The brother and sister founding team of Shirah Benarde and Michael Benarde are looking to change the meaning behind “grabbing a nightcap.”
Shirah developed NightCap as a unique product that turns a simple hair scrunchie into a drink spiking prevention tool.
“When we first started NightCap, one of the very first things we did was survey women 18-25 to see how big the problem was. 26% reported having their drink spiked at least once, and 75% said they would purchase something to help prevent this. It’s nearly impossible to get real data about drink spiking as it so often goes unreported, and most police will only get involved if it happens in conjunction with an assault,” she told Hypepotamus. “We can say that we constantly receive emails and messages from people who tell us their stories of when this happened to them, a friend, or a family member.”
Drink spiking – when someone puts drugs or alcohol into a person’s drink without their knowledge and consent – is a scary reality that hits college campuses and cities with lively nightlife scenes.
Shirah was passionate about combating this problem while she was still in high school. Despite the prevalence of the issue, she saw the need to develop personal and practical safety solution to be used at bars.
“The most difficult part was starting an entirely new category. Very few people were looking for drink spiking prevention products as they didn’t exist before. We had to bring awareness to the problem and show people that there was a great solution. Additionally, educating the customer on the product and its workings has been a hurdle. Many people don’t know what it is when they see it,” she added.
In The Shark Tank
Building the company with her brother in Florida, NightCap has won four pitch competitions and got help from Florida State’s College of Entrepreneurship. The team brought in over $15,000 from those pitch competition to get off the ground.
Then ABC TV crews came knocking.
NightCap pitched on season 12 of the popular business show Shark Tank, where the team earned quick favor with the Shark Lori Greiner.
During her Shark Tank pitch, Shirah called it “a fun solution to a serious problem” associated with drink spiking at a bar.
Shirah told Hypepotamus that “Pitching on Shark Tank is one of the most surreal experiences. Watching the show growing up as a kid and then finding yourself on it is such a strange yet life-changing opportunity. For us, Shark Tank went about as well as it could have. We got one of the fastest deals in Shark Tank history, and our success when it aired showed us we were on the right track.”
(Those who haven’t seen the episode can catch a glimpse of it here).
Since the Shark Tank pitch, Shirah said the team has been focused on distribution deals, expanding the product line, and growing its B2B sales within universities. The sibling duo are still the only two employees, and to keep up with growing ecommerce demand, they rely heavily on third-party companies for “manufacturing, shipping, and Amazon management.”