Proving she’s anything but wet behind the ears, Cassidy Crowley jumps into entrepreneurial waters with her invention The Baby Toon, which made its debut on the ABC show Shark Tank.
It’s not every day that inventors receive substantial financial backing to bring their projects to life. For a lucky handful, however, reality television has made it possible to obtain monetary support and business expertise from industry titans.
One such entrepreneur is 12-year-old Cassidy Crowley, who debuted her The Baby Toon invention on season 11 of ABC’s Shark Tank. Back in September 2019, Cassidy struck a momentous deal with investor Lori Greiner, but The Baby Toon journey actually started way before that.
Like all great inventions, the best ideas come from addressing a pertinent problem. For Cassidy, that came when she was a first-grader at ‘Āina Haina Elementary School entering the local district science fair. With the goal of finding and addressing an issue, a then-7-year-old Cassidy looked around her home for a problem waiting to be solved, and finally discovered one in an everyday activity for her family: feeding younger sister Emily.
“She would always play with her spoon, and my mom (Lori) was scared she might accidentally poke or stab her throat,” Cassidy recalls.
Thus sparked her journey to create a baby-friendly feeder that eliminated the long, sharp design of a traditional spoon.
To say The Baby Toon was a hit would be an understatement. Teachers and judges lauded the concept, encouraging her to move forward with it. With help from Collin Kobayashi of 3D Innovations, Cassidy was able to bring her science fair prototype to life and The Baby Toon was born. The product features soft FDA-grade silicone and is perfect for feedings and teething. Cassidy’s initial innovative — and adorable — elephant design makes for easy holding and the short neck prevents the entire spoon from contacting the back of a baby’s throat.
“Siblings can also lend a hand,” she adds. “The Baby Toon is an excellent way for older siblings to feed their younger siblings, or even a good way for babies to start using a spoon at the same time.”
Products and patent in hand, Cassidy auditioned for Shark Tank in January 2019, and is one of the youngest in the show’s history to present her idea to business moguls who then choose to invest (or not) in budding entrepreneurial projects.
The show is called Shark Tank for a reason, as the apprehension, fear and anxiety is palpable on the faces of adults who pitch their ideas to the likes of Greiner, Mark Cuban, Kevin O’Leary, Robert Herjavec and guest shark Daniel Lubetzky.
For the young entrepreneur, though, the experience was wonderful. “I thought it was crazy I was going to walk through the double doors that so many successful people have gone through before,” she recalls. “Once I was in the tank, I did my pitch, and I was just honest with them about who I was and how passionate I was about The Baby Toon.”
That’s not to say she wasn’t nervous, though. After her presentation, the sharks started bowing out one by one, but not because of lack of belief or Cassidy’s business acumen. In fact, when the youngster was explaining her patented product’s durometer, the sharks shared puzzled looks.
“You had to change what?” Cuban mused.
“What’s a durometer?” Herjavec followed up.
On national television, Cassidy proved she knew her stuff. The Baby Toon’s design features a lower durometer of silicone, which makes it more flexible and easier on a baby’s gums.
In the end, Lubetzky, who was beyond impressed, didn’t feel he could help Cassidy in the baby product realm, an industry he has no experience in. O’Leary noted he didn’t feel she was ready to quit elementary school to take The Baby Toon full time and politely declined.
Not one to let anything dampen her sunny personality, Cassidy simply replied, “I can go straight to college,” which prompted a round of laughter from the sharks.
Greiner, however, saw the potential and growth The Baby Toon could achieve and offered Cassidy exactly what she asked for: $50,000 for a 50 percent stake in the company.
“I have to be along with this journey,” stated the Queen of QVC.
Thanks to Greiner, who helped Cassidy land a licensing deal with the Munchkin brand, The Baby Toon is now in over 4,000 retail stores and grew to include two more designs (an alligator and koala have joined the elephant’s ‘ohana).
Cassidy remains a kid at heart and recently started her Christmas break from school. She plans on enjoying every minute of it in the ocean.
“I love surfing,” she shares, noting a couple of her favorite spots are at Ala Moana Courts and Kawaiku‘i Beach Park.
On her professional horizon is a Shark Tank follow-up episode that’s slated to air in January, as well as new The Baby Toon designs and plans to expand the product line. But what Cassidy is most excited for is sharing her passion for creating with her peers — or anyone else, for that matter.
“Personally, I think it would be cool to do a TED Talk,” she says. “That’s a bigger goal for myself. If there are any kids out there passionate about inventing or anything in general, just go for it and do your best. You never know until you try.”