Farmer School grads make deal on ABC's 'Shark Tank'

Oliver and Selom on the Shark Tank set


A pair of Farmer School graduates found themselves in the primetime limelight on Friday night as they took the stage on ABC’s “Shark Tank” to pitch their company.

Oliver Zak and Selom Agbitor are 2019 finance graduates who started what would become Mad Rabbit Tattoo while they were still at Miami University, mixing batches of their first balm in their Oxford apartment. The company produces natural solutions to help improve the healing process after someone gets a new tattoo.

“My mom has years of apothecary experience and she helped us come up with the original seven-ingredient balm,” Zak said. “We've kept that product development mantra the same. We like to keep it simple, all natural, no unnecessary ingredients and no chemicals. It really goes a surprisingly long way.”

So how did they go from High Street to “Shark Tank?” The path to Las Vegas started more than a year ago. “I got a phone call last April for an application I filled out in November. I was kind of confused, and I thought it was a prank call at first,” Agbitor recalled. “The caller said ‘Hey guys, we saw your application. I wanted to have you guys send an audition tape.’ So we did that, and the first one we sent wasn't really that good. Fortunately, the guy liked us, so he made us redo it.”

“It was like an eight-month long process. There were some months where we thought that we wouldn't hear back from them and some months we felt like, ‘Alright, we don't want to do this anymore.’ But we just kept going and kept going,” he said.

Earlier this year, the pair headed to Vegas for the show. First, they spent 10 days in quarantine, working their full-time jobs remotely and practicing their show pitch. “A couple of days before we shot the show, we had a practice pitch with producers, and they gave us some more tips on how to improve it and do better,” Agbitor said.

“Day of, they had us sitting in a big ballroom in the Venetian Hotel, and we got the chance to talk to other companies that were going on the show,” Zak remarked. “We were in that room for probably six hours before we were called in. They got the mics all hooked up and you walk down that famous aisle. I think we were there for 45 minutes, but it felt like five seconds. It was crazy.”

“Terrifying,” Agbitor recalled. “I was really confident until we started walking and my legs were just shaking as we walked. “I've never really been a big public speaker. I’ve kind of shied from it. So having my first attempt at public speaking with a million people watching the TV show, was kind of frightening.”

Daymond John actually did a live product demonstration. He took off his jacket, rolled up his sleeve. He's covered in tattoos. That's not something you see very often on the show. So we're hoping that is a big selling point,” Zak noted.

In the end, the pair received two offers, and accepted Mark Cuban's to invest $500,000 in Mad Rabbit Tattoo. “We were fully expecting to get in there and get to tell our founder story of how we were cooking in our kitchen on High Street. We didn't even get to that,” Zak said. “It was all ‘Shark Tank’ and business, which was cool. Our numbers were impressive enough to secure a deal, which is exciting.”

Agbitor and Zak said they hope to use the investment to expand their product and marketing further into the tattoo culture. “It has a bunch of subcultures. There’s the classic motorcyclist who's covered in tattoos. Then there's people who are fans of mixed martial arts and have tons of tattoos because their favorite fighter has tattoos. There's moms who get their children's birthdate tattooed on them,” Zak explained. “There’s a lot of different subcultures that we can create a bunch of content to curate to.”

See also: Meet the Miami University alums headed to ‘Shark Tank’

Oliver and Selom standing next to each other

Garin Chadwick