What Really Came Of The Wingman Inflatable Life Jacket From Shark Tank?

Hyde Sportswear co-founders, longtime friends, and adventurer-seekers Mike Fox and Pat Hughes walked on the set of ABC's "Shark Tank" in January 2018 with a lofty goal: secure $200,000 in exchange for a 12.5% stake in their signature product, The Wingman — a United States Coast Guard-approved inflatable life jacket. Life jackets are necessary for kayaking, whitewater rafting, and other water sports, so many viewers assumed it would be a slam-dunk deal. Sadly, however, Sharks Lori Greiner, Mark Cuban, Daymond John, and guest Shark Sara Blakely weren't biting on the $250 product. "At [that price], you have to really be dedicated to being a water enthusiast," Cuban told the "Shark Tank" hopefuls. Meanwhile, Greiner noted that while she preferred their product over any other she had ever seen, she still felt it was too early to invest. As for John, he cited the niche market for opting out of the deal.

In the end, it was "Shark Tank" judge Kevin O'Leary who threw Fox and Hughes a bone. "I'll give you the $200k ... but I want half [of the company]," he demanded, to no avail. The business partners thanked O'Leary for the offer and politely declined, explaining that a 50% stake was more equity than they were willing to part with. So, whatever happened to The Wingman following their appearance on the popular business reality television series? Let's get to it!

The Wingman is getting along swimmingly

As it turns out, The Wingman Inflatable Life Jacket and its co-founders, Mike Fox and Pat Hughes, are getting along just swimmingly — even after walking away from their "Shark Tank" appearance empty-handed. The month after their air date, in February 2018, Fox told The University of St. Thomas' Newsroom that they had received a lot of interest from potential investors. "We've seen a huge spike in sales as well. We're really starting to experience the 'Shark Tank' effect," he gushed. As you may recall, the "Shark Tank" effect is a phenomenon wherein businesses featured on the show, even those who leave without a deal, experience increased interest and profits. 

Customers can purchase the life jackets through Hyde Sportswear's official website and Amazon, wherein the product currently holds a 4.6 out of five-star review rating. Not too shabby, eh?! But that's not all. The company also touts an impressive social media presence on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. 

Mike Fox and Pat Hughes have no regrets

As for declining their one and only "Shark Tank" offer, Mike Fox is adamant that neither he nor his Hyde Sportswear business partner have any regrets. "I felt totally fine saying no and walking out of there," he told The University of St. Thomas' Newsroom. "That wasn't the right deal for us, so we confidently walked out of there with our heads held high."

In a 2018 Instagram post, the company discussed the origin of the name for The Wingman. The name is actually a nod to the action drama film "Top Gun." Alas, the post didn't end there. "Finally, a story about 'Shark Tank' that didn't make it on TV. When we were in the tank, Mark Cuban looked us in the eye and told us he didn't like the name Wingman ... for that reason we were out." So maybe Kevin O'Leary's aggressive offer wasn't the only reason Fox and Hughes opted to walk away with their heads held high. 

And there ya have it, folks! Now, the founders can back to their regularly scheduled programming of living passionately and adventuring frequently!