'Top Model' winner takes treacherous dive into 'Shark Tank' with a baby product

Matthew Wilson

“America’s Next Top Model” invaded Sunday’s “Shark Tank,” as All-Stars champion Lisa D’Amato tried to sell  the sharks on a new way of feeding their kids on the go.

An admitted fan of the show, the reality star is the inventor of the Dare-U-Go bib, which functions as a compartmentalized food container that wraps around a child’s neck letting them snack at their own convenience. D’Amato’s sons demonstrated the product.

“Being a mom is definitely one of my biggest accomplishments,” said D’Amato, who won the fifth season of "Model" and its All-Stars edition in 2011. “But the reality of maintaining my busy lifestyle and work schedule while raising two rambunctious little boys was making me lose my mind.”

Motherhood has been an important part of D’Amato’s life. The fashion model became teary-eyed remembering her bulimic mother, her own eating disorder and the pressures of being a model. When D’Amato was hospitalized, the doctors told her if she continued down her current path, she would never have a child.

“I had been a model my entire life, so as far as being a weathered warrior, I’m definitely that person,” D’Amato said.

The story left Barbara Corcoran and Mark Cuban moved with her victory over adversity, but O’Leary was unsurprisingly ready to get to the numbers: “Let’s get back to business. It’s an interesting story and very compelling. It’s a great outcome, but you’re here to get an investor.”

D’Amato wanted $350,000 for a 10 percent stake in her company. She had invested $250,000 of her own money and  has a design patent, she said, presenting the framed piece of paper. In her first three months in business, her company sold $100,000 worth of bibs, she said.

But D’Amato quickly agitated Cuban by focusing on potential share of the growing baby-product market rather than Dare-U-Go itself.  

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“Lisa, you lied to us,” Cuban said repeatedly. “You said you watched the show. One of the things we repeat over and over and over again is that one of the worst ways to sell in ‘Shark Tank’ is to come in and talk about how big a market is, and (that) if you only get one tiny sliver of a percent, it’s a lot of money for you. That is a real trap all entrepreneurs fall into.”

O’Leary made D’Amato a deal she was hesitant to accept: $150,000 for 15 percent and $200,000 as a loan. But like a good horror villain, he raised the equity by 5 percent every time another shark dropped out. Fifteen percent quickly became 30 when sharks Lori Greiner and Robert Herjavec went out. 

“I know I become more valuable every time you lose another shark,” O’Leary said. “It’s going to keep getting worse.”

Corcoran initially wanted 50 percent, but stealing a page from Mr. Wonderful, agreed to 35 percent equity for $150,000 with her own $200,000 loan, which bested O'Leary's final offer. D’Amato accepted.

“The best thing I heard from you other than your phenomenal charisma is the story of you growing up," Corcoran told her. "Because if I was to go through every one of my top businesses, every one of them is headed by an entrepreneur that came through hell and back.”

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'Top Model' winner takes treacherous dive into 'Shark Tank' with a baby product