Stark County entrepreneurs get investment boost from 'Shark Tank' television show

Friends and family of Stark County entrepreneurs Brian Halasinski and Kirk Hyust gathered on Friday night in anticipation of whether the duo would land investment dough from any of the business bigshots on the "Shark Tank" reality television show.

Around 50 people eyed a massive projection screen at the watch party in a friend's large rustic and finished barn in Lake Township. Finally, after other entrepreneurs pitched their products, it was time for Halasinski and Hyust to make their bid.

And they did it in comedic style, wearing chicken and turkey costumes, respectively, on the pre-recorded show. While the schtick drew laughter at the gathering, the partners soon got down to serious business on TV.

But four of the popular show's business tycoons were not interested in pouring cash into a product that makes it easier to cook great-tasting chicken and turkey.

What did the sharks say about the Turbo Trusser?

However, even those who walked away from a deal praised the likeable duo. Mark Cuban and Lori Greiner both complimented samples of chicken made using the invention.

"It's not big enough, and I really hate touching chicken, so I just have to be honest about that, and for those reasons, I am out," Greiner said with a grin and laughter. "But I think you'll do really well."

Barbara Corocoran said it was a "little business with little sales," while adding: "It doesn't seem like there's room for a third person by any means."

After Robert Herjavec also passed on a deal, only one investor was left ― Kevin O'Leary, also referred to as "Mr. Wonderful."

While Halasinski and Hyust already knew the outcome, party attendees were eager to learn the results. An agreement with the television show precluded them from revealing the outcome prior to the broadcast.

Shark Kevin O'Leary wanted 'to be the third chicken.'

O'Leary didn't make it easy, refusing to come down from his offer of investing $100,000 while receiving a 33% stake in the Turbo Trusser in return, while also receiving a $1 royalty for every product sold in perpetuity.

O'Leary quickly shot down multiple counter-offers from Hyust and Halasinski, including a 30 percent stake. Corocoran called O'Leary greedy, later adding: "This guy's a bottom fisher."

He refused to budge: "I want to be the third chicken. I see this as being something I can really get to town on, but I have to make it worth my while."

After whispers and reluctance between the partners, and with no other prospective investors on the ABC program, they accepted the offer with hopes it will boost the profitability and reach of their business.

"You got a deal," Halasinski said. "Winner, winner, chicken dinner!"

And it didn't take long to yield results. A few minutes after their segment was broadcast, Halasinski glanced down at his cellphone and was amazed that $4,000 in online sales had already been logged.

Partners KIrk Hyust,right, and Brian Halasinski package Turbo Trussers in their Plain Township work space.
Partners KIrk Hyust,right, and Brian Halasinski package Turbo Trussers in their Plain Township work space.

A look back: Stark inventors set to pitch their product on 'Shark Tank'

The inventors have day jobs: pharmaceutical sales and contracting

Both business partners were overjoyed following the "Shark Tank" episode. Friends and family showered them with hugs and congratulations.

The men are longtime inventors; a previous product, stackable barbecue pans, also had gone to market. Other ideas and products fizzled. But the Turbo Trusser is by far their biggest success to date.

The stainless steel contraption eliminates the need for kitchen twine and master chef skills to truss poultry. Trussing is the technique of tying poultry snugly with twine so that the wings and legs stay close to the body.

"Sharks, you'll get a delicious, juicy chicken or turkey every time," Halasinski said during the presentation on the show. "The product is so universal you can use it in ovens, grills, smokers, roasters, rotisseries, deep fryers, and heck, even air fryers."

"It's been a dream of mine since I was a kid," the 52-year-old Hyust said with an electric smile. "I want this to be my life. I want freedom. I just want to make an impact on humanity and pass the product down.

"I want it to keep going," he added. "I want people to use the Turbo Trusser for life until I'm dead and gone."

