Esteemed businesswoman, Lori Greiner shakes her head gently with a miffed smirk on her face as her colleagues spout rationalizations as to why this product is doomed to fail. The QVC queen chuckles knowingly as both Mark Cuban and Robert Herjavec ultimately assert that they’re “out,” swiftly and achingly crushing the spirits of entrepreneur, Aaron Krause.
“That hurts” an otherwise energetic and confident Krause laments. Down, but not defeated, tension mounts as Krause’s chance at startup glory essentially gets cut in half. The subsequent contention between the three remaining Sharks, however, reaffirms what Krause has known all along: that his smiling yellow sponge is a revolutionary product.
Negotiations, deals and backstabbing ensue as the fate of this happy go lucky cleaning tool is decided. America’s business elite squabble over the sponge right in front of Krause, but in the end, only one Shark emerges victorious. As Greiner reaffirms her impeccable business savvy and extraordinary history of success, the Scrub Daddy finally picks his perfect partner.
Since the airing of this famed Shark Tank episode on October 25th 2012, Aaron Krause’s Scrub Daddy has maintained the accolade of “Most Successful Shark Tank Product.” It’s now sold around the world and all across the U.S in places like Bed Bath & Beyond, Walmart, Target, Staples, CVS and makes regular appearances on QVC. Only four years after this episode's premiere the innovative sponge hit more than $110 million in retail sales and sold over 25 million units.
In speaking with Krause it became remarkably clear why the Scrub Daddy has enjoyed such monumental and rapid success. Beyond the genuine functionality of this clever sponge, Krause, as its leading champion, could not be a better spokesperson. With no shred of irony, Krause talks about the Scrub Daddy the way one might upon viewing Botticelli's Birth of Venus or Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel.
“It’s breathtaking” Krause gushes in discussing a new Scrub Daddy product that’s about to be released. “It’s a piece of artwork.”
Krause’s unmitigated adoration of his smiling sponge is so earnest it’s almost comical, but also utterly endearing. Listening to Krause tell the tale of Scrub Daddy with such energy, passion and humor makes it abundantly clear what (or rather who) is the je neis sais quoi behind this beloved dish cleaning tool.
Krause, a Wynnewood Pennsylvania native spawned the first iteration of Scrub Daddy in 2006 when he was running a car detail service and product development company, Dedication To Detail. Wearing two completely different hats during his time there Krause would, “spend half the day underneath a machine getting oil dripped all over [his] face and then have to go back into the office and play president.”
To ease the transition of these roles, Krause began looking for a way to wash his hands more efficiently and effectively. The journey began with the use of ‘Lava Soap,’ a product relatively common amongst autoworkers, and when that failed, he tried a wide variety of different brushes. Still not achieving the desired result, Krause reached out to a German manufacturer he worked with who assisted in the production of his company’s urethane foam buffing pads.
He asked for the “roughest, toughest” foam that they had and additionally requested “eye sockets” to wash his fingers and “hair” ridges to clean underneath his fingernails.
When this prototype made its debut around the office, the general consensus was that the avant garde sponge “looked like a radical skateboard dude...like the daddy.” “Like the Scrub daddy.”
Pleased with this first iteration, Krause began trying to sell the product to body shops, mechanics and detail shops.
No one was buying.
It became somewhat of an afterthought and was pushed even more to the side in 2008 when Krause got approached by 3M, a company who “owns 80% of the world’s market share of buffing pads.” They were keen on buying the company, and after much back and forth did eventually settle on a deal that cut certain parts of the company they didn’t want. Namely, Krause continued to be the owner of the Scrub Daddy.
From that point, the bright, happy sponges “sat in a box from 2008-2011.”
It wasn’t until Krause’s wife one day asked him to clean their lawn furniture that Scrub Daddy was able to achieve its true “destiny”. Breaking out the scrubbers he had previously pushed to the side, Krause completed his chore with curious ease. He then proceeded to try the sponge on his dirty dishes when he finally had his epiphany moment. “Oh my God. We missed it. It’s got nothing to do with cleaning your dirty hands, it’s a dishwashing tool” Krause remembers thinking.
With the discovery that Krause had stumbled across “the greatest sponge in the world” he became intent on “changing the world with this sponge.”
He secured a patent for the product and began what would initially be a “very, very, very difficult” process to market and sell it.
Krause almost got “frustrated enough to quit” but then had his first break when a close friend allowed him to put the product in five different ShopRite’s he owned in the Philadelphia area. Yet, as shoppers within those stores weren’t inherently “looking for the latest in sponge technology” Krause began setting up little kiosks and putting on “little dog and pony shows.”
With his charming zeal for the product along with the Scrub Daddy’s unique functionality, they did begin to sell, but Krause realized he needed mass advertising to continue to grow. The problem? Like essentially all entrepreneurs, he didn’t have the money to do it.
His next “big break,” however, arrived in 2012 in the form of front page story on the Philadelphia Inquirer. This garnered attention not only from about a million and half readers, but from the broadcasting network, QVC.
With Krause as the on-air talent, he soon realized he “loved being on TV” even so far as telling his wife “forget the entrepreneur stuff, I was meant to be a TV star!”
Krause evidently had a knack for peddling his product, selling 4,000 sets of Scrub Daddies in eight minutes on his second QVC appearance.
With this newfound love for performance, when watching his favorite show Shark Tank all Krause could think was “I could go on this show and kill it.” Confident he could outperform and outpitch the “traditional idiots who go on and don’t do their homework” he found an email for the show’s producers and got a call back about two months later.
Amongst 50,000 applicants, Krause overcame all odds from even making it onto the show to eventually (and still) being deemed Shark Tank's most successful business. Quite the incredible honor as Shark Tank is currently in its 8th season and Krause’s pitch was back in the 4th.
Investor Daymond John told Business Insider in 2015 that it was his favorite pitch in six seasons, and that it was like watching a live infomercial. Greiner, the investor who ultimately ended up making a deal with Krause, said what she initially saw in Scrub Daddy was that it “was a perfect product...it was clever and unique. It was different. It was something that people need and want."
Krause first walked into the tank asking for a 100,000 dollar investment for 10% equity and left with $200,000 for 20% from Ms. Greiner. This initial publicity from the show spurred around 40,000 hits to the Scrub Daddy website in the first few minutes.
And it stayed like that all night.
Krause, however was ready for this mass influx. “I was prepared...a lot of people aren’t prepared” he decreed. “A lot of people’s websites crash when their episode airs. I wasn’t going to let this happen. I had two backup servers and a professional IT guy standing by.”
The momentum continued immediately after Krause’s episode airing with calls coming in from Bed, Bath & Beyond, Walmart, and ShopRite’s corporate headquarters.
Yet, even after this initial excitement the Scrub Daddy brand continued to thrive in unimaginable proportions. “We’ve continued to sell the same number in Bed Bath & Beyond week after week even four years after we aired on Shark Tank”
So what’s the secret?
“Constantly keep refreshing the brand” declares Krause.
With a slew of new products stemming off the original Scrub Daddy, Krause innovative spirit shows no signs of slowing down. When asked about what’s to come, Krause mentioned the Scrub Daisy with the same level of wonder and elation I’d come to expect at this point. “It’s the most beautiful dish wand in the world.” “It’s going to turn the industry on its head.”