Atlanta native turns down a big deal from 'Shark Tank'

Lisa Binderow is a relatively low-key kind of person. The 34-year-old Atlanta native is a devoted yogi, dedicated to bringing peace and quiet to her life and the lives of her students. So when she found herself on national television giving an elevator pitch to the sharks on ABC's "Shark Tank," she wondered what she had gotten herself into.

"It was the scariest thing I had ever done in my life," said Binderow. "I was in there for over an hour. I am not naturally an extroverted or brave person. That experience changed me. I said I would wake up every day and look in the mirror and feel different about myself."

Binderow's episode aired on January 13. To the surprise of many, she turned down Barbara Corcoran's deal  for 40 percent of NicePipes, the collection of arm and leg coverings that Binderow launched in 2014 .

As a practitioner of yoga, Binderow strives for clarity and in that moment, she said she had it. "I had a realization that if I took that deal my trajectory would go in an entirely different direction than I had planned," she said.

The graduate of North Springs High School had never planned to become an entrepreneur. After college, Binderow headed west to Los Angeles, where she tried her hand as a production assistant. The long hours and heavy stress of the job began to weigh her down.

Seeking relief, she attended Yoga Works in Santa Monica and ended up quitting her job to work there. Seven years later, she was the Teacher Director for the northeast region.

By then, Binderow was living in New York, hustling through city streets wearing her yoga gear. She was freezing. The Capri pants she wore left the cold ripping at her legs. She needed a way to stay warm without having to change her style.

After consulting with a friend, she created Nicepipes, leg and arm warmers made from sweat-wicking fabric that can be worn before, during, and after yoga or fitness classes or while running or cycling outdoors.

Binderow made three pairs of Nicepipes from fabric samples and wore them to the studio. People saw her wearing them and began asking her to make some for them. "I went to the garment center in New York and made 1,000 pairs. I sold out of black and gray in a month," said Binderow.

She then reached out to the buyer at Equinox Fitness and the company agree to carry the line in 13 stores. In keeping with her personality, Nicepipes was a low-key operation. Binderow would attach hang tags to the items at home and her husband would shuttle her around New York and Connecticut to drop off orders.

In Fall 2015, Binderow appeared on MSNBC's "Elevator Pitch" and got feedback on her product and her pitch.  While the panel loved the product, one suggested she craft a pitch that better explained the valuation of her company and the business metrics.

Binderow said she is a very analytical person who thrives on detail, but that quality hasn't always helped her professionally. It wasn't until she began practicing yoga that she learned how to minimize anxiety and use her analytical skills in a positive way.

With Nicepipes, she wanted to make a cool product that would help keep people warm. She wanted the brand to be witty and not too yoga-centric. Mostly, she wanted to have a small business that grew organically without becoming so big and out of control that it took over her entire life.

These were the thoughts that ran through her mind as she considered Corcoran's offer on Shark Tank.

"The appeal to me was more working with Barbara and having a mentor like that because I don’t have a business background," Binderow said. "But as someone who just started a business and has been working 24 hours a day for two years straight,  I knew what could come next and I wasn’t sure it was the right move for me."

It took a lot of confidence to walk away, but Binderow knew her heart. She wanted a small functioning profitable business, not a fast ride on the Shark Tank roller coaster. She had already felt the sting of professional disappointment and wasn't anxious to feel it again.

"I had a period in my 20's where I had been lost. I didn’t feel like I had ever pushed my professional development. I had worked a lot on myself, but I had never achieved the career goals I thought I might have achieved when I was younger," said Binderow.

Her appearance on Shark Tank helped her realize those moments were truly in the past. While she took some sharp criticism for her lack of business knowledge, the sharks loved her product. "Lori and Mark kept them on through the entire taping," said Binderow. "Their compliments on the Pipes definitely made their attacks much easier to take."

Today Nicepipes are in 40 retail locations nationwide and at the time of the airing on Shark Tank, the company was grossing $150,000 in sales, she said. The Nicepipes arm warmers sell for $38, knee-high leg warmers for $42 and thigh high leg warmers for $46.

Binderow also has a small apparel line that is sold wholesale and she is exploring line extensions such as Nicepipes for runners with velcro straps or Nicepipes with reflective lights for people who run or bike at night.

"It has been an amazing experience to see (the business) grow like that," said Binderow. "I never even thought I was going to be an entrepreneur."