St. Louisan Jenn Deese scored big on ABC's Shark Tank on Friday, winning a $55,000 investment from QVC queen Lori Greiner for her invention Pursecase, a stylish phone-caddy-slash-wallet-slash-pocket-mirror.
Deese, 26, and her business partner, Kelley Coughlan, designed Pursecase to be a quirky, women-oriented accessory, but neither expected their product to gain such nationwide popularity.
"It was kind of like a joke. We were like, 'This would be cool if it could exist,'" says Deese, who grew up in Wildwood before moving to California for college, of inventing Pursecase. "We took inspiration from handbags that we've loved over the years, and we went from there."
The pair built ten prototypes before launching an online fundraising campaign, eventually earning $35,000 in Kickstarter pre-orders.
An ABC casting director spotted the Pursecase online and asked Deese and Coughlan to try out for the show where inventors pitch ideas to venture capitalists.
"We were like: 'Heck no'," Deese says. "Shark Tank was my favorite show before this. We saw people get ripped apart and we thought, 'Oh my gosh, I don't know if we could put ourselves through that.'"
Eventually they decided to go along with it, spending a solid month watching old Shark Tank episodes, writing down questions pitched by judges and rehearsing answers for their own product. The hard work paid off -- Greiner offered the pair $55,000 in exchange for a 15 percent stake in the company.
"It's like winning the lottery," Deese says. "I can't even tell you the way that this has changed things. We did so many sales the second it started airing."
The timing is lucky for Deese, who returns to St. Louis today to spend the holiday with family and friends.
"So many of my friends from high school and my old, old St. Louis friends I haven't talked to in forever are reaching out to me," she says, laughing. "One friend was like, 'You're the first famous person I know.'"
Pairing her product with the QVC brand and audience is a match made in heaven, Deese says.
"It was everything I've worked for culminated into an hour," she says. "To be validated like that was incredible."
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