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Tom Burden, founder of Grypmat

‘Shark Tank’ Appearance Helps Mat Maker

John Gunnell has been writing about classic cars since 1972. He is also the owner of Gunner’s Great Garage in Manawa, Wis. He owns 11 cars and seven motorcycles.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following blog was written by John Gunnell, owner of Gunner's Great Garage Restoration Shop in Manawa, Wisconsin. Gunnell regularly contributes articles and industry-driven observations for THE SHOP magazine and eNewsletter.

When I ran into Tom Burden at the PRI Show last month, I had no idea I was talking to a TV star. Not that Burden is going to win an Emmy, but his recent appearance on the ABC network TV show Shark Tank did net him a $360,000 investment from Mark Cuban to help grow his business, called Grypmat.

Shark Tank is a reality show that features entrepreneurs making business presentations to a panel of shark investors, who decide whether or not to invest in the business. Burden went on the show on Nov. 12 looking to get a $200,000 investment for a 19 percent equity in Grypmat.

The Grypmat namesake product is a flexible tool mat made of anti-static rubber. Objects placed on a Grypmat stay on it without the use of magnet. It is designed to increase the efficiency and safety of workers in any type of shop, according to the company. The mat comes in three sizes and ranges in price from $29.99 for the smallest size to $69.99 for the largest. Burden told the sharks that a utility patent was pending.

Richard Branson was a guest shark when Grypmat was considered on the show and he said he liked that the product solves an everyday problem. He envisioned application for the orange mats in the airline industry.

Burden’s small company had already hit $400,000 in sales when he appeared on the show, largely from online sales and sales at trade shows like PRI. At SEMA, the mats won several new product awards.

Burden told the sharks he needed additional investors to finance an inventory buildup and to create new products. Shark Daymond John liked Grypmat and offered Burden $200,000 for a 25 percent share in the company. He later updated his offer to 20 percent. Branson then bid $200,000 for 15 percent, an offer matched by shark Robert Herjavec and then matched by Daymond John.

Mark Cuban and Lori Greiner jumped in with an offer of $200,000 for 20 percent, each stressing they wanted to get the mats into more stores. Burden offered Branson, Greiner and Cuban 30 percent for $360,000 and Cuban wound up taking the deal.

A few weeks after the show aired, Burden was at PRI promoting Grypmats, It was obvious that the TV exposure had upped the product’s recognition level. His exhibitor booth was packed with people all day.