A day at the beach is all fun and games until all of your stuff gets stolen. That's what happened to college friends Avin Samtani, Jonathan Kinas, and Rob Peck during a vacation in South Beach three years ago. "We won't name the hotel where it happened, but let's just say they do offer AquaVault now," Samtani says. Indeed, AquaVault is the name of the company and the product he and his two buddies created after that fateful day in Miami Beach.
The product is essentially a personal safe that attaches to virtually all beach furniture, allowing you to safely store your belongings. The first prototype was drawn on a napkin, and the partners waited until they received a design patent before leaving their day jobs in finance. After their first year of sales, they applied to appear on Shark Tank, the widely popular ABC reality show where entrepreneurs compete for an investment deal from one of the featured titans of industry, i.e., the "sharks." Of the 45,000 applicants for the 2015 season, AquaVault was one of 116 companies chosen to enter the tank.
"Shark Tank was a roller coaster," Samtani says. "You have one shot at it, and you go out there and you have to really know your business and your numbers. And thankfully, it worked out in our favor."
The friends won a deal with Daymond John, best known as the founder, president, and CEO of the fashion brand Fubu. As is often the case following an appearance on the show, AquaVault's sales skyrocketed. Their numbers went from $80,000 to half a million in the just six months.
It has been a year since the episode aired, and now the lock box is available at nearly every hotel in Miami Beach. Some hotels offer it to guests free of charge, while others charge $5 to rent one for the day.
"It’s really rewarding walking down the beach and seeing your product," says Samtani, who, along with his two partners, moved to Miami from New York a little more than a year ago. "Moving down here was a stepping stone for all of us to be in our market, and it has proven in our favor."
The original AquaVault safe in action on Miami Beach.
Since scoring a deal on Shark Tank, Samtani says a lot more people respond to his emails. "Having [Daymond John] as a mentor has been very valuable to us. He’s really accessible and really humble. Whenever we have a question, we just text or call him, and he’s really good about getting back to us quickly. Just having someone like that to feed off of is important."
The 32-year-old entrepreneur says AquaVault is on pace to do $2 million in sales for 2016 and $10 million plus in sales over the next five years. Part of their growth plan includes selling the product to cruise lines and theme parks and increasing their hotel clientele. The brand also sells directly to the consumer via its website and retail partners.
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What's more, they've just come out with a new product — the Soft FlexSafe. Whereas the original plastic vault ($39.95) is intended more for commercial use and is a tad bulky, their new safe ($29.95) is soft and packs easily into a beach bag. It's a travel-friendlier option and works well attached to a beach chair, baby stroller, golf cart, or wheelchair.
Despite its convenience, using an AquaVault doesn't mean your stuff will never get stolen. However, Samtani says it does act as a deterrent to thieves, and they've had no complaints thus far. The company's three founders are also relatively complaint-free given their line of work takes them to the world's best beaches and the most laid-back trade shows. "We traded in our suits for bathings suits," Samtani says. "We couldn't have picked a better industry."
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