You should make no excuses if you want to become successful. With this mindset, Kobe Johnson became the first deaf entrepreneur to feature on Shark Tank. He came along with his dad, Ron, and sister, Taylor, to pitch the all-in-one outdoor kitchen equipment, Tailgate N Go. The trio closed a deal with guest Shark Matt Higgins. As of 2023, Tailgate N Go is worth $2.5 million.
About the Founders
Ron, Taylor, and Kobe Johnson are an entrepreneurial family from Grand Junction, Colorado. Ron, who is considered an inventor, encouraged his kids to develop a love for the outdoors and camping.
Taylor studied mass communication at Colorado Mesa University. There are no records of her working for another company after graduating as she dived into entrepreneurship straightaway.
Kobe is the youngest of the bunch and was born deaf. He claims that it’s a unique way of experiencing life and is studying anthropology at the University of Northern Colorado.
Founding the Company
During a camping trip, Ron couldn’t help but notice a nearby group of campers who carried a lot of things with them. Nothing was organized, and it inspired the Colorado inventor to create a solution.
He worked on nine prototypes before finally designing the first Tailgate N Go box. It featured almost everything needed for outdoor cooking, like food compartments, cutting boards, storage nets, knife holders, and more.
Ron invested $250,000 of his savings and recruited his kids to help launch the business in late 2018. They developed two more models and sold about 100 units within 18 months.
Shark Tank Appearance
In 2019, the Johnson family wanted to raise money to scale production and needed help with marketing. They were looking to bring lower production costs. The trio appeared on season 11 of Shark Tank, seeking $250,000 for a 10% equity stake.
Kobe made history as the first deaf entrepreneur to feature on the show. It was a notable feat, but the primary focus of the pitch was on their outdoor product. They delivered a strong presentation and gave a demo of the product. The Sharks were impressed, but didn’t like the valuation.
Kevin O’Leary was the first to make an offer, another terrible royalty proposal. All hope looked lost when the other Sharks dropped out but Daymond convinced them to make a counteroffer. Guest Shark Matt Higgins changed his mind and agreed to invest $250,000 for 20% and a $50 per unit royalty until the $250,000 is repaid.
After Shark Tank
After the episode aired, Tailgate N Go reached $400,000 in sales according to Sharktankrecap.com. After the deal with Matt closed, the businessman helped the startup get a licensing deal with the NFL and NCAA.
They now also sell boxes featuring pro football and college sports club logos. In addition, they have new kit accessories, which can be purchased on Amazon and their official website, TailgateNGo.com.
Despite strong sales, Tailgate N Go’s momentum was hindered by the pandemic. They were forced to raise prices even though their product was already expensive, the NFL edition now retails for $1,995. Essentially, the company only needs to sell just over 500 units per year to do $1 million in sales.
The family-owned company has an active Facebook page, where 11 users have rated them an average of 4.1 stars. The company is making an estimated $800,000 -$1 million in annual revenue and is valued at $2.5 million.