An original “Shark” on the hit TV show, “Shark Tank,” the creator of the infomercial, pioneer of the As Seen on TV brand, and co-founding board member of the Entrepreneur’s Organization—Kevin Harrington has pushed past all the questions and excuses to repeatedly enjoy 100X success. His legendary work behind-the-scenes of business ventures has produced well over $5 billion in global sales, the launch of more than 500 products, and the making of dozens of millionaires. For more than 30 years, Kevin Harrington has empowered entrepreneurs and innovative business leaders to turn dreams into mind-boggling reality. His platform-building efforts earned him a seat as an original “shark” on the hit TV show Shark Tank, where he continued to live out his passion—empowering entrepreneurs to greatness.
And in this rare opportunity, our Underdog Host, Pamela Bardhi, got the chance to sit down and converse with the Original Shark, Kevin Harrington. In this episode, Kevin shared how his journey started.
Among the highlights are:
- What pushed Kevin Harrington to start a business at a young age?
- Who are Kevin’s inspirations and cheerleaders while growing up?
- How did he transition from being a College Dropout to being a Shark on ABC’s Hit TV Show Shark Tank?
- What’s it like to be a shark? And how does he identify the best deals as a shark?
- What would Kevin tell his younger self based on what he knew now?
Find out how Kevin Harrington unfolds the story of his life here on our latest episode of the Underdog.
- Apple iTunes: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/underdog/id1534385651
- Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/show/6FbSDu0aNtuxAEiderUAfB
- Website: https://theunderdogshow.com/
Have a pitch you like Kevin to hear? Visit these social links:
Click To Read The Transcript
Kevin Harrington Underdog Story of Becoming an Entrepreneur in his Teens to a 10+ Figure Net Worth
Hi, I’m Kevin Harrington, an original Shark from the hit television show Shark Tank and you’re listening to the underdog podcast.
Hello everyone and welcome to the underdog Podcast. Today we have a very, very special guest. I know you guys have had some incredible guests on this show, but today is extra special. We’re here live with the original shark from Shark Tank, the entrepreneurs’ entrepreneur Kevin Harrington, how are you, my friend?
I’m really excited to be here today. I love the underdog story that you’ve created here. So looking forward to hanging out,
I am so honored to have you, Kevin, I’ve always respected and admired you. And honestly, I’m one of those kids that watch Shark Tank on a binge all the time. So it’s truly an honor.
But great to be here.
Thank you so much. It’s such an honor. And one of my favorite questions that I always lead with. And I’d love to hear this from you is what inspired you on your journey to where you are today?
Well, so my father, much like your family was in the restaurant business. And I saw my dad work 80-plus-hour weeks, his restaurant opened at noon. It was a late-night spot closed at 230 in the morning, six days a week. He was there that entire time. So it was pretty devastating for me to see that he didn’t have time for the family. I said to myself, there’s got to be a smarter way to do this. Now, my dad had just that was the business he was in. He had multiple restaurants. And he was a happy entrepreneur, but it was never going to become a global business that had billions of dollars of potential. As a young entrepreneur, I had visions, I wanted to be successful.
But you know, I didn’t want to just be a local entrepreneur. I grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio. So my father actually mentored me to transcend and go beyond the restaurant business. So I started opening up my own businesses and I had a driveway sealing business when I was in high school. My freshman year of college, I started a heating and air conditioning contracting company, installing furnaces, air conditioning systems, etc. And we went from zero to a million dollars our first year. this was in 1976. That’s a long time ago. All right. And so the bottom line is I say that there were mentors in my life. My father being the very first one that motivated me, and helped me become a successful entrepreneur.
I absolutely love that. Kevin, thank you so much for sharing that. And I was gonna ask you like, as a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
When I was a kid, I wanted to be a fireman. You know, the typical kind of thing, you want to save people’s lives and be a fireman. But as I got older, I realized Well, that’s a very good occupation. And I have friends that are police officers and firemen, etc. I wanted to control my destiny, I wanted to own my own business, I wanted to be able to work. I’ll say this entrepreneur ends up working more hours than you do if you have a job sometimes. But I think that controlling your own destiny is one of the most important things that I wouldn’t be able to do with my time and my energy.
