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St. Louisan, Flipstik Inventor Makes Deal On Hit TV Show ‘Shark Tank’

A few years ago, St. Louis entrepreneur Akeem Shannon had a problem. He needed to mount a television to the wall, but he thought it was a huge inconvenience.

He wanted to be able to put an adhesive on the back of his TV and stick the TV to the wall. That idea came after an early morning conversation with his uncle in October 2017. His uncle works as an electrical engineer at NASA, and he was describing a material that helps make things stick.

“Back in the 1970s, NASA started doing research on these reusable adhesives that were based on setae, which are microscopic hairs on the bottom of a gecko’s foot,” Shannon said. “So what we created is a synthetic setae based off of that same NASA research."

Shannon realized it wasn’t practical to put a bunch of the sticky material on the back of a television, but after a few months passed, he got the idea to put it on the back of a smartphone. And it was that idea that led the 28-year-old entrepreneur to invent Flipstik, a device that adheres to the back of a phone and allows users to stick it on any flat surface or use it as a kickstand.

Shannon launched a crowdfunding effort on Kickstarter in 2018 and sold Flipstik at local malls. The business screeched to a halt during the pandemic. And so, the opportunity to pitch his product on ABC’s hit show “Shark Tank” came at a great time.

That episode of the Emmy-winning show premiered earlier this month.

“It definitely was nerve-wracking,” Shannon told St. Louis on the Air host Sarah Fenske. “I actually went skydiving about two days after appearing on ‘Shark Tank,’ and it was about half as scary standing in front of those doors and waiting for them to open.”

The show’s investors praised Shannon’s pitch that was uniquely delivered as a rap. And, after a little of the show’s trademark drama, he secured a deal with investor Lori Greiner, who’s known as the “Queen of QVC.”

“I really wanted Lori going into it. That’s who I came for, and so I was trying to let Lori speak because all the boys on the panel were overspeaking her and not letting her get her question out,” Shannon said.

Shannon said Grenier is the ideal partner because Flipstik is a visual product that people need to see in action.

“She knows how to sell products on QVC,” he said.

Akeem Shannon has big plans. He opened a warehouse in St. Louis that has seven employees, and he plans to hire 30 employees in the next 12 months.

“It’s super important to be grounded here in St. Louis. It’s where I grew up. It’s where I’m from. And I think the city is just ripe for potential and growth right now,” he said.

Shannon said the business is going to prioritize direct-to-consumer sales, and once it’s a household name, people will be able to buy it in stores like Target and Walmart.

“I’ve been pretty lucky, but I just call it success,” Shannon said. “Success is just when preparation meets opportunity and I always come prepared, and when I see the opportunity, I pounce on it.”

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

Copyright 2021 St. Louis Public Radio. To see more, visit St. Louis Public Radio.

Alex Heuer joined St. Louis Public Radio in 2012 and is the executive producer of St. Louis on the Air. Alex grew up in the St. Louis area. He began his public radio career as a student reporter at Tri States Public Radio in Macomb, Illinois and worked for a few years at Iowa Public Radio. Alex graduated summa cum laude from Western Illinois University with a degree in history and earned a teaching certificate in 6 - 12th grade social studies. In 2016, he earned a Master of Public Policy Administration with a focus in nonprofit organization management and leadership from the University of Missouri-St. Louis. He has won local and national awards for reporting and producing and his stories have been featured nationally on Morning Edition and All Things Considered.