Sit back, close your eyes, and take a deep breath. Now tell me, what is your dream? What is that secret desire you hold dear to your heart? Do you want to publish a book? Create the next great work of art? Or maybe you want to start your own business? There are dangers in chasing dreams. They tend to be unsafe, and can force you to teeter on the edge of a deep precipice. And yet, if you can manage to brave the high wire act that such a trek entails, there is the chance that your dreams will come to fruition.
This is where we meet Charlie Williams and Boskovic, on the edge of their precipice, overlooking a shark tank.
With customized tissue paper in their hands.
The origins of DigiWrap
How did Charlie and Brad end up in this situation? Well, it all started off with a pet project to create digitally printed tissue paper while they worked at Brad’s family business, Lingraph. Initial feedback for what they were creating was positive, but they weren’t receiving a lot of it. What sparked the real movement to create DigiWrap as a company came out of an unfortunate situation for Charlie: “In 2013, Lingraph lost its largest manufacturing based customer and was forced to make immediate cutbacks, myself included.”
What could have been a situation where Charlie retreated into himself out of self-pity and depression turned into a great opportunity for himself and Brad.
“It was at this point we decided to create DigiWrap to give the products the attention that they needed,” Charlie said. Their pet project was about to become much, much bigger.
Owning the future
Now, you may be thinking that nothing better can be done with tissue paper. Not so say Brand and Charlie.
“The tissue paper market was missing one major thing – a digital option. The reason for this was the simple concept that tissue paper is a printer’s worst nightmare. It’s weak, porous, and incredibly flammable (we’re speaking from experience on that one). Until we came along, tissue paper was only sold in quantities of thousands, not one-offs, and it took weeks [to print], not days.”
This was their entry to creating their own company. They saw a pain-point for customers, one that Brad and Charlie felt they had a solution for. How did they feel about striking out on their own? Was there fear? Was it overwhelming?
“Overwhelming, no,” Charlie said. “Much like all great things, we started in small manageable steps, making things easy enough to tackle.” There was also a bit of risk for Charlie personally, “as to start DigiWrap I had to go an entire year without taking a paycheck and essentially put my personal life on hold to get things started. That being said, I never doubted what we were doing, nor that it would pay off in the end.”
For Brad there was an excitement in “creating something new. We had to lay all the groundwork and build the model from scratch, so it was a lot of work. Fortunately I had lots of experience helping to run [Lingraph], and with Charlie being so passionate about the project, and the fact that we had already worked together for some time, I never felt it was anything we couldn’t handle.”
They owned their future now, and that future included a date with some sharks.
Swimming with sharks
What do sharks have to do with tissue paper? Well nothing…unless you are looking for funding for a business. Some of you may be familiar with a television show called Shark Tank, where several multimillionaire investors listen to proposals from entrepreneurs with ideas who are seeking an influx of capital to help fund their idea. Barbara Corcoran, Lori Greiner, Daymond John, Mark Cuban, Robert Herjavec, and Kevin O’Leary listen to these proposals and decide how much they are willing to invest for a percentage stake in the venture. Or they can decide not to take part in the venture at all.
As any creative person knows, putting an idea in front of people for them to judge can be a soul crushing experience. So how did Brad and Charlie get the idea to pitch DigiWrap on Shark Tank?
“We are both fans of the show and have been very familiar with it over the last several years of airing,” Charlie said. “I personally had always dreamed of going on the show since the idea of DigiWrap came about. In my own mind though, I considered it a pipe dream and [it] was more a mental exercise I would run through. Once we heard there was going to be an open casting call in Chicago, it seemed to be a little bit more realistic and worth considering.”
An unfortunate experience (Charlie being laid off) lead to the creation of DigiWrap. A fortuitous one, an open casting call in Chicago, lead to Charlie and Brad pitching their idea on Shark Tank. It was their drive and charisma, not just their brilliant idea, which lead to Kevin O’Leary investing in their company. It wasn’t easy though, as many of the sharks didn’t seem to understand DigiWrap as a concept.
“We had prepped for a variety scenarios, but we didn’t expect them to struggle with the core concept as much as they did,” Charlie said. “In the end, it wasn’t so much about convincing others to believe what we believe, but THAT we believe it and the rest will take care of itself.”
That’s always the question, isn’t it? “What’s next?” Well, for both Brad and Charlie, the next steps were always clear.
“Regardless of the results of [our appearance on Shark Tank], our plan was going to be the same. We will continue to grow our customer base and use our passion and expertise to innovate within the printing and packaging realm.”
So far Brand and Charlie haven’t let anything stop their drive, enthusiasm, and desire to create custom printed tissue paper for consumers. So many of us (myself included) might have given up after being laid off from our job. Others might have fumbled with the Shark Tank appearance, or not have taken the chance on going on the show at all. What has kept Brand and Charlie pushing to build their company instead of the safety of working for someone else?
“The key is passion and being different, but it only works if it’s genuine. If you have the opportunity, go for it. It’s definitely not for the faint of heart, and the process is grueling, but we are living proof that it can happen.”
Yes you are, gentlemen. Congrats on your successful Shark Tank appearance!