Metro Atlanta’s Sparketh gets love from ‘Shark Tank’ investors

Entrepreneurs Tim Samuel and Dwayne Walker from Snellville introduce their online learning platform to empower young students to reach their creative potential through art. (ABC/Christopher Willard)
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Entrepreneurs Tim Samuel and Dwayne Walker from Snellville introduce their online learning platform to empower young students to reach their creative potential through art. (ABC/Christopher Willard)

Credit: ABC

The subscription service’s goal is to spark creativity in kids

Two Snellville entrepreneurs were able to spark investment interest from two “Shark Tank” investors this past Friday for Sparketh, an online subscription-based art learning service for kids.

The service offers more than 100 videos teaching kids different ways to unleash their creativity from painting to baking to drawing.

Dwayne Walker, in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, said art was his passion from a young age. He was home-schooled until eighth grade, when he attended a public school. To ingratiate himself with other students, he showed off his art portfolio. When a teacher saw that, she told him, “That won’t get you anywhere.”

“I shut down,” Walker said. “I almost started crying in my head.” But he ultimately used that insult to spur his love for art despite the way schools, he felt, suppressed creativity, leading many kids to stop creating art. He moved to a new school and graduated from Shiloh High School.

Tim Samuel, his childhood friend and a South Gwinnett High School grad, faced medical obstacles growing up with the painful disease sickle cell anemia but was driven by entrepreneurship.

Both friends were “Shark Tank” acolytes and studied the Sharks, learning their predilections, their quirks, their personalities. “We knew how to pander to certain Sharks to get them to like us,” Samuel said in an interview.

They entered the “Shark Tank” room leaning toward Barbara Corcoran, Mark Cuban and guest shark Daniel Lubetzky, founder of KIND, the snack maker.

They started pushing the business hard in 2018 going to home-school conventions and generated $110,000 in revenue, then burned themselves out, both ending up hospitalized. Income fell to $70,000 in 2019 but the pandemic helped them build up $300,000 in revenue in 2020, mostly from $25-a-month subscriptions from parents. The average subscriber stayed for five or six months, they said.

They sought $100,000 in investment for 8% of the company, which equates to a value of $1.25 million. The money would be used to create more content and create a better version of the platform itself.

“Is this a business or is this a hobby?” asked Kevin O’Leary, known as “Mr. Wonderful” to his fans.

“This is a business,” Walker said.

“It makes no money,” O’Leary spat back.

“We haven’t tried to be profitable,” Samuel said.

Lubetzky asked how they were tracking for 2021. (This was shot in July.) Samuel said $500,000.

“I love creativity and kids being inventive but for me, I’m not really the app person,” said Shark Lori Greiner. “So I’m out.”

O’Leary, also skeptical, was out.

Cuban said the company lacks a prime differentiator. “Why do I need to do this instead of watching free YouTube videos?” he said. So he was out, too.

Corcoran liked that they are “charismatic and endearing.” So she made an offer: $100,000 for 20% of the business. But they need to make a profit within six months.

Lubetzky said he could tell how much of a struggle this has been for the two men but said they are treating this as a charity, not a serious business. He offered to split the $100,000 with Corcoran and provide mentorship to help them reach that profitability goal.

Samuel and Walker said yes.

Samuel, in the interview with the AJC, said, “We’re in the process of still going through due diligence with Barbara and Daniel. Things are looking great. They have been mentoring us and adding a lot of value coming up to ‘Shark Tank’ airing. We’re super-optimistic and we think we will be good to go the next few months.”

WHERE TO WATCH

“Shark Tank,” 8 p.m. Fridays on ABC and available the next day on Hulu

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