In 2012, Sharon Bui and Kate Steadman were juniors in college. Bui was a student at NC State’s College of Textiles and Steadman was at Appalachian State University, studying advertising and fashion. That year, the lifelong friends teamed up to launch their business, an online boutique called Frill Clothing that sells sorority and bridesmaid apparel and accessories.
Now that they’ve dipped their toes into the world of start-ups and have a few good years under their belts, they’re ready for the next step: the Shark Tank, ABC’s hit reality show that gives budding entrepreneurs a chance to pitch their company to a panel of potential investors.
“We saw an opportunity,” says Bui, who graduated from NC State in 2013. “Sorority rush is a unique thing, and each chapter has unique needs. We wanted to create a one-stop sorority shop.”
Bui says sorority recruitment involves a lot of planning, time and money. During the recruitment week, each day has a different theme or aesthetic, and the girls wear matching outfits to reflect these themes. Additional needs include tote bags and accessories to give to new pledges. Frill provides an easy and affordable way to purchase everything needed for a successful recruitment week.
This recipe for success is what attracted the Shark Tank producers to Frill. After submitting a 10-minute video and business plan to the show, Bui and Steadman waited. Out of thousands of applicants, only 169 were chosen, and Frill was one of them.
“I couldn’t believe it,” says Bui. “It was such an honor to hear that they loved the home-DVD version of our vision.”
After dealing with lots of paperwork and contracts, Bui and Steadman met with an ABC producer to develop a pitch. They spent days dealing with cameras, makeup artists and producers. They pondered which “shark” to pursue, initially hoping for Daymond John, an apparel executive, but settling on real estate mogul Barbara Corcoran, because, according to Bui, she “seemed extremely savvy.”
Regardless of the outcome, Shark Tank can only mean good things for the future of Frill Clothing. Bui expects what she calls “the Shark Tank effect,” or a spike in sales in the coming week following their appearance on the show.
“I am so excited,” Bui says. “I really hope American connects with our personalities and wants to see what we can offer.”
— Jenna Calderone