BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. – Although she’s an agile swimmer among the sharks in ABC’s “Shark Tank,” Lori Greiner never wanted to be in business. Entrepreneurship was something that didn’t cross her mind, she says.
“I hated business. I didn’t really have any interest. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have a knack for it. I found that I had a natural knack for it once I thought of my first product, which was a creative thing,” she said, seated in a vinyl chair in a coffee bar here.
While she made good grades in school without intensive study, it wasn’t academic prowess that brought Greiner fame and fortune. It was her nature. “I think the biggest thing is I never saw myself as a female,” she laughed.
“Yes, I see myself as a woman, but I don’t ever think in life that men are better than me, that they deserve to get ahead better than me. I definitely see myself as equal, maybe better – not in an arrogant way – but just as I can be better in my field – the same as John can be better than Joe, Suzy better than Sally. I just never looked at myself as a female in anything. I saw myself as equal.”
Her father, who is a businessman, encouraged her independence.
“My dad always made me feel very smart. And I could go head-to-head with him, so he was a good teacher. And my mom was always, ‘You can be anything you want to be.’ So there was no old-fashioned thinking, very progressive, like, we’re all the same and you just have to apply yourself and you can do anything. I have always had that ‘can-do’ attitude.”
That attitude has earned Greiner millions. She owns more than 115 patents and is well known as the savvy huckster on QVC, promoting a variety of inventions from kitchen utensils to jewelry boxes. She’s also one of two women on “Shark Tank,” which returns for a new season Sept. 20.
Greiner actually intended to be a writer.
“I lived in my mind in film or playwrighting. If I heard music it would entice in me – I’d see a home movie happening. That’s when I started writing plays because I knew I had a knack for dialogue. That was easier for me. I didn’t really know how to write a screenplay, that’s more involved, but a play, it was just dialogue.”
In fact, she was penning a new take on old-fashioned fairy tales when she happened to visit a bookstore and noticed someone had beat her to it. “That’s when I said, ‘If I come up with another idea, I’m just going to do it. I won’t procrastinate.’ So I came up with my earring organizer, and I just did it.”
How she did it was now part of her credo. “I think I was really driven to make it succeed,” said Greiner.
“It’s almost like this thing within me, I don’t even know how to explain it. But I was very driven. I picked where do I want to be? What stores? I wanted the biggest. J.C. Penny at the time was 1,000 stores, so I wanted J.C. Penny. Then I wanted one of the home shopping networks, either QVC or the Home Shopping Network. I tried with QVC, but I didn’t get in. And so they sent me back my product. I thought, ‘OK,’ ” she shrugged.
“It was different then. It was much harder to get in … It was like the Great Wall of China. It was impenetrable. So I would call and call and call and call and hope that someone would pick up the phone by mistake. And they would.
“They would pick up the phone by mistake, and I had a really quick sentence. I would say, ‘I have the coolest earring organizer, they’re dangling and hanging. It’s not like anything you’ve ever seen. I’m going to be in Florida next week can I have five minutes? I’ll take just five minutes, I promise you, then I’ll leave.’ I think most people, five minutes is cool with them.”
When contemplating a risk, Greiner said she doesn’t consider the negative. “I see things as ‘How can I?’ If I’m blocked this way, I’ll figure out a different way. I wouldn’t say it scares me, but I think I would feel badly if I was trying to help someone and it didn’t work out for them. My whole career at QVC, before ‘Shark Tank’ and now with ‘Shark Tank,’ I’m helping other people. And I know how much it means to them because I know how much it meant to me. So I think I care more and would feel worse if something went wrong with one of their products or businesses than if it did my own.”
Greiner is married to Dan Greiner, who is a partner in her enterprises. About him she said, “He’s just awesome. He helps me, and he’s just an awesome human being, and he definitely impacted my life in a very positive way.”