Dude Robe founder seeks retail deal after ‘Shark Tank’ spot

Dude Robe founder seeks retail deal after ‘Shark Tank’ spot
Dude Robe founder Howie Busch, center, pitched his idea for towel-lined robes, hoodies, shorts and pants to the Shark Tank investors. (Photo courtesy of Shark Tank, ABC)

When Dude Robe founder Howie Busch of Flower Hill was asked to be on ABC’s “Shark Tank,” he said, the company was only about two weeks old.

Busch said a few weeks after he launched a Kickstarter campaign for his towel-lined robes, hooded sweatshirts, shorts and pants, Shark Tank asked him to appear on the show. The episode, which aired Sunday night, was filmed in September and Busch said he was told a few weeks ago that his segment had been chosen for the episode.

Dude Robe founder Howie Busch watched the Shark Tank episode surrounded by friends and family, many of whom were wearing Dude Robe clothing, at D-Fine Fitness in Albertson on Sunday. (Photo courtesy of Howie Busch)

While the Sharks did not take Busch’s offer for 18 percent of the company for $150,000, he said he has been fielding calls and emails constantly since the episode aired.

“I’m weaving through all of the offers coming through,” Busch said. “My game plan has been, even before ‘Shark Tank,’ is picking one or two partners from a retail perspective but focusing quite a bit on doing some limited edition collaborations with social media people. We’re exploring a lot of opportunities right now. It’s an exciting time.”

Busch, a former contract attorney, said before Sunday he had sold about $85,000 worth of products, which retail from $49.95 for the shorts to $74.95 for the namesake robe.

Despite not being funded by the investors, Busch said he wouldn’t trade the experience and exposure from the national television spot.

“Being on ‘Shark Tank’ is an incredible experience in so many ways, and one of the ways is meeting all these other entrepreneurs who you are out there with when you’re filming but also you become a part of this community of creators and inventors,” Busch said.

The Kickstarter campaign, which began last summer, was funded with $67,498 by 481 people ranging from $10 donations through $219 to receive the full set of four items.

Busch said he has been embraced by the community, his family and his friends from a range of times in his life, including getting help from his former camp counselor, his college roommate’s brother and a friend who works in manufacturing.

The Dude Robe line includes towel-lined robes, hoodies, shorts and pants in blue or gray. (Photo courtesy of Dude Robe)

“The support was instrumental both in terms of showing up and buying but also supporting and sharing the products,” Busch said. “I’m blessed to have a community of my people and dudes who stepped up and were a big part of this journey for me.”

When the Shark Tank episode was filmed, orders had been placed but not yet fulfilled, and Busch said everyone who ordered through Kickstarter or Indiegogo before the official website was launched should have received the products.

The Dude Robe website hosts some of the many testimonials Busch has gotten from satisfied customers, including the mother of a 14-year-old hockey player, a North Carolina man who said he has worn his set more than anything else since receiving it and a Florida man who has worn his robe so much around his friends and roommates that he has convinced them to order as well.

“When you send a product to somebody, you don’t expect much in the way of feedback unless it’s bad, but the responses have been so mind-blowing,” Busch said. “It has blown me away how positive and almost over the top it has been from people I don’t know around the world.”

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