Father Figure entered the Shark Tank with their clothing and accessories made especially for dads. With products like a soft denim shirt with a loop on the hip to hold burp rags, they make life for fathers a little easier.
We interviewed founder Andrew Bentley, whose idea for the company came as he became a stay-at-home dad and realized that most of the parenting brands and products on the market were designed for moms. As a result, he left his job at Google, where he worked for 10 years, to launch the business.
Currently, his products can be found in locally owned shops, but he hopes to one day partner with box-box retailers like Target. His future plans also include creating items like swaddles and a carabiner to help attach toys to t-shirts or backpacks.
Here’s what else he told us about…
How the Idea Came About
I’ve wanted to be a dad as long as I can remember. When I became a dad a little over two years ago I wanted to spend as much time with my son as possible. Thankfully I had paternity leave that I used when my wife went back to work. Since my son was colicky, he was crying and spitting up a lot. I found I was losing burp rags at all the wrong times. I bought a glue gun and put a loop on a shirt to store burp rags. That’s when the Luca T-shirt was born!
Starting a Business in NYC
My neighborhood in Brooklyn had a ton of stay-at-home dads! Through playdates and just hanging out, I became very good friends with the new dads around me. When I had ideas for products or messaging, I could just ask my friends. In general, New York City is a tremendous environment to start a company too. There’s an abundance of talent in various sectors that you can get advice from or hire for support. Although, I recently moved to Washington D.C. and started from scratch as an entrepreneur here.
Advice on How to Prep for the ‘Tank’
There’s a lot to manage in the weeks leading up to your pitch in the Tank. I would prioritize your ability to articulate the top three or four things you want the Sharks -and America- to know about your business and you. I watched a ton of Shark Tank, read two books written by the Sharks and wrote out and answered 110 questions I might get in the Tank. Doing that, combined with mock pitches at home helped me navigate the conversation in the Tank and get my important points across. I didn’t leave and think, “If only I had said this!” Oh and the producers I worked with were tremendous and supportive. They knew what they were doing and helped make my pitch and experience so much better.
Balancing Fatherhood With His Career
I absolutely love being a dad. It’s one of the reasons I wanted to start a business devoted to fathers. Since there’s intersection there, spending time with my son helps me with research and staying connected with my customers. Lately I’ve been spending one to two weekdays with my son. We have a great daycare that has a flexible schedule. I can take him out and put him in his school without needing to give them notice. If I wake up and my morning call is canceled, I can just keep him home.
Nerves in the ‘Tank’
Once I walked through the doors I wasn’t nervous. But leading up to that moment I was extremely nervous. I’ve never shied away from a stage or public speaking in my life and this was by far the most nervous I’ve been for something. There’s nothing to compare it to when you factor in all the elements of the moment. Not only do you have to have clearly communicate multiple aspects of your business and vision to people that know nothing about you, you’re also thinking about the personalities of the Sharks and how they’re responding. Since they don’t air all the segments they film, you’re also thinking about how entertaining the moment is and trying to make sure it’s exciting and something people want to watch. It’s a lot to hold onto in one moment. Thankfully with enough practice things become easier.
Other Shark Tank products: