Having a beach day is always a good way to unwind. However, carrying clunky folding chairs and umbrellas can be a hassle. The Sunflow chair is an all-in-one beach gear that takes care of this problem. The couple Leslie Hsu and Greg Besner made the product, and they got a deal with Kevin O’Leary on Shark Tank. As of 2023, Sunflow is worth $16 million.
About the Founders
Leslie Hsu and Greg Besner reside in Short Hills, New Jersey. Both of them have a long track record of running businesses. After getting a bachelor’s degree from Rutgers University, Greg earned his MBA at The Wharton School. His wife is a graduate of Penn State University.
Greg landed his first job at Goldman Sachs as an associate before moving to Merrill Lynch and becoming vice president. He founded two companies in the past: CultureIQ and Restricted Stock Systems.
Hsu started out as a fabric professional at Elie Tahari and Calvin Klein. Then, she went on to become a handbag designer and a businesswoman. She founded fashion brands like Leslie Hsu New York, PUNCHCASE, and LesliesFinds.
As a busy married couple, Greg and Leslie love to regularly relax at the beach. However, going to their favorite seaside spots demanded a lot of preparation and Leslie didn’t like the quality of their beach chairs.
One day, the two decided to fix this. After brainstorming, they came up with Sunflow, a beach chair that features various necessary gear, including a sunglass carrier, a cup holder, and a canopy.
It was easy to fold, set up, and carry. It took the founders three years to make the final product, which was launched in 2018. After a year, the startup made $2.9 million in revenue.
Shark Tank Appearance
In 2019, business was booming for Leslie Hsu and Greg Besner, so they wanted to take it to the next level. They appeared on season 13 of Shark Tank, asking for $1 million for 6% equity.
The valuation was high, but the Sharks were impressed with how the business was performing despite being just a year old. They also expressed concerns about the price point, $198 for a beach chair is out of reach for the average consumer.
A notable moment during the pitch was when Hsu mentioned that her father had recently passed. Kevin O’Leary wasn’t interested in hearing a sob story and bluntly turned the pitch back to business by saying “back to reality, let’s talk numbers”.
Guest investor Daniel Lubetzky proposed $1 million for 22.5%, but the entrepreneurs ignored the offer because it was terrible. Kevin O’Leary later made several offers, he later ended up agreeing to invest $1 million for 5% with a royalty of $5 per unit. As fans of the show know, Kevin loves a royalty deal!
After Shark Tank
Not long after Sunflow’s Shark Tank episode aired, the startup got a huge spike in orders. Leslie and Greg had to cancel travel plans to take care of shipments. Unfortunately, the deal with Mr. Wonderful didn’t close but the company is doing well.
They didn’t get the $1 million from Kevin, but they raised $3.5 million in an investment round led by Great Oaks Venture Capital and FOD Capital. With this, they got more sales on Amazon and their e-commerce store GetSunflow.com.
On their website, the beach chairs have a 4.8-star rating from 191 reviews. Sunflow makes around $3-4 million in annual revenue and is worth an estimated $16 million.
Given how weak the economy has been lately, it will be challenging to sell a $200 beach chair to consumers. Hopefully, as the business scales production, they can lower the costs. As the business matures, Sunflow plans to release more products and will build a beach brand.