by Kelly Shannon
Illinois State University Packback Brand Ambassador
When I got the text from my dad telling me that my brother, Mike, was going to be on ABC’s Shark Tank, it was immediately followed with information about the viewing party that they would be throwing at 1871. Aside from my obvious excitement, my first thought was “what the heck is 1871?” to which my dad replied “basically a big warehouse with desks and a bunch of 22 year olds running around on skateboards. Should be a good party.” With the assurance of my dad telling me I was in for a good party, I clearly couldn’t miss it. I mean… there’s a bunch of 22 year olds running around on skateboards! Doesn’t get much better than that.
Well, turns out it does. My family and I arrived a little early to help Mike set up for the viewing party. When we got there, it was surprisingly pretty similar to what my dad had described. Although there were not any skateboards, there were a bunch of Razor Scooters instead, but those are just minor details. As we began setting up, I started to realize just how exciting this was; specifically when Mike told me we needed around 250 chairs (although, the idea of setting up 250 chairs wasn’t too exciting to me). A couple hours later, people started flooding in. I greeted the family and friends that I saw and was expecting to see, but as more supporters came in, I found myself talking to people I hadn’t seen in years. It truly was incredible to look around the room and see how many people were there to support both Mike and Packback.
As the show started, everyone began to settle down a little bit. All of the seats were taken, with people standing on the side or sitting on the benches against the wall. With the exception of a few sound system issues that we’re fixed in the knick of time by Packback’s very own founders, the show ran smoothly. The excitement and energy in the room was incredible. By the end of it, the whole room was on their feet cheering as they watched the two “kids” in front of them make a $250,000 deal with Mark Cuban. $250,000. Mark Cuban. Just let that sink in for a second.
The 10 minutes or so that Packback aired on the Shark Tank episode was fantastic to watch, but I wish the 8.3 million viewers at home could have also watched the fireside chat that took place afterwards. As Mike’s sister, and also a Brand Ambassador for Packback, I thought I knew pretty much everything about the company and how they got started- boy was I wrong. Hearing Mike and Kasey talk about the different obstacles they crossed and overcame when starting Packback as college undergrads was easily one of the most inspiring stories I’ve ever heard.
They explained the difficulties of “having to” skip class and drive to Chicago to sneak into 1871, only hoping that it would be worth it to get some more people on their side. They talked about how you only need a few key people on board to make something happen, no matter what Mr. Wonderful says. They discussed how college students have a unique advantage in the business world, and how they were able to overcome what they did because they were current students trying to make a difference. Sitting in the audience, I couldn’t help but listen in awe at the intelligence and grace that my brother, who used to restlessly tease me until I cried, spoke with.
Both Mike and Kasey spoke in a way that showed off so much about each of their characters, and they certainly showed how hard each of them work and how much persistence they each have.
I think every college student should get that chance to hear some of the wisdom that Mike and Kasey have to share. I walked out of the viewing party with a different view on Packback, my brother, and the business world in general. It’s amazing what a couple of hungover college kids can do when they pick up the phone and cold-call the CEO of a major publishing company.
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