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Whatever Happened To The Woobles After Shark Tank?

Hobbies are a great way to get away from the mundanity of day-to-day life, and there are few as relaxing as crocheting. North Carolina-based couple Justine Tiu and Adrian Zhang are on a mission to provide a gateway to this world through their brand, The Woobles. The company offers an easy way for people from all walks of life to learn how to crochet through their kits and other supplementary material that allows users to craft a wide array of cute and cuddly animals through a crocheting style known as amigurumi.

The pair both started their careers in corporate America. Tiu worked for Google Classroom as a UX designer for some time and was eventually promoted to a managerial position. It proved to be a difficult transition, so to escape the stresses of work, she got into crocheting as a hobby. Doing so gave Tiu the boost of confidence she was looking for, and she aimed to spread that positivity through Woobles. Zhang had a successful career as a Wall Street director but similarly fell out of interest over the years. Like Tiu, he enjoyed the concept of gaining confidence through a newfound skill and hopped on the Wooble train.

It didn't take long for the business to catch on after its launch in 2020, growing a substantial social media following and plenty of sales. However, the duo knew they'd need a hand as demand increased, which would eventually bring them to "Shark Tank."

The pair out-sharked the sharks

On September 30, 2022, "Shark Tank" fans were introduced to Justine Tiu and Adrian Zhang's crochet education company, the Woobles. The pair appeared on the Season 14 episode seeking a $250,000 investment for 5% of their business. The sharks are taken aback by the $5 million valuation at first, but it doesn't take long for the pair to justify their high ask.

To start, the team has impressive margins. The kits are priced at $15 on the wholesale side while retailing at $30, and they only cost $3 to make. To top it off, 90% of sales are done direct-to-consumer, and a majority of customers are adults. They only spend about 20% of the company's revenue on advertising, with a customer acquisition cost of $16. By this point, the company had earned $5.3 million, and they were projecting sales to be around $7 million by the end of 2022. They were looking for help in licensing with other brands, expanding their wholesale and retail reach, and receiving mentorship from the sharks.

What ensues is a shark-frenzy of offers. Kevin O'Leary proposes $250,000 for 10%, while Barbara Corcoran and Lori Grenier start at $300,000 for 10%, but continuously raise their offers. Tiu and Zhang ask if Corcoran would be willing to bring on another shark, and she gets Mark Cuban on board for $350,000 at 6%. Grenier then goes in with Robert Herjavec at $450,000 at 6%, and The Woobles team makes a move worthy of a shark, asking if Lori Grenier and Mark Cuban would work together instead. The investors agree, ditching their previously proposed partners for a final deal of $450,000 for 6%.

Woobles after Shark Tank

The husband-and-wife duo behind The Woobles were able to get two of arguably the most valuable sharks on their team in a jaw-dropping move. However, what came next was even more shocking.

Justine Tiu and Adrian Zhang were prepared to handle the "Shark Tank" effect after their episode aired. To celebrate their appearance, they sold a limited edition crochet kit featuring a shark named Tank. They sold out the night their episode aired, donating a portion of the sales towards real shark conservation organizations. Not long after, on October 11, 2022, they released the book "Crochet Amigurumi for Every Occasion: 21 Easy Projects to Celebrate Life's Happy Moments." Thanks to their "Shark Tank" appearance, the book's pre-sales skyrocketed, making it #1 on Amazon's Toy Making book section, where it remains even today. The couple was looking forward to expanding their licensing program as well as bringing on new employees and advancing their online experience.

In an unexpected move, Tiu and Zhang did not accept the deal with Lori Grenier and Mark Cuban, despite the investors' enthusiasm. In an email sent to The News & Observer, Cuban said "It didn't close. It was their choice. Lori and I were looking forward to working with them. You would have to ask them why they chose to come on the show, accept a deal and then not move forward." Cuban commented further, believing that the duo were satisfied by the exposure appearing on "Shark Tank'" was able to grant them. Despite this, The Woobles spokesperson says that the couple's experience with the sharks was positive.

Are Woobles still in business?

Countless entrepreneurs would die to have either Mark Cuban or Lori Grenier on board with their business, let alone the both of them together. So it was incredibly surprising when The Woobles team made the decision to turn them down. But while this would be a risky move for most businesses, The Woobles has continued to thrive.

Even without the powerful sharks, the team has been able to hit its goals. Customers can still order from the website, and the company's retail reach has expanded drastically. Outlets such as Michaels, Joann Fabrics, Walmart, Blick, and Amazon carry Woobles' products. Additionally, the company has worked alongside other brands on licensing opportunities, including Pac-Man, Miffy, and BT21's Universtar characters. On the site, visitors can not only purchase Wooble kits and find out about new deals and bundles, they can also learn from specialized tutorials, including ones for both right and left-handed individuals.

The Woobles has had a fast-growing social media presence, boasting hundreds of thousands of followers across Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, YouTube, and Pinterest. Much of the content involves man on the street interactions and interviews with newcomers to their brand. The Woobles' was recently seen on a Times Square billboard, and co-founder Justine Tiu was included on Inc's Female Founders 200 list for 2023.

What's next for Woobles?

The Woobles have more than proven that, with or without a shark, it can find success. Even businesses with an investor involved are lucky to have even a quarter of their trajectory. But despite their many achievements, Justine Tiu and Adrian Zhang's mission remains at the core of what they hope to accomplish with their company.

As Tiu and Zhang mentioned on "Shark Tank," while they're happy with teaching crochet techniques, the ultimate goal is to continue expanding their education efforts to other skills. Given that the business began out of the couple's newfound confidence after developing a new skill set, they realized that spreading such positivity had the potential to make a real difference. Tiu expressed this mindset in an interview with the American Crochet Association, saying, "The Woobles, at the end of the day, is about proving to yourself that you can always learn something new. As a former User Experience Designer who specialized in ed tech, I care a lot about helping people do things they once thought was impossible.That value doesn't have to contain itself to crochet, and what comes next ultimately depends on user research."

It will be interesting to see what directions the company goes from here. In May, Tiu and Zhang announced that they have their own baby Wooble expected to arrive in August. No news has come out since then, but it's likely that the co-founders will be taking some time to attend to their newborn over the next few months.