Swimming With The Sharks
By John D. Adams
With a successful appearance on ABC’s reality show, “Shark Tank,” the guys behind the Rugged Maniac extreme obstacle course events are running in first place.
When we last spoke with Rob Dickens, COO of Rugged Events LLC, the extreme sports events company had just unveiled their latest endeavor in the Winter 2014 issue of South Florida Opulence: The Great Bull Run. But running with the bulls was nothing compared to what Dickens and CEO Brad Scudder encountered while swimming with the sharks. Investment sharks, that is. In April, the successful entrepreneurs appeared on ABC’s hit series “Shark Tank.” And they landed a big one.
Epic Obstacle Course
In 2010, Boston-based Rob Dickens and Brad Scudder embarked on a wild adventure that continues to lead them successfully into new and exciting arenas. The two created Rugged Events LLC, a company that specializes in extreme sporting events across the country. Among a number of other similarly-themed events, the guys’ Rugged Maniac extreme obstacle race has become the gold standard of urban adventures. Brave contestants spend a day attempting to conquer 25 epic obstacles; they scale towers of shipping containers, climb steep mud walls, leap across fire pits, swim through mud trenches, belly crawl across underground tubes, wade within a mountainous sea of foam, dodge giant red punching bags and other crazy stuff. With an average ticket costing $50, the Rugged Maniac races are available in 20 cities nationwide, with about 100,000 people taking part every year. And while other extreme events companies have fallen by the wayside, Rugged Maniac continues its slow and steady approach to winning the race.
The producers of ABC’s reality show “Shark Tank” took notice of the growing upstart. And last September Dickens received a surprising telephone call. “The producers of ‘Shark Tank’ had heard about Rugged Maniac and were interested in having us go on the show to pitch the company,” he said. But Dickens and Scudder weren’t looking for investors. Rugged Events brought in $4.2 million in revenue in 2013, which translated to $1 million in profit, according to Dickens. And the company’s newer “Bull Runs” are expected to gross around $2.5 million after their first full year of operation. But the phone call got the entrepreneurs thinking. “Usually companies have to contact the show to try and get on. Here, they were calling us. And even though we didn’t intend on entertaining any offers, we thought: ‘Why not? It’s free publicity,’” said Dickens.
In The Shark Tank
For the uninitiated, “Shark Tank” follows a simple formula. Eager inventors or small business owners present their products and services in front of a panel of “sharks” – billionaire investors. If any of the investors are interested, they try to negotiate a deal with the presenters to provide cash for a percentage of the company. “The show’s producers didn’t even know about The Great Bull Run at the time they contacted us,” says Dickens. “By the time we went to film the episode, we had held our first Great Bull Run event, so we included both companies during the pitch.” And while the two had no interest in bringing in a nameless investor, they managed to capture the interest of a “shark” who could bring more to the table than just money. Mark Cuban, well-known businessman, investor and owner of the Dallas Mavericks, offered $1.75 million for a 25 percent ownership in the company.
“The beauty with us is that we didn’t need the money. We were already profitable with the Rugged Maniac brand,” remarked Dickens. “But Mark Cuban brings so much more to the table than money. His business expertise and his connections, his name, and his media presence raises the visibility of our brand. He’s a hands-on type of guy. He likes to be involved and we like him involved.”
“I’m super excited to be part of the Rugged Events team,” Cuban said. “I’m anticipating the explosion of experiential entertainment and very few people execute this as well as Rob Dickens and Brad Scudder. I have every intention of helping them grow into a force in the industry.”
The company may add two or three additional events this year. And with Cuban’s input, they will be hiring several key positions. “We put on great events. Everyone who comes has a great time,” says Dickens. “Our events are consistently ranked the highest in customer satisfaction; and that’s where we want to stay.”
Slow and steady wins the race.
To learn more about Rugged Maniac, visit their website at: www. ruggedmaniac.com