ABC's "Shark Tank," the reality show that encapsulates the American dream, gives entrepreneurs in search of financing a chance to pitch their businesses to five tough moguls so they might win some cash, a possible business mentor, as well as national coverage.
"Shark Tank" is not just a game for eager entrepreneurs. The show's "sharks" are also quite literally invested. When the series' five tough-talking moguls decide to back a business, they are putting their own money on the line.
The stakes are high, but this is not unfamiliar territory for the two female "sharks" on the show. "Shark" and real estate tycoon Barbara Corcoran, made her millions starting the Corcoran Group the first female-owned real estate brokerage firm in New York City. "Shark" Lori Greiner, also known as the "Queen of QVC," has helped launch over 400 products and holds 120 US and international patents.
And these female "sharks" say they have a secret weapon that their male counterparts do not.
Corcoran says, "Wealthy men, they don't shop, they don't buy their kids' clothes, they probably don't shop for groceries. We bring the female perspective on the product." Corcoran also hints at another innate advantage for both Greiner and herself. "We've got great intuition and we trust it."
Now, for the first time in the series' five seasons on air, there are two female entrepreneurs battling in the "shark tank" at the same time, but the two female "sharks" have some conflicting thoughts on how level the playing field is for the women of the show.
Greiner thinks it is still not a "fair fight" for the competing female entrepreneurs, but Corcoran thinks it is actually the men who have the disadvantage. "It's more than fair," she says, "because our combined IQ is three times more than the men combined, so it's really unfair to the men that they have two women here."
However, Corcoran acknowledges the gender divide in the boardroom. "A powerful woman is under suspicion. She's not accepted," she says. But this is not a difference Corcoran shies away from. "I say that's your feminine card," she said, and "I wear bright colors so that I'm noticed, and I use my charm to charm them, build up their ego and get what I want."
Corcoran insists that she always uses the "sex card."
Whatever the secret is to building a brand, these women have it figured out. Corcoran's biggest business coupe on "Shark Tank" was investing in a little Los Angeles food truck called Cousins Maine Lobster. "Sales have been awesome since Shark Tank. Two months before we went on, we did $150,000 in business. Ever since, we've done $700,000 in sales," said Jim Tselikis, co-owner of Cousins Maine Lobster.
"Barbara is truly the best thing that has happened to this company," continued Sabin Lomac, co-owner of Cousins Maine Lobster.
But these "sharks" are not showing any favoritism to the show's female entrepreneurs. Corcoran, in fact, says she is tougher on women, because she is "tougher on anyone who will use any excuse as to why they didn't get ahead because I've walked in the shoes of knowing that I had a million excuses I could have used and chose not to use them."
However, do not think these female "Sharks" are leaving their female contestants out to dry. "If a woman is getting a hard time and she doesn't deserve it from the male sharks, then I'm definitely jumping in to defend her," says Greiner.