An Idaho woman came up with a unique invention. She’ll pitch it Friday on “Shark Tank” - East Idaho News
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An Idaho woman came up with a unique invention. She’ll pitch it Friday on “Shark Tank”

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Jamie Montz, and her husband, David, appear on the set of ABC’s long-running show “Shark Tank,” seeking an investment in her invention, The Original Stretchlace. The show will air Friday. | ABC

BOISE (Idaho Statesman) — A Boise woman will appear Friday on a national television program looking to score an investment deal for her invention: stretch shoe laces.

Jamie Montz will appear on “Shark Tank,” the long-running ABC program where entrepreneurs look to build their businesses by persuading one or more business tycoons to invest in their companies. The show will air in Idaho Falls from 7 to 8 p.m. on KIFI-TV, Channel 8.

The episode was taped last August, but Montz said it still doesn’t seem real. It was a dreamlike experience, she said.

“When you’re standing at the carpet and they swing open the doors and you walk down the hallway, I’m thinking I’m not really here,” Montz said by phone. “And then sitting in front of them in person, live, was even more surreal.”

Montz can’t say whether she struck a deal with sharks Mark Cuban, Kevin O’Leary, Lori Greiner, Robert Herjavec or Daniel Lubetzky. The show requires guests to remain silent about the results until after the episode airs.

Six years ago, Montz had a mom moment trying to get her three young sons — Andrew, now 13, Ben, 12, and Sam, 8 — ready for school and day care while tying their shoes.

“I’m hunched over while we’re in a rush trying to get out the door, and my purse is falling off my shoulder, and things were falling out of it,” she said. “Every day it was crazy, and I’m thinking, ‘There has to be a better option with their shoes.’”

She recalled how Converse made a tennis shoe without a full back that slipped on and was permanently laced.

“But they’re really hard to find, and they don’t sell them all the time,” Montz said. “And the kids wanted to be somewhat fashionable, and they didn’t want locks or clips or clasps that keep your laces more tightly on your foot. I just knew they didn’t want to wear something like that or have a stigma associated with it.”

For 20 years, Montz had worked marketing brands for large companies. Over the years, thousands of products had crossed her desk, and she became a self-described “product junkie.” That background helped her come up with an idea that she described as a simple solution.

She developed elastic shoelaces that turn any shoe into a slip-on. They allow the wearer to tie the laces once and easily slip in and out of the shoes.

Called The Original Stretchlace, the laces come in nine lengths and 14 colors, round or flat. They’re available online from Amazon and from Montz’s company website, where she’s already offering specials to Shark Tank viewers who she expects will flood the site after the program airs.

The laces sell for $10 to $12 a pair.

Montz, a sole proprietor who works from her East Boise home with no other employees, did not disclose sales figures. She said Stretchlaces sold well enough that she was able to quit her job in fall 2019. Six months later, the coronavirus pandemic hit, throwing the business world into a tailspin. Except for Stretchlaces.

“Surprisingly, by the grace of God, we sold out of our laces in April,” she said. “There was an elastic shortage in the United States, because everyone was making face masks.”

For several months it was difficult to obtain elastic, as foreign factories shut down because of the pandemic. Supplies later became available again, and the company replenished its stock.

The laces are manufactured in South Korea, where Montz’s parents emigrated from. The packages are stored in a small warehouse in Boise and at Amazon.

Last February, a month before the pandemic, Montz got a call from a Shark Tank casting producer saying the show was interested in her product. She had contacted the show earlier, using an online form. Once chosen, she was assigned and given a date in August for filming.

The show normally tapes in Culver City, a Los Angeles suburb, but because of the pandemic, the production crew moved to Las Vegas. Montz and her husband, David, spent nine days quarantined in a room at the five-star Venetian Resort Las Vegas. They were not allowed to leave her room and could not bring any guests with them, to ensure they didn’t contract COVID-19. Meals were ordered through room service.

“The Venetian is a really nice hotel to lock somebody in their room for nine days,” she said. “They must have taken that into consideration, where if they were going to keep these entrepreneurs on lockdown, they were going somewhere nice.”

With the casinos shut down, the Las Vegas Strip outside the hotel was empty, she said.

“In our room we could see the strip, and there was nobody on the street or in the pool. It was like a ghost town,” she said.

While assistants often hold props or help with the presentation before the sharks, no one else was allowed on the Shark Tank set or inside a hotel ballroom. Montz and her husband went it alone.

Montz said she was thrilled to appear.

“You hear stories about Hollywood, but I found them to be some of the kindest people I’ve met,” she said. “But every entrepreneur will probably understand this: Just because you’re on a show like Shark Tank, it doesn’t mean you’re going to have instant success and become a millionaire.

“It still takes all of that hard work and that pushing and that perseverance and looking for the next opportunities. The people that have really made it on Shark Tank, I believe, are those people that just kept going and going and going.”

Last year, Chris and Geanie Rodgers, of Eagle, secured a $200,000 investment for their product on “Shark Tank.” Rapid Rope is a flat utility rope packaged in a canister so it can be easily dispensed and cut to size.

The Dame brothers, Brooks, Tanner and Taylor, co-founders of Boise’s Proof Eyewear, walked away from the business deal they were offered when they appeared on the show in 2013.

Though they opted to build their business on their own without help from the show’s entrepreneurs, that sole appearance years ago continues to have ripple effects, Tanner Dame told the Idaho Statesman in 2017. Every time the brothers go to trade shows, they hear the same refrain: “I’ve seen you somewhere.”