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The Failed Shark Tank Product That Went On To Sponsor US Olympic Teams

Many fans of "Shark Tank" would agree that the measurement of success for hopeful entrepreneurs lines up with whether or not they strike a deal or leave empty-handed. Truth is, even the people that do convince the Sharks to hand over an investment in their product don't all get past that initial step. With that being said, it would seem safe to assume that all the new companies that fail to strike a deal have no chance of any sort for further company growth. For many contestants that experience this, that result is true, that is unless you are Steven Sashen and his wife Lena Phoenix who didn't let this negative conclusion stop them from finding success with their XeroShoes.

On Season 4, Episode 14, Sashen and Phoenix walked up that stage to face the Sharks and presented their product, XeroShoes. The shoes are made for runners, walkers, and those who want to have incredibly light footwear that feels like being barefoot. The duo, who claimed they had already made over $650,000 in sales up until that point, were looking for a $400,000 investment for an 8% ownership of their company. The majority of the Sharks turned it down fairly quickly, while "Mr. Wonderful" himself, Kevin O'Leary, offered the asking price but for an increase of 50% stake. As that was the only offer, the couple bravely turn down O'Leary and walked away as a "Shark Tank" failure. However, as time proved, this evaluation was far from the truth.

A simple shoe idea turned into many millions in net sales

Despite the fact that none of the investing moguls on "Shark Tank" had any interest in Steven Sashen and Lena Phoenix's XeroShoes company, fans at home had a much different opinion. After the episode aired, the duo saw sales come in over the following week which equaled 20% of the entire previous year (via SharkTankBlog). And although they never snagged any sort of investment from the Sharks, XeroShoes received extra funds from a financial partnership with TZP Group, who Sashen described as a partnership "that shares our vision and has the resources to help us become a global brand that helps more people experience the comfort and benefits of our footwear."

This partnership paid dividends for XeroShoes as global expansion was exactly what happened. In August 2021, XeroShoes became the official sponsor of the USA Archery and Synchronized Swim Teams during the Tokyo Summer Olympics. According to the company's website, net sales were up to $33.6 million as of 2021. With their unique failure-to-success "Shark Tank" story, Sashen and Phoenix posted a message aimed at aspiring start-up companies, encouraging them to never give up. When referring to the Sharks' decision, they wrote, "This mistake is a good example why even the Sharks shouldn't underestimate simple ideas." This growth has led to different XeroShoes products to now be offered. In addition to the original sandals, both full-sized shoes and boots are now available for purchase.