I absolutely love that. Kevin and you mentioned quite a few things like your father was your mentor. And that was the same thing with me. My father’s would be like, Pam, you’re going to be a rock star, you’re going to be a leader, you’re going to crush it, you’re going to do all these things. It’s important how those cheerleaders in your life. So aside from your father, who were some of your biggest mentors?
I was very lucky. So Zig Ziglar, one of the most amazing people in America. Zig when I was following him around and watching him on stages, Zig taught me about mental preparation leadership. But he also his best book was the secret to closing the sale. I mean, he was a salesman. So here I was making deals all around the world as a salesman utilizing Zig Ziglar’s techniques. And I think the biggest change from as I learned like zigs, techniques, zig was all about helping other people. He had an amazing belief in his life. You can get everything in life you want if you just help enough other people get what they want. And so that was how I led my life dictated my life, wanted to help others.
And today, this is what Shark Tank was all about helping entrepreneurs. Helping them maybe with some money, but in some cases, you know, I help people just give them advice. Because sometimes they got all the money they need, but they don’t know what to do. So that’s one of my main goals is to be able to help entrepreneurs become successful by sharing with them the mistakes that I’ve made in the past.
I love that. Kevin, thanks so much for sharing that. And your career is just so fascinating. It’s just the entrepreneurial journey in general. So you had the driveway business, then you got into HVAC with heating and furnaces. So walk me through the early ventures of yours.
So I was in high school, I was 15 years old. And I wanted to buy a car when I was 16. But I had no money, and my dad wasn’t going to give me any money. So I started a business and I made enough money to pay cash for my first car was back then they were three or $4,000. That’s still a lot of cash for a 15-year-old. But I made it walked in and put that down on the car and bought it. I’m driveway sealing, I’ve knocked on the people’s doors, I said, you see that crack you got there in Cincinnati. It gets cold in the winter, the water in there would freeze, tripled the size of the crack by the springtime.
So I said I’ll seal it, beautify it and take care of that. I was doing 10 jobs a week at the age of 15, I couldn’t even drive. So I had to hire somebody, I could own a truck. And I bought a truck and hired somebody to drive me around. I did all the sales and just needed somebody to drive. Then I was going to college and my dad said, Hey, you’re gonna have to pay for your college, your books, your school, your tuition, your overhead. Where you’re going to live, your gas, your car, your insurance. How do you do that at the age of 18? How do you do it, you start a business. And because driveway sealing was summertime only once year-round heating and air conditioning.
So I cut a deal with somebody at the courthouse to get all the new homeowner transactions and the information on where they live their phone number. And we call them and said, Hey, congratulations on buying a house. We have a special gift for you. We’re going to come and clean that furnace, absolutely free, and give you a free safety check. Virtually everybody said come on out. They just bought the house. They want to know how the furnace works. We get in there, we’re working with them. We’re showing them this that oh, by the way, we got a more efficient furnace. If you’d like to take a look at all of a sudden, that’s how we went to a million dollars.
Our first year we’re selling. We’re doing eight and 10 sales a week at one point in our heyday. Yeah, unbelievable. But it was very labor-oriented and a great business and profitable and made money. And I started buying real estate, believe it or not at the age of 18. And I think I was 19, actually the first house that I bought. Because I had made nice profits and was plugging it into investing now. So it’s important to have good mentors in your life to be able to steer you in the right direction. I know that’s exactly what you do. Part of your underdog podcast is to help people and advise them and guide them right.
Yes, absolutely. So I love it. You say you had a chauffeur by 15 by 19. You’re owning real estate. That is awesome. But it also the Law of Reciprocity almost kicks in when you were giving those free safety checks in the HVAC business. It’s amazing because you’re giving something to someone of value and then they reciprocate that right back. Yes is incredible.
All Yeah, absolutely. And of course, one day, I should have bought a house, I ordered cable TV. And this was back in the early 80s. Of course back then they only had 30 channels CNN was news, ESPN was sports. I get to the last channel, there’s nothing on. I called the cable company and said, Hey, I’m getting 29 of the 30 channels. What’s wrong with the last one, they said it’s Discovery Channel. They don’t have a budget for 24 hours. It’s only an 18 hour a day network six hours of downtime, and it’s downtime.
