Mitchell, left, and Doyle
What’s it like to appear on Shark Tank?
“It’s like a Notre Dame football game,” says Drew Mitchell (MBA ’08, FIN ’01). “The fumble pops loose on the first down, and you try to pick it up from there.”
Viewers will see the outcome of Mitchell’s appearance tonight, Oct. 30, on the Emmy Award-winning ABC venture capital reality program. Shark Tank airs at 9 p.m. EDT.
Mitchell appears before the sharks with fellow Domer Mike Doyle (ND ’12) to pitch a business with Notre Dame roots: Rent Like a Champion. The online vacation rental business caters specifically to events, such as a football game weekend.
Mitchell cofounded the business in 2006 as an MBA student at the Mendoza College of Business. Cofounders also are Mendoza alums: Derrick Shenk (FIN ’01) and Jordan Curnes (FIN ’01).
“I was having trouble finding an apartment, so I bought a house near campus,” Mitchell says. “Then Derrick and I started buying homes. After we bought our fourth house, Jordan got involved. By the time I graduated from the MBA program, we had 25 properties. We were just trying to create cashflow and put money back in the business.”
They stumbled on the idea for a vacation rental business. “We had vacancies and put them on eBay for a football home game weekend,” Mitchell explains. “We got the bid up in matter of couple days, and the next thing you know, we had two months’ rent in a weekend.
“A lightbulb went off — a website that would put fans in touch with homeowners during an event.”
The Chicago-based business has grown to 21 cities and seven full-time employees, including Doyle, who serves as CEO after spending two summers interning with Rent Like a Champion. The business branched out from South Bend to other college football cities, and plans are to move into cities affiliated with NASCAR, professional golf, baseball and even political conventions and a range of other events.
“We’ve doubled in gross rental receipts just about every year that we’ve been around,” Mitchell says. This includes $2.5 million in 2015, and an anticipated $4 million in 2016.
Doyle contacted Shark Tank in early 2014. “We didn’t hear anything back for six months,” Mitchell says. “Then out of the blue we got an email to fill out paperwork and a 10-minute video of our story. The phone started ringing and we sent copies of financial statements and other documents.
“The next thing you know, it’s June 2015. They sent us this notice that said, ‘Get on this plane in 10 days.’ It became very, very real.”
It’s been difficult to keep quiet about their experiences in front of the sharks, but several layers of confidentiality prevents it. “We can’t talk about the outcome or which sharks were on it,” Mitchell says.
He did mention that the Rent Like a Champion team had a relatively quick appearance of 20 to 25 minutes on the show, as opposed to a typical time of 45 minutes.
He and Doyle tapped into the Notre Dame network to prepare for their pitch, reaching out to Domer investment bankers and hedge fund managers. They worked with Gale Bowman (MARK ’05), an entrepreneur-in-residence with the Notre Dame Gigot Center for Entrepreneurship and managing director of Irish Angels, an early stage angel investment group. The Gigot Center also provided additional advice and resources.
“We had the alums ask us questions that the sharks were bound to ask,” Mitchell says. “In essence, we were in the tank four or five times before we went into the actual tank. We were so grateful for our Notre Dame connection. Notre Dame was imperative to our appearance and to our business in general.”
When showtime came, they couldn’t wait. “We decided we were going to have fun with this and not take ourselves too seriously,” Mitchell says. “We went in with really relaxed attitude and made sure we had facts and figures down.”
Overall? “Appearing on Shark Tank was absolutely one of the most amazing and memorable experiences of my life. It was so cool, it was so fun to do,” Mitchell says. “It was really cool being around these other entrepreneurs. I think for both mike and myself, the education we received from Notre Dame took a lot of the intimidation out. We felt like we deserved to be there. We worked hard enough.”