Opportunity on the Line: Akeem Shannon

  • Season 4, Episode 2
  • September 12, 2023
  • 32-minute listen

Opportunity on the Line: Akeem Shannon

Honestly, I wasn't prepared at all. You needed the capability to ship a ton of units quickly. I didn't have enough inventory, and I didn't honestly have the money.

The Big Idea

Startups often operate on a razor’s edge. So, when opportunity strikes, founders have to be nimble, resourceful—and willing to ask for help to get what they need, when they need it. Is it a question of being innovative about how they innovate? Can our WashU Olin experts think of other examples of this sort of creativity?

Episode Description

Akeem Shannon was stressed. In three weeks, his Shark Tank episode would air, the episode where he’d pitch Flipstik—a novel cellphone attachment that doubles as a kickstand and a sticky wall mount.

He knew one thing with absolute certainty: Whether or not the “sharks” on the popular ABC-TV show offered him a deal, he was going to sell some Flipstiks. Probably a lot of them. And he didn’t have any. Or any money.

At the time, in mid-October 2020, Shannon’s startup was so young he sometimes sold only one Flipstik a day. One bright spot: He’d recently landed a commitment of $50,000 from Arch Grants, a St. Louis nonprofit that provides capital to startups willing to plant roots in the community.

With the Shark Tank air date weeks away, he contacted his manufacturer in China. “I need product. Lots of it. Right now,” he said. He mobilized his team to build a makeshift distribution warehouse. He upgraded his website’s software to handle the crush of transactions he expected. He maxed out his credit cards.

It wasn’t enough. Ultimately, he had to pick up the phone to Arch Grants, which was supposed to pay out its commitment in quarterly installments. “Is there any way I can get some cash up-front—right away?” Shannon pleaded. “I don’t have two weeks to wait.”

The cash arrived. The episode aired—with one more hitch. Ninety seconds into his segment, ABC broke in with news from the 2020 election. “I just cried when it happened,” Shannon said. But it didn’t matter. He’d set the hook. He reeled in Shark Tank fans, with orders totaling more than $100,000 in just a few days. When the episode repeated on January 1, 2021, sales spiked once again.

Ultimately, Shannon got an offer from one of the sharks—a deal that later fell apart off-air. Yet for Shannon, the episode was a turning point. The last-minute race to prepare, the 11th-hour request for cash, maxed out cards—it had paid off.

Related Links


This podcast is a production of Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis. Contributors include:

  • Katie Wools, Cathy Myrick, Judy Milanovits and Lesley Liesman, creative assistance
  • Jill Young Miller, fact checking and creative assistance
  • Hayden Molinarolo, original music and sound design
  • Mike Martin Media, editing
  • Sophia Passantino, social media
  • Lexie O'Brien and Erik Buschardt, website support
  • Paula Crews, creative vision and strategic support

Special thanks to Ray Irving and his team at WashU Olin’s Center for Digital Education, including our audio engineer, Austin Alred.

Additional information

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Kurt Greenbaum, Communications Director

One Brookings Drive
St. Louis, MO 63130-4899

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