Tom Burden, Grypmat: CEO and Founder (part 2)

In part 2 of his interview, Tom Burden shares a lot of information including what Shark Tank was actually like as well as two specific pieces of advice for every young entrepreneur!


Check out part 1 before you continue!

Please note that most of Tom Burden's responses are paraphrased because this interview was conducted over the phone.


At what point did you know the Grypmat was going to succeed?

For me, there was no "aha" moment or a lightbulb that went off where I was like, "it's going to be successful now." Every day is a decision that I will make this product a success. The point where I said, "I will do whatever it takes to make this happen" was at the first trade show I ever went to. I brought 600 Grypmats the first day and sold 13 - the booth was a table that I got from Walmart and returned at the end of the show, and I had a display that I made from a door I cut off from my house. The thing is, I went to this trade show with a horrible booth and was like, "I'm going to do whatever it takes to sell out." Approaching the last day of the show, everyone said that I was not going to sell much because the last day is always slow. On the second to last day, I left screaming, "I am going to sell 100 Grypmats" over and over again. By the end of the show, I realized that I sold 101, and my booth neighbor asked if he could buy everything leftover to become a distributor of the Grypmat. It wasn't luck that caused this. It was me hustling hard over and over and over again. After I did this, I put my house up for sale and lived out of my car for a couple of months. This was when I realized that if I hustled really hard for this product, I would be successful. This was me going all-in on this product where I said to myself, "I will make this successful."


Can you walk me through your day on Shark Tank?

It's scary at first. They pick you up in a big white van with a sharpie marker drawing out Shark Tank Season 9 on a sign. When you're on the show, this is the first time the Sharks ever see you (they don't get briefed). The producers continuously have a lot of entrepreneurs on set, ready to go in case someone drops out, and occasionally things will shift due to current events. They also don't give you a time you're going to film until the day of.


When I filmed, I was under a lot of stress. I was struggling with imposter syndrome, which means I felt like I would be exposed in a big way for being a fake, and I was like, I've been faking it until I make it for years, I have no idea what I'm doing. I'm just a kid making stuff in my basement. 


After your deal with Lori, Mark, and Richard, how have they helped you? 

This deal has been awesome from a branding perspective - it has brought a lot of "street cred." It has been very easy to get PR. Right now, it is very interesting in this different time. Lori is selling things on QVC differently now, Mark has basketball canceled with the Mavericks, and Richard Branson is dealing with things in the airline industry - it is very cool to see how they are handling quarantine and the issues at hand on a much higher level. 


How do you get over the fact that you are giving away a part of the company you worked so hard to build?

Grypmat is my first real company that has worked, and it is a learning experience. I feel like Grypmat is Tom with his business training wheels on. I am willing to take a "risk" on these three sharks; this is me willing to experiment with how I am learning. This is also not the only company I want to start so I look at this as a learning experience where I can grow my network. I also think of this as a stepping stone, and I was willing to have the three Sharks be a part of the stepping stone.


Can you talk about how you went from a small operation to the size you are today?

Sure, so right now, we have five full time and roughly five part-time employees. I have definitely had some ups and downs. For such a long time (4 or 5 years) I was a one-person operation - it is pretty tough going from 1 person to 2 people because I did everything for so long, and then I had another person come in that I didn't want to overlap with. Communication and feedback are both very important points when building a team. 


How has your company reacted to Covid-19?

The pandemic can be a tough time for companies. One business coach was talking about this as an inflection point. Basically, you have a market and a message to that audience. Let's use the example of a travel agency. The market is the people that want to travel. The message is that we will make sure you have an awesome time on your trip. The inflection point is where everything is flipped upside down. Right now, with a travel company, you simply can not travel. So, you either have to change your market, or you need to change your message. The way that a travel company can adjust their message is by saying, " let's set up the perfect trip for you in the future, let's give you something to look forward to." When it comes to an inflection point, I get excited. When the stock market was crashing, I looked at it as a buying opportunity. Warren Buffett once said, be “fearful when others are greedy, and greedy when others are fearful.” When people are getting scared that the market is crashing, then is the time to buy as much as you can. Specifically, with Covid-19, I look at it as if there's a ton of opportunity. So far, there has been tremendous growth within Grypmat in all different facets. I have always wanted to go remote but have been afraid to try it - and now we have been forced to do it, and it's going great. We are also doing many things that we wish we had time for previously that we now have time for. We can focus on doing a bunch of smaller things that can strengthen us for the lifetime of Grypmat. 


What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or shows on your life?

The 4-Hour Workweek and Rich Dad Poor Dad are both very good books. The most impactful book of my life has been The Illusion of Money. The last chapter of The Illusion of Money says for 24 hours do something you have always wanted to do. That's when I decided I wanted to go to Hawaii during the pandemic - this book has changed my life in countless ways.


If you can get lunch with anyone in the world, who would it be?

Elon Musk, Warren Buffett, and then Eric Thomas would be my top 3 for sure.


What is some advice you can give to an aspiring entrepreneur?

Check out Warren Buffett and look at how he operates. He was worth $100 billion at one point and lived in a house that he bought for $40,000. Think about that and what the point of money is. Do you want to live in a mansion right now and have a few million dollars in the future? Or, are you okay with living in a $40,000 house now and having $100 billion later on? Buffett looks at money as a resource. $100 is a resource that he can grow into $1,000, which can then become more and more. If he spends it on himself, it is not a resource anymore. Think about every penny you are spending and why you are spending it - is it an asset or a liability? 


The other key thing that I said before is don't go into debt for college. This can be a life-crippling thing - take it very, very seriously. I know that many young people are taking these large loans, and for the rest of their lives they will not have financial freedom because of it. 


Useful Links:

Grypmat's Website

Tom Burden's LinkedIn

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