Dec. 7, 2015 12:11 pm

Catch these two Philly social entrepreneurs on ‘Shark Tank’ this week

Jess Edelstein and Sarah Ribner are the founders behind Philly-based natural deodorant company PiperWai. They'll be swimming in the Shark Tank this Friday.

PiperWai cofounders Jess Edelstein (left) and Sarah Ribner.

(Photo courtesy of Paige Wolf Media & Public Relations)

Jess Edelstein and Sarah Ribner have spent a lot of time pitching their home-grown natural deodorant product, PiperWai, to investors this year.

Between pitch competitions at Columbia University, a demo at Angel Venture Fair, and regional venture capitalists and firms and other high-wealth individuals looking to jump aboard, there has been no lack of interest in PiperWai. But since launching their product locally in 2013, the entrepreneurs just haven’t found a investor they believe to be the right fit.

The charcoal creme, magnesium and tapioca starch-based product is building a user base: PiperWai shipped almost 2,000 products in 2014 and has jumped to nearly 11,000 this year. Edelstein and Ribner said many of those purchases are coming from expecting mothers and breast cancer patients through partnerships with nonprofits like Unite For Her.

“A lot of our customers are breast cancer survivors, people who have been told by their doctors not to wear anti-persperant during treatment,” Edelstein said. “They’re thrilled something exists that won’t compromise their treatment.”

For most social entrepreneurs seeking venture capital, finding the right investor is a familiar struggle. The last thing any entrepreneur wants to do is take the wrong kind of money from a VC who does not align with their mission.

“We struggled to find someone who would be a true partner beyond just giving us money,” Edelstein said. “We want the relevant connections to help us grow the brand, someone who is passionate about our brand.”

Then, this past June, one of Ribner’s family members sent a link to PiperWai’s website (developed by local design shop The 215 Guys) to NAACP‘s Philly chapter, which was hosting a “Shark Tank“-inspired pitch competition.

“We weren’t expecting too much to come out of it,” Ribner said. “It seemed very last-minute.”

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Three days later, Ribner said the two received a call from “Shark Tank” producers asking them to bypass the conference and submit an application video. They ended up doing both.

“It was a lot of paperwork, practicing and working with casting directors to refine our pitch,” Ribner said.

The episode featuring to company will be airing this coming Friday, Dec. 11, on ABC. The Philly duo said partnering with one of the celebrity VCs would do wonders for PiperWai.

“A lot of what we need the funds for is to build up our inventory and make enough products to meet demand,”  said Ribner, who added that the two have been losing count of backorders. “We’re not looking for someone to give us all new ideas, just someone to help us think strategically about the next step.”


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