DU Alumni

Alumna survives swim with ABC’s ‘sharks’

Many University of Denver grads make the world a better place. Meet Megan Gage (MSW ’06) — she’s making the world a better-looking place. More specifically, she’s making kids better looking with a product that means fewer bad hair days for the younger set.

It all started in 2009, after her son was born. “I kept giving him a small curl on top of his head by mixing baby lotion and pomade,” she says. “Any time we were in a public place, people would always comment on his hair.”

After several of those comments, Gage jokingly told her husband someone needed to create an infant styling product. Gage didn’t see herself as that someone until she stumbled upon an article that uncovered potentially dangerous chemicals in children’s personal care products.

As a mother, Gage was horrified. “I looked everywhere for safer, natural options but couldn’t find any without harmful chemicals or that smelled good,” she says.

Gage began working with a cosmetics formulator, and after several months of tinkering, they created a natural formula for shampoos, conditioners, styling gels and hair sprays specifically for kids. It was 2010, and her company, Hot Tot, was born.

In January, Gage got a squirt of extreme public relations when she appeared on “Shark Tank,” the ABC TV show where would-be entrepreneurs hit up investors for cash. Gage walked away with a $75,000 check from one of show’s stars — Mark Cuban, outspoken owner of the Dallas Mavericks NBA team.

“’Shark Tank’ ‘was the scariest thing I’ve ever survived — putting my life and beloved business on display for millions of people to critique,” Gage says. “My hands were physically shaking when I started my pitch. I was surprised to see how comfortable I actually appeared. I learned it’s best to put on a brave face and try for what you want.”

The show has opened many doors. She received more than 1,000 e-mails, voice mails and social media messages within a week after the show aired on Jan. 4, and she’s trying to respond to them all. “That has proven to be a lengthy task,” she says, “but I’ll accomplish it.”

Before the show, Gage says her biggest obstacle was selling an unknown product. “I’ve been hung up on more times than I can count.”

But now, things are starting to gel for Gage. The company is growing quickly, and Cuban’s investment is helping pay for clinical tests that are proving her products are as gentle as she’d marketed them to be.

“I’ve always had high expectations for myself and my business, but partnering with Mark has made me work even harder,” she says. “I don’t want to let anyone down, especially Mark. And ‘Shark Tank’s’ 7 million viewers are watching and waiting to see what’s next for me and my brand. The pressure is on.”

Gage says her DU education has been a plus. “It really helped me to develop good communication skills, written and verbal. Both are key when you’re developing and marketing a new brand.”

She adds that starting a business has a lot of parallels to being a student. “I always remind myself that I’ve survived similar times ,and I’m much better because I stuck with things.”

Her advice to today’s DU students? “Follow your heart. When you really love something, people will find a way of making it work.”


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