The Hooks family of Bayport will be on national TV Friday night, appearing as one of several enterprising young businesses seeking investment monies from a panel of billionaires on the Shark Tank show.
They’ll be watching their appearance with dozens of friends and family at a local restaurant and the most they can say about the TV experience, prior to the airing is that it’s been a very fun one.
What they can talk about is ScreenMend, a screen repair kit conceived by Brian Hooks and his daughters Lily and Emma, and the small business venture they’ve been nurturing for the past three years.
To make a screen fix, you cut the patch size needed and use a hair dryer to apply it to the screen tear. The heat melts the wax backing for tight adhesion. The kits sell for $6.95 and come in silver/grey and black.
ScreenMend started after a family porch cleanup effort about three years ago. Hooks, a 1981 graduate of Bayport-Blue Point, was fixing screens in an enclosed porch while his daughter Lily, 9 at the time, was trying to get melted wax off a table top.
The screen patch Brian tried to attach wasn’t working so well. So Lily innocently suggested melting the wax to make the patch stick better to the metal screen.
“We tried it, were amazed. The next year the patch was still there on the screen. We realized it had survived all the seasons, hot and cold. So it got us thinking,” said Brian. In fact that original screen patch lasted 1,243 days and might still be there if not for super storm Sandy in October, 2012.
So Brian, Lily and her sister Emma, decided their screen fix might prove useful to others and began making patches to sell online, and opened a storefront on Amazon.
“Our dining room looked like a research lab,” recalled Brian.
The initials orders were small, said Brian. But then a trade publication caught wind of the innovation, wrote a story and suddenly the patches were in demand.
“First it was like 20-30 orders a day. Then it jumped more,” he recalled.
ScreenMend then caught the attention of a woman in Connecticut who worked as a catalog product broker. She got in touch with the Hooks and ScreenMend got into the catalog as a wholesale product.
The increasing validation that they had a good product prompted Lily to suggest that the family try to get on the Shark Tank, which happens to be a favorite show for the family.
Shark Tank is a reality show featuring self-made, multi-millionaire and billionaire tycoons who give entrepreneurs a chance to make their dreams come true and potentially secure business deals that could make them millionaires. Panelists include billionaire Mark Cuban, owner and chairman of AXS TV and outspoken owner of the 2011 NBA championship Dallas Mavericks; real estate mogul Barbara Corcoran; "Queen of QVC" Lori Greiner; technology innovator Robert Herjavec; fashion and branding expert Daymond John; and venture capitalist Kevin O'Leary.
So the Hooks family created an audition tape and applied online in August 2012 but heard nothing until one day this past spring when they cot g call from a producer.
Then the real work began as contestants must provide a demo station, create a script and make a presentation to the ‘shark’ panel as part of the show.
The family was eventually chosen to appear and flown out, expenses paid, to Los Angeles for a week.
“It’s just been an exceptional experience and we had a blast,” said Brian. “We were told that 34,000 people had applied to be on this season,” he added.
During the past year the father-daughter team been busy expanding their online presence of ScreenMend with Emma, 16, building out the company website and doing a video demo of how ScreenMend works.
“It’s just been pretty incredible. Nothing has changed in our lives,” said Brian, “but I think it’s been a great experience for the kids to learn as it’s been all homegrown. They know now that they can do what they put their mind too and can rely on themselves,” he added.
And on top of it all they went into the shark tank and came out alive.
“They’re just great kids and I’m just amazed at how it all got to this level,” said Brian.
Tune in Friday night at 9 p.m. on ABC Channel 7 to see how ScreenMend, and the Hooks family, fared with the panel of billionaire investors.