OREM, Utah (ABC4) – Tristen Ikaika has been incredibly busy lately.
In addition to operating a ring business he built using his booming Instagram presence, the 23-year-old, who is known by his followers and customers as the “Ring King,” has been planning an unforgettable party for himself and a few hundred of his best friends.
After all, it’s not every night that you appear on Shark Tank, the wildly popular ABC program where small business owners and entrepreneurs make a pitch to a panel of high-profile investors.
“I don’t feel like I want to watch this from my living room couch,” Ikaika tells ABC4.com. “I think it would feel more epic to just get all my favorite people in one room and kind of celebrate where it’s all come from.”
The road to sharing his story as the Ring King in front of the likes of Mark Cuban, who famously owns the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks and Kevin O’Leary, dubbed Mr. Wonderful, a sarcastic reference to his curt on-screen persona, started from humble beginnings — a spoon Ikaika swiped from his parents’ kitchen drawer when he was 12.
With the help of his dad and a few tools in the garage, Ikaika cut the handle off the eating utensil and bent it into a ring. For years, he was known at school as the ring guy, with friends and peers begging him to make and sell them spoon rings for themselves. He usually turned them down.
Things changed though after Ikaika took an international trip and built a large following of tens of thousands after documenting his travels on Instagram. His rings caught the eyes of his new fans and friends, who like his Utah County chums, asked about rings of their own.
Saying he was “broke” after his travels around the globe, Ikaika figured it was good a time as any to try to make a few bucks with his rings. He went down to the thrift store, picked out a few interesting spoons, fashioned them into rings, and put them for sale online. The results were startling, he says.
“I thought I would do this one time just to make some money and then that first night they sold out and I was like, ‘Holy smokes,’” Ikaika recalls. “So I was like, I guess I’ll do it again. And then it just kind of evolved from there.”
Since then, Ikaika has scaled his business, built an online store, and fostered a community of ring lovers around the world. While he still does a handmade drop now and then, usually themed around a different travel location, his mass-produced original designs are much faster to produce. Ikaika says they fly off his virtual shelves just as quickly, selling in the thousands.
The next step in the process of building his brand was getting onto Shark Tank, a show that has proven to be the figurative equivalent of throwing gasoline on a small business’s fire.
Getting in the tank was hard enough, Ikaika, especially since the pandemic pushed back his appearance by a year, but it was nothing compared to the stress of ‘getting in the water’ with Cuban and O’Leary.
“I had like practiced so much, I made flashcards, I watched every episode to take notes like I was not going to be made of a fool on national television like you see some people,” he explains. “I thought I was so ready, but I walked in there and it was the most nerve-wracking thing I’ve ever done.”
While the finished show portrays a fast-paced, hard-to-imagine-having-the-time-to-think-rationally style of presentation and negotiation, Ikaika says that’s somewhat due to skillful editing by the production team. Still, the questions from the Sharks come at rapid-fire, sometimes with multiple Sharks asking a series of questions at the same time.
“You start answering one question and then other ones come up and then you have like, all these parts of your story that you want to make sure get communicated and that the brand still looks good. It was so stressful,” he remembers.
For now, Ikaika can’t reveal how his meeting with the Sharks went until the episode airs on Friday night, but says he feels good about how it turned out. O’Leary, he says, was actually quite nice and engaged during his presentation, living up to an unironic use of the Mr. Wonderful moniker. Knowing that he’ll likely see an explosion of traffic and sales to his website, he’s been just as busy preparing the web servers and inventory, hoping for the best – a lot of sales – and bracing against the worst – his site crashing due to demand.
However it ends up being revealed, whether he made a deal with a Shark or not, chances are pretty good that Ikaika will sell a lot of rings over the weekend and possibly for the foreseeable future thanks to the power of TV.
Even though having a steady cash flow will be exciting for the Generation Z entrepreneur, having a bit of money in his pocket isn’t what Ikaika is looking forward to most. In the same spirit of his viewing party on Friday night, he’s most excited to include his people in the journey with him.
“More money, I don’t see as more happiness, but just like more opportunities,” Ikaika says. “Like I want to take all my friends to Japan and like shoot an awesome collection, and so the growth from this I just see as more opportunities to fulfill myself in new ways that I haven’t been able to before.”
Sounds like he survived his dip into the Shark Tank.