Shark Bait: My Shark Tank Audition

There is something about New York City that can make you feel so big, yet so small. It’s tough to explain, but I felt every bit powerful and determined, yet minuscule and delicate as I drove into Manhattan early Monday this week. I was headed to Pier 94 to audition at one of the handful of Shark Tank auditions being held across the nation.

I arrived at Ink48, a gorgeous, modern Kimpton hotel (and only $156, less taxes & fees!) minutes from where I was to audition the next day, I gingerly unpacked all my supplies and started practicing. “Hi, my name is Kelly Santos and I am the founder of Cart Mama.” I’m pretty sure the room next to me also memorized my whole pitch because I must have practiced a solid 100 times or more. With foam boards in hand demonstrating the problem Cart Mama solves—less space in the cart, dangerous and stressful shopping trips with kids, and inconvenience thanks to small carts and big kids—I practiced over and over transitioning from one foam board to my second—a gorgeous picture showing the solution, Cart Mama. A few practices later and I needed a break.

As one of my ultimate needs for survival, I had to get in a workout. I threw on my clothes and settled into a nice routine at the hotel gym; the sweat and distraction felt good. As I peddled on one of the bikes, my phone buzzed over and over again—welcomed texts and calls from friends wishing me good luck. One text took me by surprise—it was my husband Scott asking about dinner plans. Two days off of work and a night to myself? I was ordering room service, eating chocolate, and reading! Unknown to me, he had planned a 7:30 p.m. arrival in NYC from Kingston, RI for dinner, drinks and R&R before a busy day on Tuesday. To say I was excited was an understatement—this was the first time since our honeymoon in 2012 that we were overnight alone (long overdue!).

Around 5:30 that afternoon, after showering and more practicing, I finalized my audition packet—a 17-page document of waivers, releases, and questions about my pitch and product. The hotel concierge, Daniel—a man who performed in RI in his youth—happily printed my packet and peppered me with questions about the audition; it got me excited for the next day. Once back in my room with the crisply printed packet in hand, I decided for the rest of the evening I would take advantage of all that NYC—and being sans kiddos—has to offer. Once Scott arrived, we decided to take the city!

Funny thing about taking the city when you’re a mom to two toddlers—you don’t. We were feeling CHIC, let me tell you. Me in my super cool jean jacket and leggings (because…mom) and my husband in an Izod button-down and jeans (because…dad), we hopped in our hotel elevator to visit the 16th floor sky bar. When the bell dinged and the door opened, our chic factor sunk LOW, man. SO low. We are not cool. We tried, but it was too dark, too loud, too high (for me), too cold. We were lame, lame, lame. The views were beautiful (when I wasn’t freaking out about being so high), so we snapped some pics to show how cool we are and hopped back in the elevator.

So instead, we went to 5 Napkins and stuffed ourselves silly with burgers, fries and basil gimlets (because I’m 90) and beer flights. It was GLORIOUS. Then, we walked around the city, took the obligatory “in front of bright lights and big buildings” picture and crashed around 10 p.m. back at the hotel. A big day was ahead of me.

Tuesday, April 18

I slept like a dream Monday night, which left me fresh and eager to begin the day. I went to the gym for a quick workout and promptly headed back to shower and finally get to the big day! My nerves started to hit, or rather just anxiousness, which I love because it makes me excited, and I decided we should head over to the audition spot around 8ish. After a few blocks of walking, we saw the line. It seemed long at first, but many people were actually groups of collaborators, so it wasn’t as daunting as I thought. As we stood in line waiting for wristbands, more and more people began arriving. While in line, I spoke to so many other hopefuls, all vying for a shot to show off their product on national TV. The motivations were all different, but the common thread was that each person was inspired by something—something that moved them into action, whether it was a problem they needed to solve to benefit their own lives or to improve the lives of others. I heard their stories of divorce and financial mistakes to triumph and retail deals.

When 9:30 a.m. came upon us, Shark Tank staff came around to give us wristbands for our spot in line—mine was 138—and let us know when we should come back to get into the audition line—11:30 a.m. for me. I headed back to the hotel to grab breakfast and 11:30 came quickly. Once I arrived back, we were still corralled until about 12:30 until numbers 100-150 could head into the audition hall. When that time came, we all filed into the long exhibition hall and into the back of the room where the auditions were being held.

I waited until about 1:30 p.m. when numbers 135-140 were to get into line—now was my shot! I stood in line and soon enough, I was at the front. When I was called in, I was to present to one of four casting producers, and I ended up pitching an awesome casting producer named Kiare. The vibe in that room was very casual, yet energetic. The second I started chatting with Kiare, any semblance of nerves immediately disappeared—he was engaging and friendly. I went through my spiel and he asked a handful of questions—did I submit for a patent (yes), is it trademarked (yes), etc. After about 3 minutes, he wrapped up the conversation and said they are making their decision and IF I get selected, I’ll know in about 2-3 weeks regarding the next round.

Truthfully, while I am hoping that I get selected, I know it’s a long-shot. As a realist, I know my chances are slim, but I so thoroughly enjoyed the process that it was worth it. It left me feeling reinvigorated, confident, and motivated to not only push for Cart Mama, but to work towards my ultimate dream (which not many know—more on that in the future!). Everyone there was just like me—I’m not an anomaly. They’re motivated, working around the clock, and most importantly believers. We may not all make it (in fact, most of us won’t), but it’s the passion and desire to better ourselves and the future that keeps us all going.

After meeting back up with Scott post-audition, we headed back to the hotel exhausted and hopped back in the cart to head home to RI. I was looking forward to snuggling my two babies and ride the high from the whole experience.

Many have asked, “would you do it again?” One thousand times yes.

Readers—are you auditioning for Shark Tank, or have you already? Drop me a line or a comment and tell me all about it!