Front Royal inventor to appear on ‘Shark Tank’

By Ryan Cornell

One local inventor is swimming with the sharks.

Front Royal native Aaron Tweedie, 34, will appear on an episode of ABC’s “Shark Tank” from 9 to 10 p.m. on Friday.

The TV show pits entrepreneurs and their products in front of potential investors, or “sharks,” who have the choice to invest in the products or reject the pitches. The sharks featured in next week’s episode are Mark Cuban, Robert Herjavec, Kevin O’Leary, Daymond John and Lori Greiner.

In the episode airing Friday, Tweedie asks for a $200,000 investment in exchange for a 29.5-percent share in his Man-PACK company.

Because of contractual obligations, he is unable to divulge whether investors bit at the idea or not.

In 2010, Tweedie was inspired to create his line of sling-style backpacks, called Man-PACKs, after multiple bags of his broke from daily use.

“I couldn’t find anything durable, masculine, utilitarian and affordable,” he said, “so I decided to make my own.”

The bag he will pitch on “Shark Tank,” the Man-PACK 2.0, is a dual-purpose bag with a pocket for either a tablet or a gun, he said. It retails for $59.95.

Tweedie recalled sending an email to the show’s casting department last year, and receiving a phone call from Sony Pictures near the beginning of this year.

After that phone interview, he was asked to submit an audition tape within four days. Producers must have liked what they saw, because they flew him out to Los Angeles this summer and taped the episode. The whole time, Tweedie had to keep it under wraps.

“You would be amazed at the amount of labor hours that go into a four-and-a-half minute segment,” he said. “Not just labor from entrepreneurs, but the people working at ABC and Sony, too.”

He counted his “Shark Tank” appearance as one of the three most stressful experiences in his life.

“One is boot camp, the other is private and this is one of them,” he said. “It’s not as in-your-face taxing as boot camp, but just in terms of the ability to deal with ambiguity…to fly out to LA and the money you invest in your display with no guarantee of a return, it’s very psychologically demanding.”

In September, a pair of graduates from James Madison University had their pitch for a line of secure phone charging stations, Amber, shot down by the sharks. One of them, Kevin O’Leary, remarked that “it was one of the worst ideas [he’d] ever seen.”

Despite the hawkish nature of the sharks, Tweedie said he was less intimidated by them than the cameras.

“These sharks are just people; they put their pants on one leg at a time,” he said, “but knowing that that large of an audience would be critiquing me, that’s what made me anxious.”

The show Tweedie will appear on is episode 8 of season 6. The TV show will hit its 100th episode the following week, on Nov. 14.

Patrick Preblick, a publicist for the show, said a special feature for Small Veterans Business Week will air in the middle of the episode, which features entrepreneurs from military backgrounds.

Also appearing in the episode are entrepreneurs pitching the following products: a non-slip protective glove for CrossFit training, an elite canine training program and a bottle opener made from recycled .50-caliber shells.

Preblick said 35,000 entrepreneurs applied for the show last season, with 112 of those applicants making it on TV. “Shark Tank” averages more than 8 million viewers each week, she added.

Tweedie, who recently moved his base of operations from his Front Royal home to a new office in Linden, said he plans to relaunch a Kickstarter.com crowd-funding campaign for the Kid-PACK line two hours before the episode airs.

He said he hopes the traffic generated through TV viewers will propel the campaign to the front page of the website.

“Depending on how many minutes, the value of advertising is between one and five million dollars,” he said. “Regardless of whether or not you get a deal, all those months of work I put in are gonna pay off.”

Visit http://www.man-pack.com to browse the selection of bags for sale, including the Man-PACK 2.0.

Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rcornell@nvdaily.com