repaying the same family I stole it from,” he recalls, his eyes welling up with tears.
Ikaika claims that rings constructed from spoons and forks will always be a part of his collection.
And just when he thought he couldn’t get any more emotional, he decided to see if the hopeful utility he’d made to take Tristen Ikaika to the investment-loving lot had been successful. He’d landed a position on the show Shark Tank.
He acknowledges, “It was a full circle second for me.” “I wanted to do it for my younger self, to please him.” I’ve been watching Shark Tank since I was a kid, and it was the show that inspired me to start my own business. It taught me that I was capable of completing the task.
“Even back when I was starting this business in my mother and father’s basement, I’d binge episode after episode while I bent ring after ring.” I wanted to collaborate with the people that have been there for me the entire time.”
Without a Shark’s investment, the companies would have continued to prosper, but Ikaika saw the bigger picture.
“Connections are everything, and they can help you open doors a lot faster.” “I had hoped for that.”
He asked for a $250,000 investment for 5% of the company after a near-perfect pitch in front of the famous TV traders.
Some sharks bit, some didn’t. After tense negotiations, Ikaika walked away with a quarter-million dollars and 15% of his model in the hands of Mr Fantastic himself, Kevin O’ Leary.
“On TV, Kevin is portrayed as a certain character—some refer to him as the ‘imply’ shark who is known for being blunt with entrepreneurs. I can’t express enough how incredible in shape he is. He believes in his business partners and is pleased to see them flourish.”
Which is already being served as proof. Even though the programme aired near the end of last month (January 20th, 2022), the model’s earnings were up 4.5x month-over-month from December, indicating an “unbelievable” 354 per cent growth rate.
“With such rapid progress, there have been obstacles,” Ikaika acknowledges. “Sometimes I feel like I’m holding a tiger by the tail.”
Nonetheless, he perseveres, working tirelessly to expand into new areas and improve the current; new website, packaging, classes, collaborators, and so on.
“The bottom line is that I aim to seize each option.” I need this company to provide me with experiences beyond my greatest dreams.
“I understand it will be a challenge to get there, but all I want to do is chase these dreams and find satisfaction in them on a regular basis.” “That is the goal.”