Wednesday, May 22, 2024

From the Magazine: Let it All Hang Out

“Hi, sharks. My name is Stewart Gold from Boca Raton, Florida.” So began one of the more disarming pitches from the 15th season of “Shark Tank” this past January. Gold appeared on the entrepreneurial reality show to sell the investors on the Dingle Dangle, the baby toy he invented with business partner Mark Hamilton in 2020. Almost right away, Gold’s spiel took a turn toward surrealist theatre, when a production assistant in an alligator costume rushed to the stage, wrestled Gold to the ground, and proceeded to kick and thrash and raise holy hell—simulating, with not too much hyperbole, what it’s like to change the diaper of a baby who wants none of it.

But Gold has a solution, and it involves a headband, flexible tubing and a plush octopus designed for sensory engagement. When strapped to the parent’s head, the hands-free product dangles in front of the baby like a fifth appendage, distracting it while mom or dad does the dirty work. When not deployed for diaper-changing duty, the Dingle Dangle, which retails for $40, can transform into a portable baby mobile or a sensory rattle in a matter of seconds.

Gold showcased all of the product’s uses in his “Shark Tank” pitch, which he says he practiced “no less than 10,000 times—in the shower, the first thing when I got up, in the middle of the day, until I couldn’t mess it up.

Stewart Gold on “Shark Tank,” photo credit: Christopher Willard

“You have weeks, not months, to prepare, so there’s a real fear that kicks in,” he adds. “I’m about to go on national TV in front of millions of people—I have a family, I have a community, I don’t want to embarrass myself. … I lost sleep over this. There are no second takes. You go in, you shoot it, that’s it.”

Following Gold’s pitch, shark Kevin O’Leary asked the first question, echoing what everybody was thinking: “What about the dork factor?” Gold knows the product looks ridiculous. But silliness, he says, was baked into the cake—and part of why the product is geared toward young fathers such as himself. (Gold’s two sons are now 8 and 3.)

“As dads, there’s just not much on the market,” he says. “A lot of women end up breastfeeding, but there’s not that connection that dad has. When I had my first baby, I was kind of lurking in the background the whole time. … So I think intentionally, dads sometimes tend to be the sillier ones, and they’re looking for other ways to entertain the baby. Sometimes humor or laughter is really the only way we know how to do it.

“Parenting doesn’t always have to be so serious. It’s serious enough, and this is something that can be a bit lighter and encourage connection between daddy and baby.”

Kevin O’Leary modeling the Dingle Dangle, photo credit: Christopher Willard

The Dingle Dangle’s origin story dates to 2019, when Gold, a lawyer with a degree from University of Florida’s law school, moved with his family into a shared house in Northern England. (His wife had obtained a work visa for a three-year stay.) He struck up a friendship with downstairs neighbor Mark Hamilton, who, like Gold, was a young dad. Hamilton had endured enough baby-changing horror stories that he had MacGyvered a tool to assist in the process.

As Gold retells it, “during COVID, we didn’t have anything else to do, so we would sit out in the garden and hang out and chat. And one day Mark brought out this crazy thing—a GoPro strap with a coat hanger and a baby toy hanging off the end.” This homemade model became the genesis for the Dingle Dingle, developed over two years of trial and “a lot of error,” Gold says. “We had to go through a number of manufacturers. We got prototypes that didn’t work, that would break. It’s just been a grind. It’s been a lot of hard work, a lot of failure, and you’ve just got to put your head down and not give up.”

The Dingle Dangle in action

The Dingle Dangle generated $67,000 in sales in 2022, its first year on the market, but Gold had invested some $150,000 of his own money into the product. On “Shark Tank,” he asked investors for $75,000 in exchange for 20 percent of the company. It appeared as if all of the sharks declined to buy in, until Gold attempted a final Hail Mary plea that ultimately convinced O’Leary to invest—provided the shark earned an additional $1 per unit up to $300,000, a negotiation that played out live on the air.

“There’s give and take in any deal, and you’ve got to decide, can I live with this?” Gold says. “And the answer was yes. It’s always our philosophy that you shoot for the stars and let the chips fall where they may. We’re very happy to be partnered with Kevin O’Leary.”

Furthermore, the business enjoyed a “Shark Tank” bump, with Gold estimating he earned a year’s worth of sales in the three days after the show aired. “You don’t realize the full power of ‘Shark Tank’ until you’re on the other side of it,” he says.

WHERE TO FIND THE DINGLE DANGLE

The Dingle Dangle is available in two Boca Raton brick-and-mortars: Rooms For a Prince and Princess (6859 S.W. 18th St.) and Bellini Baby & Teen Furniture (2980 N. Federal Highway). It can also be purchased on Etsy, Amazon and dingledanglebaby.com.

This article is from the May/June 2024 issue of Boca magazine. For more like this, click here to subscribe to the magazine.

John Thomason
John Thomason
As the A&E editor of bocamag.com, I offer reviews, previews, interviews, news reports and musings on all things arty and entertainment-y in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.

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