Conor Lewis appeared on Episode 18 of Season 13 of “Shark Tank.” In the episode, he explains that he was inspired by the mess made by his own daughter while making pillow forts with couch cushions. Looking for a new direction after losing his job, he decided to extrapolate on the idea by creating FORT. He requests $500,000 in exchange for 10% of the company, and help with manufacturing and inventory assistance.
FORT blocks are made of couch cushion materials but are made to be played with. They can stack together to build all sorts of structures. Impressively, he explained that his FORT Kickstarter, which launched in January 2021, had made over $3 million, far beyond what he anticipated. But there were problems afoot in FORT-land; supply chain issues meant that Lewis had shipped a set of products but there were still sold units which he had not yet fulfilled due to unexpected overwhelming demand.
Lewis also reveals that he’d underpriced his FORT items when first offering them — units were sold for a median price of $269 when the cost and shipping totaled $250 per unit. The company was operating at a loss, and Lewis’ solution to the problem was to keep selling the product at retail levels to cover his rising costs, a goal he could not meet. Lewis then admits that he’d given a partner a 5% stake in the company in return for his connections with no expected financial payback. He told the backer that he could increase that take to 40% if the company hit $30 million in sales. That causes many of the sharks to reconsider contributing to his business. One by one, they drop away, and Lewis leaves without a deal.