‘Shark Tank’ Flashback: Why The Red Dress Boutique Made Such an Impact

Here’s how I know The Red Dress Boutique was one of the most successful pitches on Shark Tank. No, it wasn’t the sales figures that came in later updates. It wasn’t the compelling discussion with Mark Cuban on Beyond the Tank about whether or not to revamp their website (which had additional drama because they’d already signed a contract to do so, and Cuban was firmly against it).

I knew The Red Dress Boutique made an impact because my articles got a huge spike in hits when the episode aired. And when it reaired. And again, in syndication. Again and again, every time a new audience was introduced to the online retailer, my “articles” (cheap content) got a “ding ding ding” on Google Analytics. Even years later, it seemed this pitch never lost traction.

In my previous gig as a writer for an aggregate news site, page views were important. So I monitored mine every day. Red Dress Boutique was not only one of my most favorite Shark Tank stories — it apparently made for compelling television, with viewers heading to Google (and my hashed out “articles”) to find out more.

In retrospect, here’s why I think that pitch worked: the clothing.

There are a lot of rules about what makes a good Shark Tank pitch. You have to know your numbers, be prepared to explain how you handled any past mishaps like a Good Entrepreneur. Don’t leave the Tank to discuss an offer amongst yourselves, or the shiny pile of (promised) cash might disappear by the time you come back in.

But those are the rules for what impresses the women and men on the panel. It is not what always impresses the viewers at home.

To be certain, Diana and Josh Harbour nailed it with the sharks. They showed up in the Tank not needing any help whatsoever. Even their pitch hit all the right notes in its first few seconds. They cleverly 1) identified their target customer; 2) described their unique selling point; 3) slid in the hefty ask ($600,000 for 5 percent).

They had profit, growth, and internet marketing savvy when that was still relatively unknown. They knew exactly what they were doing. The pitch never devolved into an “advice giving” session, where the sharks told the Harbours how they could, or should, change their business strategy. That in and of itself made them stand out in the Shark Tank universe.

(The story of Red Dress adversity came later, like in this 2017 article in Red and Black — the proprietors’ personal struggles, the challenges of keeping a retail business alive during the 2008 recession.)

But I Googled them, and followed them on Instagram, after the pitch not necessarily because I was impressed with their business acumen (which was substantial). It was because I really wanted to get all dressed up in the clothing. Their set display looked like a craft fair, eclectic and artsy, but somehow still conservative and dressy.

Their Shark Tank pitch made me want to buy, even though the reality of Red Dress — at least at that time — is that their target customer is probably quite specific (younger, smaller, and girlier than me).

But that’s neither here nor there. I’ve never bought from Red Dress Boutique, but love the legions of people who I assume do so, regularly — and seek out the internet for updates on how this couple is doing, a few years after they showed all us Shark Tank fans that you don’t necessarily need help to get an investment.


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