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Simple Sugars founder gets her turn in 'Shark Tank'

| Wednesday, March 27, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
In the March 29 episode of 'Shark Tank,' Lani Lazzari, a 19-year-old from Fox Chapel, tries to convince the Sharks to invest in her natural skincare line of sugar scrubs, an idea she came up with at the age of 11. The show airs at 9 p.m. Fridays on ABC.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Some of the products of Lani Lazzari's company, Simple Sugars.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Lani Lazzari, 19, of Fox Chapel, works in her Sharpsburg office on Monday, March 25, 2013. Lazzari, who owns her own company called Simple Sugars, will be on the TV show, Shark Tank, on Friday evening.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Lani Lazzari, 19, of Fox Chapel, works in her Sharpsburg office on Monday, March 25, 2013. Lazzari, who owns her own company called Simple Sugars, will be on the TV show, Shark Tank, on Friday evening.

Lani Lazzari was happy about a chance to be in this shark tank.

The Fox Chapel resident and president and CEO of Simple Sugars, an all-natural skin-care company she started in 2005, will be on the March 29 episode of ABC's “Shark Tank.”

She will join other entrepreneurs in giving a presentation about products to a panel of potential investors, called “sharks.” The contestant can make a deal on the spot if an investor is interested, but the panel of potential investors also may opt out, and the contestant leaves without a deal.

“I just thought it was such a good opportunity to talk about Simple Sugars and a way to get some funding, because I really want to grow the business,” says Lazzari, 19, who started the company when she was 11. “These kinds of opportunities don't come along every day.”

The company produces 36 body scrubs, five facial scrubs, three vegan scrubs and one foot scrub for women, and a men's line called Smooth for Men with nine products. Included are seasonal products; the latest is lime-and-coconut scrubs for spring-break season. All scrubs act as a cleanser, exfoliator and lotion, she says.

She was approached last year by a producer, who told her Simple Sugars was perfect for the show. She's prohibited from divulging the outcome. You will just have to tune in at 9 p.m. and see her presentation to find out.

The show paid for her to fly to Los Angeles for filming in September. They also took some video in Pittsburgh late last year.

The show gave her a week's notice to get there. There is no guarantee if you get invited that you make the show, but she was determined to get the word out about Simple Sugars, which is based in Sharpsburg.

“It is a great way to tell a huge audience about Simple Sugars,” Lazzari says. “I felt it was the right decision. Think of the exposure something like this can give a company.”

The sharks in this episode are Pittsburgh native Mark Cuban, Lori Greiner, Robert Herjavec, Daymond John and Kevin O'Leary. Lazzari was ready for their questions.

The 2012 graduate from the Ellis School was accepted into George Washington University in Washington, D.C., but took the past year off to grow the company.

She started making the product at home and has moved twice since. She is looking at a third location because she keeps outgrowing the space. Her brand is sold in 28 Giant Eagle locations — Market Districts and those with health-and-beauty departments in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Maryland. It's also available in Schiller's and Cheeks in Shadyside, Soergel Orchards in Wexford, So Me in Fox Chapel, Hunter Pharmacy in Connellsville and a spa in Littleton, Colo.

“I saw her on a preview for ‘Shark Tank',” says Ilene Levy, owner of Cheeks. “I am so excited for her. And I willing to bet she got money. I am sure they were impressed with her. She is such an amazing young woman. She is the real deal. We love her products. I use them and my three daughters use them.”

Lazzari says when she first started making the scrubs, they were for her. For years, she had dealt with eczema and skin problems that even dermatologist-prescribed products couldn't help. She never envisioned what has become of Simple Sugars.

“It was something I needed for my skin,” she says. “I never realized what a great opportunity was in front of me back then.”

She does now. With six part-time employees and five interns, she is hosting a watch party on March 29. She might not want to be on television for a career, however.

“Television is so exhausting,” she says. “I am a little nervous about people seeing me on a big screen. But I wasn't nervous talking about Simple Sugars on television, since the business is my passion, and I always feel comfortable discussing it.”

Her mother has not been as calm.

“I was so nervous,” says Gina Lazzari, of the trip out west. “She was so composed, and I was a wreck. The day before, I asked her if she wanted to go over her presentation but, no, she wanted to go to the beach. She was really relaxed. I was nervous to put my baby in the ‘Shark Tank' by herself.”

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at jharrop@tribweb.com or 412-320-7889.

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