Binging Shark Tank is a reminder the American dream is alive and well

When the economy sucks, people could lose their homes, and banks don't want to lend money, isn't it kind of crazy to push forward with a new business?

Kinda, yeah!

But easy as it is to wallow in pandemic uncertainty, I've been inspired recently, not only by stories of current ventures, but by the folks who forged ahead during the Great Recession.

Many lost their jobs or homes, and it was nearly impossible to get risky loans when the show Shark Tank first aired in 2009.

I recently picked that show (via Hulu) to fill my evening TV binge time, and I've been surprisingly riveted by the negotiations and clever ideas that come forward during the many seasons. Inventors pitching new gadgets are fascinating, but so are the fairly normal people trying to make it big with their ideas for websites, clothing, even cupcakes.

Nearly every episode I find myself looking up a company or two on my phone while watching, because I want to know if they made it. Some appeared to get massive investments from the sharks, but never signed the paperwork. Others, desperate for money, fought the sharks to get an investment while holding onto even the smallest portion of their companies, but it ended up being worth it because of the wild success that television and a multimillionaire backer can bring.

The one constant every episode is a group of entrepreneurs who are passionate, optimistic, and willing to invest whatever time, energy and money it might take to make their dream come true.

Sometimes you even see a good idea that simply struck too soon, like the woman who, a decade ago, pitched a business making goofy surgical masks and was told it would never catch on in this country.

Of course, some pitches are... bad. Thanks to years of watching cooking shows, I'm a confident armchair chef who will point out when someone on Chopped should've obviously known that Rocky Mountain oysters have a membrane you need to remove first, duh! Now, I'm finding that Shark Tank has me shaking my head when someone pitches a "$1 million" company when they've only sold 200 jackets out of their garage. Rookie mistake! Words like gross sales, net profit and patent pending are on my checklist as I critique not just the ideas, but the financial ask.

It's incredibly difficult to be an entrepreneur, so I'll stick with being a writer for now. But it's comforting to be reminded that the "American dream" was alive during the recession and wild success was possible even then. There's hope for inventors, dreamers and doers now, too. ♦

Project Yarnbomb @ Spark Central

Sat., Oct. 8, 1-3 p.m.
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About The Author

Samantha Wohlfeil

Samantha Wohlfeil covers the environment, rural communities and cultural issues for the Inlander. Since joining the paper in 2017, she's reported how the weeks after getting out of prison can be deadly, how some terminally ill Eastern Washington patients have struggled to access lethal medication, and other sensitive...