‘Shark Tank’ gives $200,000 worth of holiday cheer to Southlake entrepreneur’s Hire Santa business

    Getting on Shark Tank isn’t easy, even if you know Santa Claus.

    Native Texan Mitch Allen emerged with a $200,000 investment from celebrity businesswoman Barbara Corcoran on the ABC reality show Sunday, convincing her that his Southlake-based Hire Santa company isn’t like other firms in the field.

    Many of them have been around for a long time and come with a photo studio as part of the deal when a mall or store hires a Santa. Others are regional entertainment agencies. Santa For Hire, an Orange County, Calif., competitor, was founded in 1999.

    “Everyone has their own phone and they want to instantly get their photos and post them on social media,” Allen said.

    Allen’s company, founded in 2012, will post more than $1 million in sales this year. He delivers an authentic-looking background-checked Santa to corporate events or personal appearances, even in homes.

    Hire Santa has 1,000 Santas in its database, Allen said, and has placed some in faraway locations like China and Central America. Current gigs include appearances at Metro PCS promotional events and assignments at Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s stores.

    Allen’s pitch on Sunday’s show set off a frenzied exchange between Sharks Kevin O’Leary and Daymond John. When Allen balked at their proposals and held out for giving up less of his company, Corcoran swooped in.

    For her $200,000 investment, Corcoran gets 10 percent of the company and Allen must repay her using 50 percent of the profits.

    The process started in January when Allen and almost 500 others stood in line at the Dallas Convention Center for the chance to give a one-minute pitch to a Shark Tank producer. The show gets 40,000 applicants a year; about 200 are filmed and 100 make it into a season, Allen said.

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    Allen, who was dressed as an elf in Sunday’s show, said he has watched every episode and written down every question asked by the Sharks. “I was prepared.”

    Some travel costs to the taping in Los Angeles are covered by the show, but Allen said he spent more than $10,000 to prepare. That included an elaborate Christmas-themed set and entertainment for his pitch, which included hiring 17 Santas, a Mrs. Claus, a snowman and reinder.

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