Ladera entrepreneur has date in ‘Shark Tank’
MARIE EKBERG PADILLA / FOR THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
Ladera Ranch resident Shelly Ehler, who developed a poncho-style beach towel she sells under the name ShowNo, has been chosen to appear on the ABC TV show "Shark Tank."
Ehler is one of 52 entrepreneurs selected from 24,000 applicants nationwide who will have a chance to convince a panel of five wealthy investors to help fund her home-based company.
Ehler's product is a standard bath towel with a vertical opening in the middle hemmed with colorful fabrics and designs. The towel can be used as a cover-up or a changing towel.
If she strikes a deal, Ehler would have to give up a percentage of her company's equity in exchange for the cash.
Image: Ladera Ranch resident Shelly Ehler and her two sons Max, 10, and Clark, 7, appeared on ABC's "Shark Tank." Ehler was seeking funds for her business selling poncho-style towels that can be used as coverups.
PHOTO BY MICHAEL ANSELL, COURTESY OF ABC
"That is probably the most terrifying thing I've done," Ehler said about her experience. "It was like a grueling job interview, an out-of-body experience."
Ehler said she was "worried, stressed and lost 10 pounds" before the show, but once she started her pitch, the jitters disappeared.
"I felt like my spirit really took over and did the work for me," she said. "Incredibly enough, I was not nervous at all."
The show is in its third season, and the panel of investors is offering more than $6.2 million, according to the show's website.
Ehler was chosen after several auditions and months of preparation because she has a simple, effective product, executive producer Clay Newbill said.
"But more importantly, Shelly has amazing passion for her idea," Newbill said. "Her story illustrates perfectly what it sometimes takes to make it in America as an entrepreneur."
Newbill also praised Ehler for not quitting during rough times as the recession hit her husband's business and they were forced to sell their house.
"We felt she deserved the chance to pitch her idea to the sharks," Newbill said. "We understand that they have the power to change her life, and she deserved the shot to impress and convince them that this idea is a winner."
Ehler, a stay-at-home mom and former teacher, is no newcomer to negotiating good deals. She has landed contracts selling the towels at Legoland and Six Flags Magic Mountain's water parks. Her product also has been showcased on NBC's "Today" show with Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb.
Ehler has gone from sewing the towels at home to adding an employee and using a sewing contractor in downtown Los Angeles. She said she is also looking into using factories overseas.
Since the episode taped seven months ago, Ehler has had to keep the outcome a secret because of a confidentiality agreement.
"It has felt a little bit like a pregnancy," she said. "It is almost borderline torture, but as it gets closer you know your life will change."
Ehler's appearance will air Feb. 10, and she is planning a viewing party with family and friends at the Ranch Sports Grill in Ladera Ranch.
"Finally being able to talk about what happened after I walked out of the shark tank will be a huge relief," she said. "It is all so exciting but a little scary too."
Ladera woman invents new pool accessory: The ShowNo
Published: June 23, 2010 Updated: 6:00 p.m. Source: The Orange County Register.
In one year, Ladera Ranch resident Shelly Ehler has gone from pitching her poncho-like bath towels at home parties to selling them at Legoland and Six Flags Magic Mountain's water parks.
The towel – Ehler calls it the Show No – will hit the water parks this month. It's a standard bath towel that has a vertical slit in the middle and it's decorated with colorful ribbons around the neckline.
Image: Brian and Shelly Ehler with their two sons, Max, 9, and Clark, 6. The boys are wearing their mothers Show No towel.
The poncho-like towel allows users to change underneath them without showing anything. Ehler calls the Show No a 3-in-1 towel: lay it flat as a beach towel, throw it on and change underneath it, or wear it as a poncho for protection from the sun and to keep warm.
So far, Ehler, a substitute teacher in the Capistrano Unified School District and a mom of two, has been making batches of the towels at home.
That's about to change, however, as a sudden burst of success also has led her product to be showcased NBC's "Today" show. Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb are scheduled to feature Show No on Friday during NBC style editor Bobbie Thomas' segment on new items in the fashion world, according to NBC.
"It is more exciting than words can say," Ehler said. "I am actually still in a bit of shock. My emotions range from extreme joy to panic, but one thing this journey has taught me is to be joyful in the present moment and be grateful for all my blessings."
Ehler said she is looking for a manufacturer to handle the increased demand for the towel, which comes in eight colors and 17 styles. The sales jump has been inspiring, she said.
"My husband and I have struggled the last few years being small business owners during a recession," she said. "It has been quite a journey that has taken us both from denial to anger to despair to fear and then, thankfully, to joy and now peace."
Ehler's husband Brian designs and prints the custom ribbons, manages the showno.com website and helps pack and ship the towels.
"We work side by side and I could never do this without him," she said.
She said they both have experienced a spiritual awakening that has changed their lives.
"When I made the decision to look forward instead of back, this idea (of Show No) flowed into my life," she said. "I know with all my heart that it didn't come from me, but through me."
Ehler also attributes the motivational DVD "The Secret" to her success. She watched it two months ago to see if it "worked."
"I made a list of everything I wanted to manifest, and 'I want to be on the 'Today Show' was No. 4 on my list," she said. "Dreams come true, miracles happen and 'The Secret' works."
Ehler said she is developing another product with Six Flags Magic Mountain, yet to be revealed.
Show No is selling at Toy Town in Ladera Ranch and Aqua Wave Swim School in Foothill Ranch as well as on Amazon.com and showno.com.