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Fox Chapel native's company to be featured on episode of 'Shark Tank'

| Thursday, May 1, 2014, 8:55 p.m.

Billionaire businessman Mark Cuban saw something extra-sweet in a sugar-scrub company.

So, the owner and chairman of AXS TV and outspoken owner of the NBA's Dallas Mavericks invested in the venture, Simple Sugars, founded by 20-year-old Lani Lazzari of Fox Chapel, after she made her pitch on ABC's “Shark Tank” in 2013.

Cuban is one of the sharks on “Shark Tank,” a business-themed show where budding entrepreneurs try to get tough, self-made, multi-millionaires and billionaires to invest in their businesses and products.

Lazzari and Cuban, a Mt. Lebanon High School graduate, will be part of a special behind-the-scenes show called “Shark Tank: Swimming with Sharks,” which follows up on some of the projects the sharks have invested in.

It airs at 8 p.m. May 2 on ABC before the show's regular time slot at 9 p.m.

“I saw the drive Lani had and, of course, her intelligence,” says Cuban via email. “I can't say I'm an expert on scrubs, but I can spot talent.”

He was right. Lazzari has grown Simple Sugars (www.simplesugars.myshopify.com) since its inception in 2005, when at age 11 she created an all-natural product that was safe for sensitive skin like hers. She has quadrupled her employees and brought in $2.1 million in sales this past year.

“Lani is amazing,” says Cuban, who visited her Sharpsburg office. “With most ‘Shark Tank' companies I have to offer a lot of feedback and advice. Lani is the opposite. She is a natural entrepreneur with great business instincts and work ethic.”

“Working with Mark Cuban has been great,” Lazzari says. “He and his team have helped me a lot. He knows business, and he and his family use Simple Sugars products. He came here, and I think he likes that I am from Pittsburgh. He has roots here, too.”

Cuban says if viewers would like to see the “American dream” in action, watch this show. It involves going behind the scenes of the hit reality production and reveals what happens after the deals are made and the entrepreneurs plunge into the uncharted waters of the shark-eat-shark business world. It will be anchored by “Good Morning America's” Lara Spencer.

The show features surprisingly candid interviews with all six sharks — Cuban, “Queen of QVC” Lori Greiner, real estate mogul Barbara Corcoran, technology innovator Robert Herjavec, fashion-and-branding expert Daymond John and venture capitalist Kevin O'Leary — revealing what the business titans really think of one another and the strategy behind landing the best deals and making the most money.

For the first time, the sharks reveal which deals they mistakenly let get away. Plus, the most successful entrepreneur from the past five seasons of “Shark Tank” will be revealed — a business that has already generated more than $15 million in revenue since appearing on the show.

“This should be a fun show to watch because viewers will see things they don't normally get to see,” Lazzari says. “You will see both sides — those who make it and get invested in and others who don't.”

Filming was in January. Each shark was asked to pick a few entrepreneurs to showcase; Cuban chose Lazzari.

Lazzari credits Cuban and “Shark Tank” with helping financially and exposure-wise for Simple Sugars. Her first appearance on the show came at the perfect time. Lazzari was in need of financial backing because her mother's credit card was at the limit and Lazzari was having trouble getting approved for a loan.

Within the first month of being on the show, she had 35,000 orders. She and her team fed off of that spike in sales and have worked to maintain and grow the customer base.

There 38 products in the line. Price ranges are $15 to $22.

Simple Sugars can be purchased at 24 Giant Eagle locations, the Fairmont Hotel, Downtown, Soergel Orchards in Wexford, So Me Boutique in Fox Chapel, Schiller's Pharmacy in Shadyside, Smart Form, Downtown, Cheeks in Shadyside, Towne Drug in Aspinwall, and Hunter Pharmacy in Connellsville.

When Lazzari first started making Simple Sugars in her kitchen, she never imagined it would get to this level, she says, but after she realized she loved the business, she wanted to make it a $1 million company. She's done that and more with the visibility from “Shark Tank.”

“I like ‘Shark Tank,' I know I am biased, but it's a show that is very realistic,” Lazzari says. “What you see is what really happens. You can learn a lot from this show, whether you are a businessperson or not. They make it interesting to watch. And you might think after five seasons there isn't anything new, but they find new things each show.”

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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