Kenzo and Mark Singer at their workshop in Santa Barbara | Credit: Hannah Weaver

The most recent Shark Tank success story led to a Santa Barbara father-son duo nabbing a deal with not one but all five of the investor “sharks” — a feat that has only occurred two other times in the show’s 14 seasons and more than 2,000 pitches. 

On ABC’s Shark Tank, entrepreneurs pitch their businesses, seeking investment deals from the sharks. Around half of the aired contestants get a handshake deal, let alone with all five sharks.

Mark and Kenzo Singer on the Shark Tank set | Credit: Courtesy

Mark Singer and his son Kenzo Singer first developed their EyeWris reading glasses in Mark’s workshop on Lower State Street. For Mark, the glasses were what he calls a “need-based invention.” As a craftsman, he often needs to see close-up details but could never keep track of his reading glasses. 

So, he came up with a creative solution.

“Why not try and make glasses that wrap around your wrist?” he said.

After years of watching his father try to develop glasses that could wrap around a wrist, Kenzo eventually decided to use his engineering skills to come up with a design.

Despite being told by a group of engineer consultants that their design “couldn’t be done,” the pair forged on.

“[Kenzo] believed in what he had done, and I believed in him, and so we did it anyway,” Mark said.

Their dynamic as business partners, however, hasn’t always been easy.

“Starting a business, it’s hard. Doing one during a global pandemic is even harder, and then doing one with your dad or son is impossible … we’re both quite stubborn and we always think we’re right,” Kenzo said. “The most important thing is we don’t let any of this business stuff affect our relationship.”

“But it has, in a positive way,” Mark added.

With his father’s support, Kenzo built a prototype with their now-patented bi-stable bridge design that allowed the glasses to snap into place. That’s when they knew they had something good.

After securing a patent, Kenzo was able to tell his friends about the glasses. They urged him to apply for Shark Tank but he didn’t think it was for him.

He told his friends, “I don’t like being in the spotlight; it’s super risky; I would hate it; I hate being on camera.”

Mark Singer demonstrates the EyeWris reading glasses. | Credit: Hannah Weaver

The show’s acceptance rate — lower than Ivy League level — certainly isn’t too encouraging, either. The show receives 35,000 to 40,000 applications per year and only around 0.5 percent actually get to pitch their company to the sharks. But Mark and Kenzo weren’t one of those applicants. Instead, they were recruited by a producer of the show who eventually convinced them to give it a shot.

They studied up before it was their time to film, watching just about every episode and practicing their pitch more than a hundred times. Their practice evidently paid off, as one of the sharks, Mark Cuban, said they had “the best pitch ever.” What was even more exciting for the two of them was to hear one of the producers say the same thing.

What made their pitch so outstanding?

The pair accredit their success to their diligent preparation but also acknowledge that Mark’s past success helped. He has founded multiple companies, including Gorilla Glue and Giati Designs, both of which he has since sold.

“The reality is that if you have a track record of success, it’s easier to find more success. And that is unfair in a lot of ways,” he said. “I think the fact that Gorilla Glue has worked out so well and that Giati Designs worked out so well probably put them at ease.”

Yet it was an extemporaneous emotional moment that really sealed the deal when Mark explained to the sharks his desire to leave his son in good hands.

“It just welled up. It was unexpected,” he said. “I had to pause a moment and kind of try to focus and get back on track. And that was actually real. A lot of people seem to think that it’s all scripted — it isn’t.”

That genuineness moved shark Lori Greiner to tears and to say the words every Shark Tank entrepreneur wants to hear: “I want to make you an offer.”

At that point, they were already satisfied. But then, the other sharks decided they wanted in, too.

Mark and Kenzo Singer after their presentation to the ’Shark Tank’ sharks | Credit: Courtesy

“When Laurie gave that first offer, it was like a sigh of relief … we’re doing pretty good now, we’re not doing terribly.” Kenzo said. “Then Kevin O’Leary came in, and then Daymond John came in, and then everyone [Robert Herjavec and Mark Cuban] piled in … it was a surreal experience and we had not prepared for that.”

On the drive home, they were in a “brain fog.”

“We couldn’t remember who said what, when, or any of that stuff, and it took that drive back trying to replay what occurred to get some of it,” Mark Singer said. 

After filming their pitch in September, the pair had to keep their success a secret for nearly eight months before their episode aired on May 19. They gathered with family and friends for a watch party. Kenzo Singer’s friends, who had urged him to go on the show since the early days of EyeWris, were especially excited.

“They are huge Shark Tank fans and their reaction, in particular, was It was amazing,” he said. “The question is always ‘Did you get a deal?’ [and] you’re thinking to yourself … what a lowball question.”

Since going on the show, EyeWris has nearly sold out of inventory and Mark and Kenzo are already back in the workshop, building prototypes for sunglasses and glasses with full-length arms.

The episode featuring Mark and Kenzo can be streamed on ABC, here.


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