On February 5, MountainFlow Eco-Wax founder Peter Arlein stood in front of the Shark Tank’s business tycoons in a full ski kit and pitched his product: a plant-based, petroleum-free ski wax that doesn’t leave nasty chemicals in the snow like traditional waxes. By the time the segment was over, he’d sold 20 percent of the company for $300,000 to two Sharks, Barbara Corcoran and Kevin O’Leary.
Outside awarded MountainFlow a Gear of the Show award at last year’s Outdoor Retailer Winter Market, where we look at hundreds of products pitched to us at lightning speed over the course of a few days. Truly unique products stand out in a sea of conversations about updated membranes and midsoles, and MountainFlow’s story was simple, straightforward, and had the potential to make a big impact on the environment by removing petrochemicals from watersheds. Scouts for the show thought so, too.
Arlein, a passionate skier and former patroller based in Carbondale, Colorado, worked in marketing as he developed numerous ski waxes at night over several years prior to winning the award at Outdoor Retailer. When a cold email from Shark Tank producers later showed up in his inbox, he almost didn’t answer: he was incredulous that the reality-TV show would be interested in his product.
The odds of getting on air are long: the show receives almost 40,000 applicants a season, and only 88 get on the air, according to USA Today. Even fewer get funded (and some of the deals fall apart later). Arlein responded to the email, though, and after his first phone call with producers, he understood why a major network would be interested in a new ski-wax technology. “The cool thing about MountainFlow is that you can explain it in ten seconds to anyone, even if they don’t know what ski wax is,” Arlein says. “I think that is where they saw the mass appeal.”
Corcoran, a Manhattan real estate developer and 12-season veteran of the show, was interested in MountainFlow on a personal level, as she’s been an avid skier for over 50 years. (While talking with Outside, she became notably animated while describing the powder she scored on a recent trip to Deer Valley, Utah). “What I really liked about Eco-Wax was that it wasn’t petroleum based,” she says. “I get my skis waxed maybe twice a season, and I never knew that it was a petroleum-based product.”
She also says that she was almost equally interested in Arlein himself. He has a ropey mountaineer’s build and a bushy mustache often accented by a fully committed smile. “That goofy look he had and that outfit was enchanting,” she says. “I bought in right away. I thought, I like that guy. Likability is a big card in anything.”
Arlein says he’s pitched MountainFlow thousands of times, so once he was in front of the lights in full ski regalia, he went on autopilot. “Once you’re on the set, it just feels like a business conversation,” he says. He concisely explained the impact that petroleum and fluorocarbons have on waterways near ski resorts and the collective damage that can occur when large numbers of skiers shed these particles. “I had never thought of that,” Corcoran says. “I thought, Whoa, I didn’t mean to ruin the earth—I want to buy that product.”
A few of the Sharks were avid skiers and already knew about the fluorocarbon ban happening in ski racing and took time to explain it to the audience. “It showed everybody that it is a real thing going on, and my company came up with a solution,” Arlein says.
While he found delivering the pitch second nature, the fast math he had to calculate on stage as the investors kept changing their offers proved really difficult. After some back-and-forth exchanges, he took the deal with Corcoran and O’Leary. “Other investors have expressed interest in putting money into the company, but for us, getting these Sharks on board is huge,” Arlein said.
While the $300,000 is a nice boost for the company that was his side gig for many years (he only went full-time last year), he is most excited about the tools these business veterans have to help him grow. “Now I am getting double the resources. [Corcoran and O’Leary] both have great teams, with smart people that will help issues that come up. That is why I ended up taking the deal with those two,” Arlein says.