ABC’s Shark Tank on the Hunt for Diverse Entrepreneurs in San Antonio

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Sharks Robert Herjavec, Daymond John, Lori Greiner, Kevin O'Leary, Mark Cuban, and Barbara Corcoran attend the premiere of ABC's "Shark Tank" at The Paley Center for Media in Beverley Hills, California. (Photo by Rodin Eckenroth/FilmMagic)

Rodin Eckenroth / FilmMagic via Getty

"Sharks" Robert Herjavec, Daymond John, Lori Greiner, Kevin O'Leary, Mark Cuban, and Barbara Corcoran attend the premiere of ABC's "Shark Tank" at The Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills, California.

Attention, entrepreneurs: The television show known for its sink-or-swim approach to novel business ideas is coming to San Antonio.

The ABC show Shark Tank, which gives enterprising business owners the chance to present their concepts to celebrity investors, will host a casting call during next month’s NAACP annual convention at the Henry B. González Convention Center.

The July 15 casting call is part of what Shark Tank‘s producers call a “diversity tour” to select entrepreneurs who will appear on the Emmy-winning show’s 10th season. The tour stop in San Antonio follows visits this year to Oakland, California; Washington, D.C.; Atlanta; New York City; Chicago; and New Orleans.

To lead the nationwide tour, Shark Tank Producer Mark Burnett joined with consulting organization Values Partnerships, which facilitates partnerships in the realm of race, politics, entertainment, faith, and culture. Senior Consultant Brandon Andrews said the goal of the tour is to inject more diversity into the show, including more women, young people, veterans, and minorities.

“We do events with partners like the NAACP and the National Urban League that are working with diverse entrepreneurs to make sure we are intentional about getting diverse entrepreneurs in our pipeline,” Andrews said.

The number of minority-owned firms with paid employees increased by approximately 4.9 percent in 2015 to 996,248 from 949,318 in 2014, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs. Ownership of firms by women increased by 3 percent but veteran-owned businesses decreased 1.7 percent. In Texas, 27 percent of minority-owned firms are businesses that have paid employees.

Access to capital is often cited as the reason minority-owned firms haven’t grown faster. A report from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency published in 2010 stated that low levels of wealth and liquidity constraints among minorities “create a substantial barrier to entry for minority entrepreneurs.”

The annual meeting of the NAACP, the nation’s oldest civil rights group, is expected to bring more than 10,000 people to San Antonio and generate up to $10 million in economic impact, according to Visit San Antonio, the city’s nonprofit tourism body. NAACP conference registration is not required in order to attend the casting call.

The Shark Tank casting event will take place July 15 at 11 a.m. in the Henry B. González Convention Center. Applicants will pitch their ideas on a first come, first served basis.

During the final episode of Shark Tank’s last season, which aired Feb. 25, entrepreneurs earned “yes” votes, or “sharks,” from the show’s venture capital investors for ideas including a wearable facial mask and a pasta substitute made of hearts of palm. But other pitches, including comfortable men’s swimwear and capsules to reduce alcohol’s negative effects, did not pass muster.

If selected by the casting team in San Antonio, there are several other steps potential contestants must take – including background and patent checks – before they are chosen for the all-expenses-paid trip to Los Angeles and taping a pitch to the sharks.

Another local Shark Tank-style event in San Antonio on Sept. 17 will bring together aspiring real estate developers, real estate veterans, and a group of investors seeking real investment opportunities. The San Antonio chapter of the Urban Land Institute is producing the annual event for the second year in a row as part of the 2018 Mayor’s Housing Summit.

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