Eyewear Entrepreneur Tipton Swimming With Sharks
The third episode of the first Hungarian edition of global TV franchise “Shark Tank”, where hungry entrepreneurs pitch to potential investors, featured Zack Tipton, co-founder of Tipton Eyeworks.
Tipton Eyeworks owns the Vinylize brand of glasses and sunglasses, handmade from recycled vinyl in Budapest and sold in eyewear stores worldwide. Among the bestselling Vinylize collections is Back in Black, a canny tie-in with heavy metal titans AC/DC. It is made from vinyl from copies of the album of the same name and features the distinctive AC/DC thunderflash.
U.S.-born Tipton, of Hungarian and Scottish ancestry, was looking for funding to give Vinylize a bigger global retail presence in stores and online. He also hoped to benefit from guidance and extra brainpower from a seasoned entrepreneur.
Now in its tenth series in the United States, “Shark Tank” debuted on RTL Klub in February 2019. The sharks were: Anna Apró, one of the owners of healthcare services company COR-A Zrt .; Levente Balogh, president of award-winning mineral water company Szentkirályi-Kékkúti Ásványvíz Kft.; Péter Balogh, MD of start-up incubator Baconsult Ltd. (and formerly co-founder of Hungary’s global navigation company NNG); Gyula Fehér, founder of Ustream, a leading provider of cloud-based, end-to-end video solutions that is now an IBM company; and András Moldován, owner of the Jack’s Burger restaurant chain.
Tipton’s original idea was to try an entice an investor into starting a joint venture to distribute Vinylize eyewear. The brand is already sold in stores in Paris, London, Berlin, New York and LA and is available online.
But Tipton is naturally keen to grow the company’s presence in a market worth, according to businesswire.com, USD 167 billion globally in 2017.
Rather than commit to Tipton’s idea, the sharks decided they wanted to buy into the existing Tipton Eyeworks company. That business, which makes a profit, consists of production facilities, a retail outlet and the brand name Vinylize.
After some nail-biting drama, Tipton accepted an offer from Moldovan, owner of Jack’s Burger.
“One bid was way too low,” Tipton said. “Another shark believed our profit margin wasn’t high enough – even though profit margins can always be improved. Someone else wasn’t really interested in the product. I accepted the offer from Moldován because he believed in me personally.”
Tipton says he thoroughly enjoyed the “Shark Tank” experience. “It was educational to see how TV shows are produced. I met some of the best-known entrepreneurs in Hungary and got some extremely useful feedback. Being on ‘Shark Tank’ was also great marketing for Tipton Eyeworks. We got quite a bit of airtime.”
But he wasn’t overawed by the sharks he came up against. “I asked lots of questions to put them on the spot,” he commented.
“They’re pretty impressive but I would say they’re also very local in their outlook. My company is international, and I felt the sharks’ lack of experience in this area would be a huge problem. I’m looking for guidance as much as money. This is true for all young Hungarian entrepreneurs. We sorely need role models.”
Update May 28, 2019: Tipton ultimately decided not to accept András Moldavánʼs offer and instead opted to retain his independence.
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