Zombie helps Idaho couple strike a $200K deal on ‘Shark Tank’
Nicole Blanchard, Idaho Statesman
Published at | Updated at
An Idaho couple just made a splash on “Shark Tank,” sealing a deal for $200,000 in investment and securing some additional funding for a cause close to their hearts.
Chris and Geanie Rodgers, of Eagle, brought their utility rope product on the ABC show, where a handful of well-known investors hear pitches from entrepreneurs hoping for financial backing. The episode featuring the Rodgers’ product, called Rapid Rope, aired Jan. 19 on ABC. (Watch the episode here. The Rodgers are on at 14 minutes.)
Rapid Rope is a flat utility rope that’s packaged in a canister so it can be easily dispensed and cut to size, the couple told the Statesman in a phone interview. About eight years ago, Chris and Geanie conceived of the idea for a new version of the essential item that wouldn’t impede their outdoor adventures.
The Rodgers riffed on that experience for their Shark Tank pitch, where they staged a zombie attack to help illustrate how useful their product can be. As Chris held off the undead assailant, Geanie fumbled with a tangled utility rope before trading it for a canister of Rapid Rope, which the couple quickly used to ensnare the zombie.
The act caught the attention of guest “shark” Rohan Oza, who helped build huge brands like Vitaminwater and Popchips.
“I loved the pitch. That zombie is one of the coolest intros that I’ve seen,” Oza said.
The Rodgers quickly got down to business: They were looking for a $200,000 investment, with the investor getting a 20 percent stake in the company. The Rodgers said they’d already invested $115,000 of their own money in the company and seen $172,000 in lifetime sales, making them debt-free.
Still, the couple said, they’d like to be able to focus completely on their company. Chris has continued to work as an electrical lineman to provide for the family after Geanie quit her nursing job to care for one of their five children full-time. The 12-year-old, whom the couple adopted from Ethiopia, has been in and out of hospitals after being diagnosed with ulcerative colitis.
As the Rodgers told their story, the sharks began to bail one by one. First, Lori Greiner opted out. She was followed by Mark Cuban and Kevin O’Leary, who each said they didn’t know how to “blow up” an outdoorsy product like Rapid Rope.
Next, Oza declined an investment — but not before pledging $10,000 to a nonprofit the Rodgers work with the build schools in Africa.
With one shark left, things didn’t look good for the Idaho entrepreneurs. Barbara Corcoran, a real estate mogul, seemed apprehensive at first.
“I’ve been sitting here thinking to myself, ‘What do I know about rope?’ Not a damn thing,” she said. “But I’ve fallen in love with you, which is not a good reason to make a business decision at all. Except, ironically, my best decisions on this show have been from my heart. And those, ironically, are the ones I’ve made the most money from.”
Corcoran offered the Rodgers $200,000 but asked for a 30 percent stake in the company. The Idaho business owners accepted.
Idaho-made rapid rope inspired by outdoors
A video on the Rapid Rope website shows people using the braided nylon rope to tie down gear on ATVs, hang hammocks or craft a makeshift dog leash.
“It’s a benefit for camping, backpacking, hunting,” Chris told the Statesman. “It fits perfectly in your ATV.”
Canisters the size of a large fountain soda hold 120 feet of rope with 1,100 pounds of tensile strength. The canisters are water-resistant and feature a blade on the lid that can cut lengths of rope.
Chris said Rapid Rope’s uses have expanded far beyond the original outdoors focus. Since the couple launched the product three years ago, they said it’s used on farms and ranches, at lumber operations and more.
Rapid Rope is made in the United States, with most of the materials and labor coming from Idaho, Geanie said. The Rodgers family assembles the products in their home workshop, and Chris and Geanie even worked with the New Product Development lab at Boise State University to help design the project and get it off the ground.
“That was something Chris would just not even bend on,” she said. “We definitely wanted to do everything we could in Idaho.”
Getting Idaho’s Rapid Rope on ‘Shark Tank’
The third time was the charm for the Rodgers when it came to “Shark Tank.” The couple had applied to be on the show twice already when they submitted another application in February 2019. To improve their chances, they went to an open call audition to pitch to producers, who said they’d be in touch in three weeks if they wanted to feature Rapid Rope on the show.
“Those were a nerve-wracking three weeks,” Geanie said.
The couple was in Africa on a service mission when they got the email that they’d booked a spot on the show. They scrambled to find a printer, sign documents and scan them back to ABC immediately. By the end of September, they were filming for the show.
“We were the last filming day for season 11,” Geanie said. “It was such an intense experience. I don’t think either of us were prepared.”
“We felt like the sharks were kind to us,” she added.
This article first appeared on the Idaho Statesman. It is used here with permission.