Wait a minute, that’s an opportunity. I cut a deal to buy that downtime from discovery. And I signed a multi-year contract six hours a day on the Discovery Channel. And this is when we just exploded putting products and Jack Lalaine and George Foreman and Tony Liddell. You know all the many celebrities and famous be 50 cents headphones. Paris Hilton’s lip plumpers. Kim Kardashian, his first infomercial was a steam iron. Believe it or not, I mean, we’ve been there done that had a lot of fun with a lot of entrepreneurs.
Oh my God, that’s incredible guy. But I was just gonna get into like the happy business like what was his you mentioned? You’ve also been in business brokerage? Cool. And that whole journey?
So far was important for me. Because I did I dropped out of college. I missed that step. Because my sophomore year of college, I have 25 employees, six trucks going out every day. I’m going to school. So I get done with school, about one o’clock get to the office by two. I’d work till 1011 o’clock at night because I was calling on people at home at night for the sales. And I said, you know, it became sort of a little bit of a hamster on a rat race wheel of what I was doing. And plus the labor side of that business was something I wasn’t as experienced with I was in sales. I could sell the furnaces, the air conditioning system, getting the best installers was not the easiest thing.
I sold that business. And when I sold it, I’m sitting there talking to a business broker and he’s got hundreds of businesses for sale. I’m in his office and I’m looking I’m like, Well, let me see this one. And he said, Oh, yeah, I got the books and right I got the leases I got all the percentages, the food costs. I’m like, Okay, let me see this one. Oh, I got all the books and records and the sales and the tax forms and aboon 200 businesses, this was an education unto itself. So I said, I want to be that broker and sell businesses. So I started a brokerage company, much like in real estate, we would sell the building. I got a real estate license brokerage license and had 14 salesmen working under me selling pizza, parlors, delicatessens, flower shops, manufacturing companies, you name it.
But this is my early days, I say, my pre-shark days, maybe I was a minnow then okay. Because I was investing in businesses and taking, helping some of these entrepreneurs. Because they would say, Kevin, you’ve seen the ups and the downs, maybe, maybe you can be a partner in this. And so I would invest money and be partners with many different small businesses back in the day. So a lot of fun.
That’s incredible. And then I can see kind of the correlation of how you got to Shark Tank. But tell me a little story of a how?
So here I have developed businesses, labor businesses when I was in high school in college. But then I get into business brokerage, and now I was on the world stage of selling products everywhere. Because when we took George Foreman, or Tony Liddell, or Jack lane and did an infomercial. It would run in the United States for two years. And what would we do then we take it to England, Germany, France, Sweden, South America, Asia, and we dove it and all the local languages. So we created businesses all around the world.
My first year in business in the infomercial space, we went from zero to 55 million in sales. Our second year, we’re at 85,000,00 3rd Year 150 million. And we ended up over $500 million in sales as a public company on the New York Stock Exchange. So that story and that explosive growth, I mean, to go from zero to 500 million. I started that with a $25,000 investment in the company that I had saved to finance that business, not a lot of money. We ended up having to get lines of credit. But here I am, on this world stage media buying. I’ve got six hours on Discovery. And I time on lifetime and on Nashville and on Bravo and on 1000 Plus TV stations.
Well who was paying attention, Mark Burnett and Mark Burnett said, Hey, Kevin, I’m doing a new show called Shark Tank. Do you want to come out and talk to me? And I said, What is it all about? He wouldn’t tell me. And I said, he said you got to come out here. And I went, I told my wife. I said Mark Burnett wants me to come out and talk to him about this new show he’s doing called Shark Tank.
And she said, Oh, no wonder he won’t tell you. I said what do you mean? She said, Well, what does he do to the people on that survivor show that he? What is he gonna do to you on Shark Tank? Yeah. Oh, he told me it’s a business show. But it’s funny. It’s got a double meaning Shark Tank. So I went met Mark, and they picked me as the first shark. So it was pretty cool.
