NEW YORK — Cameras rolling, Daniel and Stephanie Rensing accepted an offer from a ‘‘Shark Tank’’ investor. But after they had time to think about it, they changed their minds.
Annual revenue for their company, The Smart Baker, is nearly $1 million, up from $130,000 before their March 2012 appearance on the ABC reality TV show.
‘‘Not doing the deal and having that exposure was probably the best scenario for us,’’ said Daniel Rensing, chief executive of the Rockledge, Fla., seller of aprons, parchment paper, and other baking supplies.
Dreams of investor money have induced more than 150,000 businesses to apply to be contestants on ‘‘Shark Tank,’’ where entrepreneurs make pitches to cast members including Barbara Corcoran, founder of a New York real estate brokerage; Daymond John, founder of the FUBU clothing company; Robert Herjavec, founder of Herjavec Group, and Kevin O’Leary, an entrepreneur, investor, writer, and financial commentator.
Entrepreneurs may be all smiles when they get an offer on the show, but the deals aren’t set in stone. Negotiations start soon after episodes are taped. Contestants can walk away if they don’t like the terms.
‘‘When we shake hands on a potential deal on ‘Shark Tank,’ the romance runs high and everyone’s excited about what could be,’’ Corcoran says. ‘‘In the end, the entrepreneur is in charge.’’
In the first five seasons, 374 contestants appeared on TV and investors made 190 offers, according to ABC. Forty-eight contestants turned down offers during taping, executive producer Clay Newbill said. They haven’t tracked how many deals fell apart during negotiations.
The producers ask entrepreneurs and investors to make their best efforts to close deals. ‘‘But we understand, just as in the real world, the reality is that not all deals will close,’’ Newbill said.
Corcoran offered $75,000 for 40 percent of The Smart Baker and a 5 percent sales royalty during the 2011 taping. During negotiations the Rensings disagreed with Corcoran about the target market.
Corcoran said she was disappointed, but knows a rejection is an occupational hazard on ‘‘Shark Tank.’’
The Smart Baker has thrived without her money. In the following year, revenue grew to $600,000. The episode also helped the company get noticed by the Food Network and other media. Reruns provide a sales bump.
But a ‘‘Shark Tank’’ deal isn’t just about money; it also brings expertise and mentoring. The Rensings don’t dwell on what they might have missed by not sticking with Corcoran. ‘‘There is always the ‘what ifs,’ but we don’t let that get to us,’’ Daniel Rensing said.
Some contestants turn down offers because they feel there are more important things than getting investors, said Matthew Rutherford, an entrepreneurship professor at Oklahoma State University. ‘‘What they crave over everything, including money and wealth, is autonomy.’’
Entrepreneurs on the show are probably hoping for both cash and control, Harvard Business School professor Noam Wasserman said. But the money doesn’t guarantee success, and having an investor may be an unpleasant experience. ‘‘You could end up with the worst of both worlds,’’ he said.
When Mona Weiss and Scott Shields pitched their company, Eco Nuts, in 2012, Herjavec offered $175,000 for 50 percent. They said no on the spot. ‘‘It was a terrible deal, really awful. No one would give up half their company for less than they make in a year,’’ Weiss said. But being on ‘‘Shark Tank’’ put Eco Nuts on a faster track: Revenue, now over $1 million, grew so much the company moved to a space five times bigger.