The other night, we were watching Shark Tank. For those of you who haven’t yet had the pleasure, Shark Tank is a television show where entrepreneurs pitch their products to 5 really rich investors who grill them on their profit margins, sales, marketing strategy, and business potential. Being a household of entrepreneurs, we enjoy Shark Tank. This particular episode touched our hearts.
The last pitch that night was from Johnny Georges of Arcadia Florida, (population 7,600). Johnny showed up looking like our friends who farm (at least in the summer, during winter MT farmers wear more layers); jeans, t-shirt, ball cap. Now, David and I aren’t innocents about television, he’s a former TV producer and I’ve had plenty of media training, so we’re fully aware that Johnny could simply have been plucked from central casting and reading some lines. Didn’t matter though, because some stories are just special, whether real or imaginary.
Johnny invented the Tree T-Pee, a clever invention that helps farmers conserve water while upping crop production (see http://treetpee.com/index.html). According to Johnny, the Tree T-Pee not only promotes water conservation, it saves farmers lots of money. He was a nervous presenter but Johnny’s affection and respect for farmers was clear. His Dad had been a farmer and had taught his son about hard work on farms across Florida. Johnny didn’t really fit on Shark Tank. He wasn’t a smooth businessperson. But we could picture him sweating in a tree grove, struggling to bring in a crop during one of those seasons when Mother Nature wasn’t cooperating.
Johnny fumbled trying to explain his marketing strategy and the Sharks clearly thought his profit margins were insufficient. One Shark shot him down. Then John Paul DeJoria, billionaire co-founder of the Paul Mitchell hair care line said, “Johnny, I’m going to give you everything you’re asking for. What you’re doing is right. I like everything you stand for.” And, with that Johnny choked up. Us too.
The story of the American farmer runs deep for us. Probably because it’s an emotional reminder that successfully growing anything – trees, children, dreams – is really hard; that Mother Nature plays by her own rules; and that risk and reward are a part of the American story that sets us apart from so many of our global neighbors.
Johnny’s story is rich with contradiction, as so many great American stories are: the farmer and the billionaire, a long passed practical father and a son with a dream; water conservation and irrigation. But, Johnny knew the most important thing; he said it early in his pitch:
“When good people come together… with a noble cause… great things happen.”
Good luck Johnny, we couldn’t agree more.
~ Diane Smith