What It Is Like For Kevin To Be A Shark
Amazing, and that shows quite an experience. I was gonna ask you, what’s it like to be a shark? And how do you identify the best deals as a shark?
You know, I mean, first of all, I was in 175 segments over a number of years on Shark Tank. And so I was with Kevin O’Leary, the Mr. Wonderful, and what was fun about shark tank number one was yes, the networking we did is sharks. Barbara Corcoran, Daymond John, Robert Herjavec, Leary this before Mark Cuban right. And so Mark Cuban and I would eventually start splitting up the seat. But each one of us sharks had a different kind of expertise. You know, mine was on television, Barbara’s was in real estate. Damon was in clothing. Roberts was in security, Mr. Wonderful tended to be multifunctional, and he came out of the toy business. But what was so amazing is the first week that Shark Tank launched. It wasn’t just what we learned from the other sharks.
I got 250,000 searches for me, the very first week of Kevin Harrington people wanted to connect with me. All of a sudden my social media started blowing up and all of that social media, etc. It was pretty amazing. I mean, everybody wanted to because they knew they weren’t going to get on Shark Tank. But hey, I can maybe get a hold of Kevin Harrington directly. And that’s what people have started to do. So that’s been my life the last 10 12 years. It’s been really I mean, we get 10s of 1000s of people that come to us. Looking for help, looking for money, looking for partners, looking for advice, looking for mentorship. And that’s ultimately what my business model is now helping entrepreneurs be successful.
I absolutely love that Kevin. And my favorite question, which is always the greatest that I always end with is what would your older self tell your younger self based on what you know now?
Well, I’ll say this when I was a younger entrepreneur, I was very cocky, pigheaded. I thought I could do it all and to the point of getting burned with the wrong finance CFOs and all these kinds of mistakes that I made. Once I realised that the smarter the people that you surround yourself with, I don’t want to be the smartest guy in the room. And so I was intimidated. Early on, I wanted to be the smartest guy in the room, I didn’t want anyone telling me what to do. This is my business, right? No bad mistake. Once I realised you surround yourself with experts. I mean, I have a son that’s 33 years old, who is really good with finance and operations in detail and contracts. All the stuff that I’m not good at.
So surround yourself with experts that complement your skill set. Get the best that you can get, and you are going to be very successful. Because there’s a saying that goes that if you look at the people you hang out with. Take the five or six people that you hang out with your income is an average of the five or six people that you hang out with. Because this is all about networking and being successful. I think that when I finally realized I want to hang out with successful people. I want to hang out with people that got great connections and all of that. And that’s what ultimately by bringing in a powerful dream team. We had access now to all of their connections and all of their members. And big, big success came from there.
Love that. Kevin, thank you so much for sharing that. Now. You’ve got to let everyone know where to find you and your awesomeness. Where Can anyone connect with you or find you?
It’s very simple. kevinharrington.tv. That’s my website. I’ve got a bunch of different kinds of free things you can download and stuff like that. And if you want to track us down, even a way that you can put in there to come pitch us at the same time. And sometimes they get to pitch me so kevinharrington.tv.
Thank you so much for tuning into the underdog podcast today for this very special episode with Kevin Harrington. If you want to check out more episodes like this, please check us out on the underdogshow.com. So that’s it for today’s episode of underdog. catch us next week, always dropping on Thursdays. And remember, if you’re interested in real estate, or want to learn how to create more money and magic in your life, check out meetwithpamela.com and let’s chat sending you so so much love.
Tune in to the episode to hear the rest of my incredible interview with the amazing Kevin Harrington.
If you found this story worth your time and made changes in your life, we’d love to hear from you! Subscribe and leave a review. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
The Underdog Podcast host is none other than Pamela Bardhi. She’s rocking the Real Estate Realm and has dedicated her life as a Life Coach. She is also Forbes Real Estate Council. To know more about Pam, check out the following:
If you’re interested in elevating your life 10x, and owning your power, Pamela invites you to join her for a 15-minute call to set your goals straight and get clarity. Start building your game plan now: meetwithpamela.com