After ‘Shark Tank,’ Mandeville Company on Track for $20M in Sales

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — When the ABC reality show “Shark Tank” follows up with entrepreneurs who’ve managed to hook one of the investors, it’s usually after a couple of years — not so for Nita Gassen of New Orleans and Judy Schott of Mandeville.

Their product, a band designed to go around the mattress for easier bed-making, has seen sales skyrocket since their appearance on the show last February, so much so that their follow-up aired on Friday’s “Shark Tank” episode.

It’s been less than a year since three sharks, as the investors are known, made bids for a stake in the Better Bedder. The women accepted an offer from Lori Greiner, known as the QVC queen, and the shark they were most hoping to land.

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“They contacted us for a follow up after talking to Lori and (because) our numbers were so good,” Gassen, formerly of Mandeville, said Monday.

The two women, who started out selling the Better Bedder at home and garden shows and the weekend market at Mandeville’s Tammany Trace trailhead, are on track to hit $20 million in sales this year.

The Better Bedder is in more than 3,000 WalMarts nationwide and will soon be at other retail establishments including Target, Belk and Kroger, Gassen said.

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The deal that they made with Greiner on the show was for $150,000 from Greiner in exchange for an 18% stake in the company. But the pair ended up signing a licensing agreement with Greiner, and Gassen said it’s worked out well even though it’s meant less money for them.

“We would never get that kind of marketing,” she said, and they were facing the need to hire additional people.

“She is the one pushing it nationally. We have commercials on TV now,” Gassen said. The product is also being advertised on Facebook and Google. “They really did blast the market.”

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And while the product hasn’t yet been featured on QVC, Gassen said that’s in the works. They’re also still planning to expand into the hotel market, where they think their invention will be in demand because of the time it will save in housekeeping.

Their latest appearance on “Shark Tank” involved a day of filming, and like the first time, they didn’t see the spot until it aired. But this time around, they didn’t have to keep a secret from friends and family for nearly nine months.

The spot included comments by Gassen and Schott, extolling the independence that the product has provided to the elderly.

Greiner is also featured in the spot that’s essentially a plug for what success on the “Shark Tank” can bring.

Gassen and Schott have had a lot of would-be entrepreneurs ask them for advice. The pair just returned from Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee, where they talked about “Shark Tank” for an event where local entrepreneurs made product pitches for a $10,000 prize.

The most frequent question they get? How do you get on “Shark Tank?” Their answer is pretty simple: just try out. Gassen and Schott succeeded on their second try.

Their appearance on the show Friday echoed that theme. “Go with what you feel,” Gassen said in the spot. “Stick to it, pound the pavement and it will pay off. Hey look, we made it to your ‘Shark Tank.’ You can, too.”


By Sara Pogones for the Associated Press

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