CARLSBAD — The North County creator of a portable shower system recently cleaned up on TV’s “Shark Tank.”
Chris Crawford, the 32-year-old founder of Carlsbad-based RinseKit, was seeking $250,000 in exchange for 5 percent of his company.
“At the end we basically had four sharks fighting over it,” Crawford said. “It was fun.”
Contestants must secure a deal for the full monetary ask but can negotiate the equity.
Daymond John, who gained success in the clothing industry, offered $250,000 for 7.5 percent equity and 10 percent commission on sales from retailers he brings onboard.
“Everything went awesome,” Crawford said. “It was a super-stressful experience. It’s super-intimidating. They are some of the smartest people.”
Going into “the tank,” Crawford said he and Eric Fagan, his chief executive officer, were open to a deal with “pretty much anybody but Kevin” O’Leary, the most acerbic of the sharks.
“We were almost thinking about spraying Kevin in the end,” Crawford said. “I was hoping he was going to give us a really horrible offer and I was going to spray him in the face. But he was actually really nice. They were all really nice.”
Crawford said for him, the toughest part was what happens before the cameras start rolling.
“You have to memorize your lines for the first pitch in front of the producers first,” he said. “That one freaked me out. … Talking to people’s not hard.
“It’s rehearsing lines and making sure you don’t mess up that’s really difficult,” he added. “But once the conversation starts it’s pretty easy.”
RinseKit, a pressurized shower system that holds up to 2 gallons of hot or cold water, can be filled from any spigot. It sprays for up to 5 minutes and weighs 24 pounds when full.
A lifelong surfer, Crawford created the product out of personal need in 2012.
‘Most of the good (surf) breaks don’t have showers,” he said. “I got tired of getting home and being salty or having to go back to work all sandy and crusty from surfing. You smell like a wetsuit.
“It messes up your car, too,” he added.” Your seatbelt gets full of salt and it won’t roll up. So I decided to make a shower system that I could put in my car that doesn’t need a pump or battery.”
At the time Crawford owned a pool-cleaning company he founded when he was 19. He later got a contractor’s license and started building pools.
“I took my knowledge of hydraulics and building pools and made a thing that stores pressure,” he said. “The water pressure from your house charges up the RinseKit. It compresses air. There’s no pumping, batteries, moving parts, which makes it awesome because there’s nothing to break.”
When people saw it, they wanted one, Crawford said. He eventually made one for his father-in-law, whose friends all wanted to know where they could buy one.
“It turned into a little garage project for me for six months,” he said. “We made about 400.”
His first sales surge came in 2015, after a statewide drought mandated that all beach showers be turned off.
An official from the state parks department who lived up the street from Crawford saw his truck wrap and suggested he reach out to frustrated beachgoers.
Crawford contacted local media outlets. Around the same time he submitted an application to “Shark Tank.”
Last year he launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to upgrade RinseKit and add accessories. A video from that effort posted on another company’s Facebook went viral and Crawford received a call from the TV show.
“At first we weren’t really sure if we wanted to do it,” Crawford said. “If you get on there and get torn apart it’s going to hurt. But we knew this was an opportunity that’s probably not going to be around forever, so we decided to go for it.”
After declaring RinseKit a “brilliant product that fills a need,” investor Mark Cuban dropped out almost instantly.
Although he struggled with the $5 million valuation, O’Leary made an offer. So did Lori Greiner. But both wanted to provide the $250,000 as a loan rather than an investment.
“Selling debt isn’t something we want to do right now,” Fagan told the sharks. “We have access to capital.”
Robert Herjavec asked for 20 percent equity in the company, which would have made Crawford a minority owner.
“Daymond came in at the last second and that was the best offer,” Crawford said. “That was really cool.”
In addition to hosing off sand and salt, RinseKit can cool off athletes after a game, clean pets and wash fishing, camping and off-road biking gear.
Crawford said he plans to use the investment from John, an avid fly fisherman, for “all this cool stuff just to make it the ultimate shower system.”
Right now he’s working on a larger version of Rinsekit, perfecting a heating system and creating accessories to heat and purify the water and fill the kit without water pressure.
“There’s a lot of cool things on the horizon,” Crawford said. “I think it’s just going to get bigger and better and more convenient.”
The show was recorded about six months ago, so Crawford and Fagan had to keep the result secret. They held a viewing party at Oggi’s Pizza & Brewing Co., in Encinitas, for about 150 family members and friends when the episode aired on Feb. 3.
“It’s been amazing,” Crawford said. “We’ve been totally blessed. We’ve had so many people help us. Things have just lined up.”