Shane Pannell is back.
The creator of the SweepEasy broom is finally getting his product on the market, and he couldn’t be more thrilled. It’s been nearly seven years since Pannell appeared on the ABC show “Shark Tank” and caught the attention of millions of viewers and two of the panelists with his invention.
Kevin Harrington and Daymond John made Pannell an investment offer at the time, which Pannell gladly accepted. It did not turn out as expected.
“I don’t like to say we didn’t make a deal. I just say it didn’t work out,” he said. “It just didn’t fit their model.”
But he’s careful to keep a cordial relationship with the show.
“It was a good experience. I had a huge following after the show, worldwide,” Pannell said. “It was crazy.”
He heard from daycares, restaurants, movie theaters, pet shelters, schools, churches and school bus companies. He has been in talks with a janitorial company, big box stores and a local retailer. There is also interest in Europe.
When it was clear there was no way forward with a “Shark Tank” deal, he began looking for other investors. He and his wife Melissa tapped out their resources, including $70,000 in credit card debt. They were very hard times financially and personally. Despite the family stress, Pannell did not want to give up.
“I knew I had a great product; I just didn’t have the product made yet,” he said.
The SweepEasy broom’s standout feature is a retractable scraper, plastic or metal, that can be engaged to remove items stuck to the floor, such as gum, slime, dried glue and stickers.
To get the broom made, Pannell went into business with some people who turned out to be “not good guys.” Pannell said they had a vision of a cheap version of his product. That was the version he first sold online, but reviews ranged wildly from one star to five stars with nothing in between.
“People loved it because it had the scraper, but it was just a cheap broom. It was just a terrible product, and I said this is not my vision for my product,” Pannell said.
He got out of that contract and found a new investor through a mutual friend. Joshua Looney of Phoenix said he was drawn to the simplicity of the broom’s innovation and called it a “revolutionary product.” Now he is the CEO of SweepEasy. His involvement has allowed Pannell to build the product he imagined in the first place and finally launch it. The broom retails at $19.95.
“Because of all the time that’s been between the show and now, I’ve been able to fine-tune the product and make it better and better and better,” Pannell said. “What I came out with is a product that exceeded my expectations. The quality of the broom – the bristles are from Italy – just the broom itself will rival any $20 broom on the market, plus you have a $20 scraper inside.”
The brooms are made at a factory in Malaysia run by two U.S.-educated brothers. Pannell has visited once, and Looney has gone twice. Both are satisfied with the quality of the work. When the first boxes arrived, and Pannell finally saw the product he envisioned, he cried.
“I’d always wanted to invent, ever since I was a little kid. I don’t know if saw an invention movie or what,” he said. “I never stopped thinking about things. I have about 1,000 ideas, but I’ve really got five that are going to be really good.”
Originally from Boise, Idaho, he now lives in Rancho El Dorado. The Pannells moved to Maricopa in 2005 after being chosen in a lottery to buy a home. He started a pest-control business but eventually sold that company and became a work-from-home-dad.
What does he tell others who have big ideas they want to get into the marketplace?
“My advice would be to get lots of different opinions. Get lots of advice from different consultants; you don’t necessarily have to pay for it. Reach out and network.”
The process has been an education, sometimes a painful one. But being able to launch the product he envisioned nearly a decade ago has put much of that into perspective.
“I’ve learned what not to do and what to do, and believe me, we made a lot of mistakes, a lot of money mistakes, like ‘Ouch, that hurts. That’s a $5,000 mistake.’ It’s part of the game. If you make a mistake, don’t do it again. But don’t ever quit.”
This story appears in the February issue of InMaricopa.