What Does It Take for Sharks to Bite?

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – It takes passion, skin in the game and a “meaty” idea before any shark takes a bite of any business plan. 

On Oct. 28, six sharks will circle would-be entrepreneurs who are diving into the Youngstown Business Incubator’s second annual “Shark Tank” fundraiser. More than 60 entrepreneurs submitted their business plans by the Sept. 14 deadline and after review, a few will be selected to pitch the YBI sharks.

The first YBI event, modeled after ABC’s hit series “Shark Tank,” took place in 2019. The winner was Lindsay Watson, the founder of Augment Therapy. She secured over $350,000 as a result of the event. More than $1 million in business investments also went to those who pitched the sharks.

This year’s event will be held at Waypoint 4180 in Canfield. Jim Tressel, president of Youngstown State University, will serve as emcee. The sharks are philanthropist Ellen Tressel, Windsor House CEO John Masternick, Atlas Partners CEO Timothy Wolf Starr, Comeback Capital partner Patrick McKenna, 2Deep Entertainment president and CEO Terrill Vidale, and Handel’s Homemade Ice Cream & Yogurt CEO Lenny Fisher.

Our 3 Minutes With video series, posted at BusinessJournalDaily.com, asked the sharks what it will take for them to bite, to invest in a business startup.

Here’s what three YBI sharks told us:


I’m looking for someone who is well organized, has a business plan. They know what they want to do, how long it’s going to take to succeed or maybe not succeed, the amount of money they need to invest in this thing to get it off the ground.

I also like to know if they’re going to have any social involvement in the community. How are they going to help the community with the product that they’re introducing? Will they take part of those profits and put them back in the community to help other people?

How much money [did they take out of their] pocket to put into the business? If they say zero, I’m not interested at all.

You have to understand that if you’re running your own business, there’s no such thing as a weekend. You’re working 15 hours a day, seven days a week, and it could take years before your project takes off. You have to have that kind of dedication.

Never stop believing in yourself. There are people out there who will tell you, “Can’t be done. Don’t do it. Don’t waste your time, don’t waste your money.”

You want to take those negative people out of your circle of friends. You only want to talk to people who believe in you. And not only believe in you, but will tell you the good and the bad of what you’re trying to do. So you have both sides of the coin.

Always look forward. Nobody falls forward. They always fall backwards.


To be an entrepreneur, and for you to succeed in any company or business, you have to understand the business from the inside out. You can’t just be on top of it and think everyone else is going to do the work and you’re just going to sit back. It’s no such thing.

Every business is either product or service, right? And so, I want to know, what is special about that product? Or what’s special about that service? What’s the secret sauce? Why should someone come to that particular business? Why should they buy that product or service? Is it a niche market? Is it a niche product? Is it filling a gap? If I’m going to get involved in any business, I want to know, how is it going to fulfill or in better the world?

Stay determined, stay focused. Get as much knowledge of what it is that you want to do. And also follow other people. That’s what I do.

I look for the most successful person in a particular industry. And I ask, “What are they doing? How did they get there?” Learn from other people and read as much information [as you can].


I want to first see the idea, why they’re doing it, and how they will make that happen. [I want to] make sure that everything is realistic, and everything is smart, and everything is passionate.

Every venture, whether it’s Google or Amazon, starts with an idea. But it’s how we get that idea to happen. So we’ll want to see who is supporting [the idea] and how far they’ve come … how adaptable they are, and what they don’t know. A huge part of it is knowing that you need a team and that ‘solopreneurs’ are not always going to be able to get it to where it needs to be.

I have a lot of excitement towards different industries. Our [venture capital] funds are industry agnostic by intention. But I love hearing ideas that are going to support the community and create jobs, that are going to give an individual who’s living in the Youngstown area a reason to stay and a reason to get others to come. And I love companies that can surprise everybody so that we can create the stories about how an area from Youngstown is as important as anywhere else, anywhere.

YBI and the Shark Tank event and these pitches, show that perfectly, which is why I’m excited to push it out to everyone we know.

The YBI Shark Tank will take place at 5 p.m. Oct. 28 at Waypoint 4180. Tickets are available at YBI.org/sharktank.

Pictured at top: Lenny Fisher, Terrill Vidale and Timothy Wolf Starr.