UD alumna Joelle Flynn, left, and Sonia Hounsell will present their product on Shark Tank Friday.

UD alumna jumped into ‘Shark Tank;’ swam away with deal

Jarek RutzBusiness, Headlines

UD alumna Joelle Flynn, left, and Sonia Hounsell will present their product on Shark Tank Friday.

UD alumna Joelle Flynn, left, and Sonia Hounsell will present their product on Shark Tank Friday.

University of Delaware graduate Joelle Flynn peddled her lipstick-size toothbrush on ABC’s “Shark Tank,” cutting a $250,000 deal with one of the sharks.

FunkkOFF! TeethRefreshers was created in 2010 as a way for people to discreetly brush their teeth when they’re on the move – especially when they’re drinking red wine.

It hit the consumer market in 2019.

Flynn had applied twice to be on the show with no luck, and was surprised when representatives reached out on their own in 2022.

“‘Shark Tank’ found us on social media because we are so innovative and it’s the only product on the market,” she said. “It was such an honor for our company.”

Packaged in a lipstick container, FunkkOFF! contains an electric toothbrush head that is good for up to 30 uses.

“The whole unit itself works like a lipstick,” Flynn said. “We just twist it up, brush the gunk off your teeth, put the aerated cap on, check out your teeth in the mirror. It’s the only product on the market that is an all-in-one toothbrush and toothpaste that’s all-natural, reusable and vegan.”

The mechanism already has 11 patents, one international Chinese utility patent and 10 U.S. patents, which are both for the utility and design of the product.

Flynn, now 51 and a resident of Southern California, majored in consumer economics at UD and graduated in 1994.

She first came up with the idea in 2010 to help solve a problem for herself.

“I was literally visiting one or two wineries Saturday and Sunday and my teeth would turn purple from the red wine,” she said. “I would constantly carry around a full-sized toothbrush and toothpaste in my purse, which is clunky. I would drink my red wine, go to the bathroom and get the funk off my teeth, put my lipstick on and go to the next winery.”

Then it hit her: Why wasn’t there something on the market like her lipstick that is reusable and compact?

She left her job as a stockbroker to pursue the idea. 

Joelle Flynn & Sonia Hounsell

Joelle Flynn & Sonia Hounsell

Since Flynn didn’t know anything about consumer products, she contacted her lifelong friend Sonia Hounsell, a graduate of Boston College and University of Virginia who has been friends with Flynn since they were both seven years old.

Hounsell, who was working in consumer products for Kraft and Mondelez food companies, joined Flynn to bring FunkkOFF! to the market. 

Any Shark Tank fan knows a presenter’s life trajectory before presenting their product is usually all over the place, although there’s typically some history of innovation.

“I started working at 14 and I’ve just always been an entrepreneur,” Flynn said. “I did envision myself on ‘Shark Tank’ and I’m very much a manifestation girl.”

Less than 5% of patents are issued to women exclusively, she pointed out.

“It’s still a very male-dominated world,” she said. 

Because she and Hounsell attended an all-girls high school, Flynn feels like it’s important for them to empower young girls and set an example.”

Flynn is also the founder of Girls on the Run Orange County, a nonprofit aiming at inspiring and empowering girls in third through eighth grade to be joyful, healthy and confident through activity-based development programs. 

The program teaches life skills through interactive lessons and running games and culminates with the girls prepared to complete a 5k running event. 

While Flynn and Hounsell aim to be innovators and trailblazers and outdo big companies like Crest and Oral-B, Flynn said inspiring young girls is really the reason why they’re so passionate about the company. 

Preparing for ‘Shark Tank’

They are not allowed to give any details about their episode Friday, although Flynn says they were nervous but determined to get a deal when they filmed in July 2022.

“We kind of broke the show down into like four quarters like a football game and the first half we did great, we were on it, our pitch was great, I wasn’t nervous talking to anybody,” she said. “But it’s the way it went down where the sharks kind of got off kilter because they’re all talking over each other and we kind of just blacked out.”

FunkkOFF! TeethRefreshers sell for $22. To purchase the product or to learn more about the company, click here

All of the sharks backed away from the company at first because of sales numbers and lack of profits, but then Robert Herjavec recalled how his wife criticized him for focusing only on profit instead of making an investment.

Ultimately, he gave them $250,000 for a 12% equity in the company.

 

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