YBI ‘Sharks’ Fishing for More than a Good Idea

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Though they don’t yet know exactly who will be giving pitches to them May 3, the “sharks” at the Youngstown Business Incubator’s Shark Tank event already have a pretty good idea of what they’re looking for.

And it’s not just a good product or business idea.

“You need a great idea with somebody that has passion. Maybe they don’t have all the talents or all the answers, but if they’re willing to work, willing to listen and willing to be collaborative, it’s going to make it,” says Ed Muransky, owner and CEO of The Muransky Companies and one of the five sharks.

Joining him at The Lake Club will be Eugene Calabria, CEO of North Canton-based GBS Corp.; Catherine Mott, founder of BlueTree Capital Group; Anthony Vross, co-owner of Simon Roofing; and John Masternick, CEO of Windsor House Inc. 

The sharks will see 90-second pitches from 10 area entrepreneurs before asking questions of their own and deciding whether or not to invest in the company.

“I’m looking to be more of an investor than a partner. Culture, when you first start a company, is critical. I won’t say it’s everything, but it’s darn near close,” Masternick says of what he’s looking for in an investment opportunity. “You’ve got to make sure you’re assisting new people and you’ve got to be able to get them on board and have the same vision that management and the owner has.”

Likewise, Vross is looking for a combination of a unique business idea and the right people, he says.

“I’m looking for somebody that has a strong entrepreneurial background. I’m looking for someone who has a strong support team. And someone that’s not a ‘me too’ company,” the Simon Roofing co-owner says. “It’s all about the people. I’ve seen a lot of great ideas, but if they can’t execute the idea, it’s all for nothing.” 

As investors, Masternick, Muransky and Vross have gleaned a few tips from the investors featured in the ABC version of “Shark Tank.” The televised show features five main sharks: Kevin O’Leary, Barbara Corcoran, Daymond John, Robert Herjavec, Mark Cuban and Lore Greiner. 

Both Vross and Masternick say they’re fans of the approach Corcoran, who made her money in real estate before turning to venture investing. During her time on “Shark Tank,” she’s invested more than $5 million in participating businesses.

“I like how she started her business and how she puts that emphasis on entrepreneurship. She seems to have a really good knack for picking the top performers. She supports them afterwards, you can see that,” Vross says. “She’s helped create a lot of successful businesses, which is a testimonial to her success.”

Adds Masternick, “She’s very sharp. She’s very intelligent. She can be tough but fair. I like her approach: no nonsense, let’s cut to the chase.”

Muransky, meanwhile, says the judges each have their own specialty and approach to investing, something that draws him to each.

“There are elements of all of them that I like best,” he says. “[Corcoran] is interested in things that can be mass sold. Mark Cuban is sitting more on the tech side. The thing I like about Mark Cuban is he always treats the entrepreneurs with respect.”

While none of the local sharks pinpointed a specific industry they’re looking to invest in – though each had ideas: Muransky in medical technologies, Masternick in additive manufacturing or artificial intelligence and Vross “innovative ideas” – all agreed that even for the entrepreneurs that don’t score major investments at the May 3 dinner, they’ll be able to take away advice from experienced businesspeople.

Vross pointed to Simon Roofing’s expansion into the Tampa, Fla., area in the early 1990s, when he and his wife moved to the Sunshine State. Though the company had no recognition, he was able to build a team there that led to further growth nationwide.

“It’s about people. One of my goals was to find top performers and surround myself with those type of people, which I think is the formula for success,” he says. “You need to be 100% committed to great customer service. You have to have a winning mindset. You have to be persistent to succeed. You have to surround yourself with top performers.”

Muransky points to his company’s diversified ventures – restaurants, health care and retail – and their common denominator. All are run as sound businesses.

“If you pull back a hospital versus pizza versus pretzels versus Ivory & Birch versus The Lake Club, they’re all different businesses,” he says. “Whatever success we’ve had in any of those is because we have great people working for us, because we understand who the customer is and at the end of the day, we pay our bills, whether it’s the bank or anyone else.”

As for the YBI Shark Tank event itself, Masternick offered two simple pieces of advice to the 10 participants.

“I’d tell them not to be nervous because most of the sharks are going to be helpful. No. 2, if you believe in what you’re doing, don’t give the whole store away, even though I’m going to be trying to get it from you,” he says with a laugh. “Life’s a big negotiation. Everything’s negotiable.”

The Shark Tank event will be held 6 to 9 p.m. May 3 at The Lake Club, Poland. Tickets for the dinner are $75. They can be purchased here.

Sponsors include Medical Mutual, Vince and Phyllis Bacon, Home Savings Bank, and other donors.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.