Shark Tank Goes Colorado: Inside CO.ALITION's Pitch

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Jeff Popp and Casey Lorenzen will unpack their Denver-based CO.ALITION line of backpacks on tonight's episode of ABC's popular Shark Tank, and Mile High Spirits is hosting a free “Get Shark Tanked” viewing party for the business partners — and the public — from 6 p.m. until 10 p.m. 

CO.ALITION is Popp’s and Lorenzen’s second backpack company. The first, MHM, or Mile High Mountaineering, was launched in 2009; it was geared towards hikers, skiers and campers. CO.ALITION, which was founded in 2014, creates backpacks for the mobile, millennial urbanite.

The two CO.ALITION models, aptly named the Colfax and the Federal, represent a perfect marriage of form and function, Popp says. Whereas many companies, especially larger ones, value one over the other, CO.ALITION's goal is to have both form and function. The x-factor for these packs is their internal hard drives and portable power supply, making it easy to charge your mobile devices and work anywhere, anytime.

CO.ALITION was helped along by a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2014 that raised over $50,000. Now the partners are looking for help from one of five investors on the show, a shark-filled  lineup that includes Mark Cuban. But whether or not they get the Investment (no spoilers here), Popp and Lorenzen think that simply appearing on the show is good for business.

“It’s just a cool opportunity as an entrepreneur," Popp notes. "The process alone in getting to that point, you learn a lot of valuable lessons about your business and your product. You get a lot of feedback from the sharks as well."

They admit to some nerves before the episode's taping began, as they were shuffled around backstage anxiously awaiting their entrance. “I can’t speak for Casey, but I can definitely say it’s the first time I’ve had my hair and makeup done,” Popp admits. 

Lorenzen remembers the anticipation of getting called in to meet the sharks. “You’re kind of standing there in silence looking at each other like, 'Okay we’re about to do this,'" he recalls. "Then they give you the ten second countdown and that’s when it kind of hits you like, 'Oh shit, we’re doing this.' It was one of those gut-check moments.”  

He was surprised to find that it felt like a real investors' meeting, as opposed to a TV show. The cameras were concealed and there were no re-takes. “If you mess up on the pitch, if you mess up anywhere, that’s what they’re going to show,” he says.

To make sure that didn’t happen, the business owners practiced making their pitch over and over to different people on Venice Beach, not far from where they filmed in Los Angeles. “We walked around on the boardwalk at the beach practicing our pitch because we figured if we can deliver our pitch on Venice Beach and not get distracted with the ridiculous stuff on that side of town, then we’d be able to nail it on the tank,” Popp says.

The technique worked, because Popp felt confident on camera: “Once you’re in the tank with the sharks, you feel all the stress and nerves dissipate in the moment and then you realize how amazing of an opportunity you have before you,” he says.

They might be on the verge of the big time, but Popp still gets a kick out of seeing people wearing his backpacks. “That’s nuts," he says. "I still can’t get used to that. I hope I never do, 'cause it’s really cool. Several times on the mountain, just snowboarding, I’ve chased down a few people and asked them if they like their bags. It’s cool to get that feedback.”

Popp and Lorenzen will be at the viewing party at 6 p.m. tonight, January 29, at Mile High Spirits. The event is free, and there will be drink specials. As a bonus, Mestizo’s food truck will be serving its Mexican-Asian fusion cuisine. 

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