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Noah Cahoon: Taking Flight as a Young Entrepreneur
By Tom Haraldsen
March 5, 2015
Last October, then 13-year-old Noah Cahoon and his father, Brian, wooed the sharks on popular ABC television show Shark Tank and landed a deal. The panel of five millionaire entrepreneur-investors was impressed with the company Cahoon is CEO of: Paper Box Pilots. Created in the summer of 2013, the Utah County-based company produces designer stickers children can put on boxes to create airplanes—from wing and fuselage decals to dials, gauges and buttons. Since the business’ launch and subsequent appearance on national television, things have really taken flight.
How did you get on Shark Tank?
We sent in an application along with videos of our products and our business, and then just practiced our pitch until we heard they wanted us. We went to Los Angeles in June to tape the show. The sharks had no idea who was coming out the door next or who we were until that first moment on screen.
Was the process scary?
Yes, but also very friendly, and we had a good experience with them. We were asking for a $35,000 investment in return for 25 percent equity in the company.
What were the sharks’ reaction to your business?
All five seemed impressed, but Mark Cuban said the toy industry wasn’t his forte, and Lori Greiner didn’t feel the business was scalable. The other sharks, Kevin O’Leary, Robert Herjavec and Barbara Corcoran, all made us offers.
What offers did you receive?
Kevin offered $35,000 for half the equity, adding his expertise in the toy industry. Barbara offered the same $35,000 for 35 percent equity, as long as we started making girl-friendly toys. Robert initially matched the $35,000, but then upped his offer to $50,000 for 50 percent equity. My dad told me that it was up to me to make a decision based on who I thought would be the best mentor. I chose Kevin O’Leary for $35,000 and half equity.
What’s happened with your business since the show aired?
Kevin has been very helpful in getting us connected with retailers. We’ve sent out lots of samples and sales have been great—three times our annual revenue in just the past three months. We sold product every day right up to Christmas. We’re ahead of our projections.
Your 6-year-old brother, Milo, is your CFO—Chief Fun Officer. How does he play a role in the company?
He is, and that’s not just a made-up title. He’s always looking for new stickers and new designs for boxes, and he has great input.
How do you balance school, homework and your company?
The business is set up great for us. Sales are entered into our computer each night. We still hand-pack our orders every morning starting about 6:30 in our basement before I leave for school (Cahoon is a ninth grader at Mountain Ridge Junior High School in Highland), and everyone gets involved. I’m off to school by 7:50 a.m.
What have you learned, and where are you headed in the next few years?
We want to keep growing the business, at least until I’m 18 when I plan to serve an LDS Church mission. At that point, Milo might take over. From here to there, we want to make it as big and successful as it can be, and expand to lots of retail outlets, which is where Kevin will help tremendously. We also want to create more products.
Just remember that if you have an idea, just start doing it. It’s been super fun for us to see how successful we can become.