4 lessons from Lori Greiner of “Shark Tank”

Authored By chloe.morrison

More than 600 people came to the Chattanooga Convention Center to hear businesswoman, star of ABC’s entrepreneurial reality show “Shark Tank” and “QVC queen” Lori Greiner speak on Friday.

She kicked off Girls Preparatory School’s Mad, Bad and Dangerous, which continues tomorrow

Greiner, who has more than 500 inventions and 120 patents under her name, shared her experiences with business, sexism and taking a product from idea to best-seller. 

When she had the idea for her first product, which was an earring holder, she had no idea how to create a product or get it into stores. She didn’t go to business school. She didn’t have access to any entrepreneurial accelerators, or even Google.

She was getting a massage from a friend who casually said that there wasn’t a good way to hold earrings.

“I started to think about it, and like a thunderbolt I saw my first product-a sliding earring stand,” she said. “I knew-like all entrepreneurs-that everybody in the world was going to buy it. That is something that every entrepreneur thinks. They think their idea is the best thing since sliced bread.”

She sketched out the idea on paper and soon had a prototype that cost $10,000 to make. 

She went to the library and used a big book that was a guide to all the chain stores in the country. She decided to pitch to J.C. Penney because it had 1,800 stores. 

She called and called until she got a meeting with the J.C. Penney buyer.

She also sent her product to QVC, but they sent it back. So she went to the Home Shopping Network and starting selling her products there. 

That was the beginning of her serial entrepreneur career. 

She highlighted several lessons she has learned along the way. 

Roll with it. 
Greiner doesn’t hear no.

“Everything to me is all about your attitude,” she said. “I am a super can-do person. There are no nos, just ‘how can we.’ There’s always a way.” 

She told a story about being on QVC with someone whose products she invested in, and there was a problem with the b-roll. The first person she went to for help wasn’t very helpful. So she went to the next person and explained that she wanted to find a solution.

It was important to have the images because if you don’t sell enough per hour on QVC, you’re done. And finding that solution helped sales. 

They ended up hooking up her computer to a big flat-screen television and it worked out. 

“Every day is kind of a crisis,” she said. “There are always things that go wrong and you just roll with it. You just deal with each thing.”

You influence others even if you don’t realize it.
The person whose product was going to be on display at that time later told Greiner that watching her get that problem corrected changed his life.

She said that at first she barely remembered that incident, but it left an impact on him. He said he wasn’t a “can-do” person. He would have just said, “Oh well, let’s do our best without the b-roll.”

But he saw how she communicated, presented a solution and ultimately made it work.

She had influenced him without even knowing it, just by acting. 

Speak up. Get what you need.
Greiner told a story about learning how to patent a product.

She and her husband, Dan, set up a meeting with a lawyer. When they got to the meeting, Dan made it clear that he was just there to listen and it was Greiner’s product and she who had the interest.

So she started asking the lawyer questions, and each time that lawyer turned to Dan and answered the question. 

She said that if steam could have come out of her ears it would have. After about eight questions, she told the lawyer that she was done and that she wanted him to go find another lawyer and explain that he had been so chauvinistic that she needed someone else, preferably a woman. 

He tried to apologize, but Greiner wasn’t having it and said she knew the pair wouldn’t work together. 

“If something isn’t right, don’t stick with it,” she said. “Speak up. Get what you need.”

(She did get a female lawyer who has been with her for all these years.)

Build relationships-really build them.
When she was working to launch that first product, the earring holder, she hired a factory and its workers to make them. 

Spanish-speaking women at the factory were the ones physically making her product, so Greiner learned Spanish, she said.

And she went in and got to know the women. She worked with them. She brought them snacks and Popsicles when it was hot.

“I would go in early in the morning, be there morning, noon and night watching it and sometimes overnight, making sure I built relationships with the girls,” she said. “We became like family.”

One night, that paid off. She got a call from one of the women, who told her that her boss at the factory was packing bad products. There was a glitch in some of the earring holders, but the boss was overlooking it and putting them out to be shipped and sold.

The woman could have lost her job for calling Greiner, but she called anyway and said that she would mark an X on the boxes with bad products and in the morning Greiner could come in and inspect them and demand they be fixed.

That’s what she did. 

“The amazing thing, the beautiful part, is that those women risked their jobs to protect me,” she said. “That was huge. They trusted me. They cared about me. I would never betray them and they knew that. They not only protected me, but they really watched my product every single day. And when you’re in retail, you’re only as good as your product.”

Quote-worthy, head of GPS Autumn Graves talks about Mad, Bad and Dangerous