Both partners said their goal is to stop their day jobs and commit full time to the product. Halasinski has worked nearly 20 years in the pharmaceutical industry, while Hyust is in contracting (he also went to culinary school in the '90s and worked as a sous chef).

"It's unbelievable watching that," the 44-year-old Halasinski said of Friday night's airing. "Being there, you hardly remember what happened … and getting the deal was the best part of it. We got a deal with 'Mr. Wonderful,' and what more could you ask for?

"It was not easy, (and) Kirk was very hesitant," he added. "But ultimately, we thought the value of having 'Mr. Wonderful' was certainly there.

"And we didn't go all the way out there to get no deal," Halasinski said. "We went there to make a deal."

Partners Brian Halasinski,left and Kirk Hyust with their Turbo Trusser product.
Partners Brian Halasinski,left and Kirk Hyust with their Turbo Trusser product.

Turbo Trusser creators pitch product to Mark Cuban, Barbara Corocoran, Kevin O'Leary, Lori Greiner and Robert Herjavec on 'Shark Tank'

The product was introduced in November and is in roughly 80 retail stores across the United States and Canada. It's sold locally at Hartville Hardware & Lumber, Custom Fireplace Shop in Jackson Township, Ace stores in Kent and Akron, and Mister Brisket in Cleveland Heights. It also can be ordered from turbotrusser.com or on Amazon. The product has been shipped to customers in Germany, Italy, Chile, Australia, Canada, England and Scotland, the owners said.

They have sold about 11,000 units with about $90,000 in sales since launching the product, said Halasinski, a 1996 Perry High graduate.

The product retails for $14.99.

Ready to get to work with 'Mr. Wonderful'

Plans will be proceeding with O'Leary's backing and guidance.

"We finalized our deal (on Friday), and I talked to (O'Leary), and we're definitely going to start rocking and rolling," Halasinski said. "And we're going to be meeting with them and really pushing this thing out to the masses. Social media, direct to consumer, whatever it takes to get it out there.

"Being partners with someone like 'Mr. Wonderful' is a once in a lifetime opportunity," he added. "This guy knows what business is; he knows how to take small businesses and make them big; he knows how to take a big business and make it huge.

"It's the perfect opportunity for us to learn and grow and take this business to the next level."

What is the Turbo Trusser?

The Turbo Trusser is designed to make trussing turkeys or chickens easier. Using the two wire hooks placed in the stainless steel trusser, it attaches to the legs and wings, which Hyust taught O'Leary how to do on the TV show. The legs are then placed into the specially designed slots on the trusser.

The Turbo Trusser is dishwasher safe and was designed and manufactured in Northeast Ohio. Cleveland Metal Stamping stamps the shape and the wire is made by Wire Products of Cleveland. The packing is produced by Wadsworth Rohrer Corp.

News: Hoover High graduate hooks investors on 'Shark Tank'

Halaskinski applied online to be on the show when the product hit the market late last year. He applied again a few months later once they hit $50,000 in sales. The application process was simple, he said, adding he answered a number of questions on the online application.

Proud moment for inventor's son

Nathan Halasinski, 20, a Kent State University student, said his father, Brian, has been an inventor as long as he can remember.

The son said he has sampled and tested plenty of turkey and chicken cooked with the Turbo Trusser.

"And it was always great," he said with a smile. "It's the best I've ever had."

Friday's watch party was a proud moment for Nathan.

"I've been bragging to all my friends at Kent about it," he said. "They're all watching it and their families are watching it."

Also attending the shindig was Stark County businessman Ron DiPietro, a friend of Brian's.

"I think it's great what they're doing," he said. "It's a beautiful thing to see local people take their business to the next step.

"And God bless them," DiPietro said of their ingenuity and product. "I hope they sell millions of them."

Reach Ed at 330-580-8315 and ebalint@gannett.com

On Twitter @ebalintREP

This article originally appeared on The Repository: 'Perfect bird' invention scores investor capital on 'Shark Tank'