Come on. Admit it. You are—perhaps reluctantly, or even secretly—a fan of ABC’s “Shark Tank,” that outsized Darwinian reality show that pits amped-up entrepreneurs against the terrors of Mr. Wonderful and his murderer’s row of celebrity investors waging due diligence on the fly.
If so, you might be interested to know that Gabe Miller (MBA 2011), an alumnus of the UW Foster School’s Technology Management MBA Program, will intrepidly pitch his young business to the Sharks this Sunday, October 13, at 9 p.m. on ABC.
That business? Squid Socks, an innovation in socks for babies and toddlers that “stay on and don’t come off.” Miller, the chief technology officer, co-founded the company with his wife, Jessica, the CEO. Their inspiration came from infinite observations of parents losing the war against their children’s sock slippage. The market need was reinforced by their own scampering little scamps: son Casen, 3, and daughter Claire, 2.
It only took an engineer to design a solution.
Aerospace to footwear
Originally from Puyallup, Miller has worked as an aerospace engineer at Boeing for 16 years, working in structures, aerodynamics, configuration development, product development workshop, program integration, product development management and supply chain cost reduction. He’s currently a proprietary project chief engineer.
A passion for business sent Miller to Foster’s TMMBA Class 10 in 2009. And his experience in the program summoned the entrepreneur inside of him. On the side, he has led an aerospace technology startup, and he owns and manages a small real estate business.
When engineer fused with entrepreneur, Miller designed the charmingly whimsical socks to stay on little feet with custom sizing, “squiddy” silicone dots for gentle grip, and the elastic banding of a high-performance athletic sock.
Miller says he was delighted to put the growth of his real estate portfolio on hold indefinitely to focus on his two most promising and rewarding startups: his family and Squid Socks.
The family will certainly survive the Sharks. But will the socks pass muster?
Squid Socks has already generated some buzz. The Millers and their company have been featured on Today, in POPSUGAR and in Parents magazine and Red Tricycle. Squid Socks are sold by Amazon and Nordstrom, among other retailers. And the Millers direct 10 percent of all profits toward protecting the world’s vulnerable coral reefs through the Coral Reef Alliance.
But the landed Sharks of ABC, who tend to be discerning if not downright dismissive, won’t care so much about saving the reefs. Or the Millers’ adorable family. Or the brilliantly simple product idea.
Does the business satisfy a real need in the market? Do Squid Socks really stay on and not come off? Do the Sharks think they can make some serious money?
You’ll have to tune in to find out.