Brothers Invent Smoke Screen

[pullquote-left]‘Shark Tank’ alums get busy with dry wipes[/pullquote-left]Smelling like cigarettes, Ben Kusin headed to a nearby convenience store. He hoped to find something that would freshen up his clothes before his next business meeting.

“I asked the guy if he had anything that could help me, and he said he didn’t think it had been invented yet,” Ben said.

Now, seven years and a successful stint on ABC’s “Shark Tank” later, the St. Mark’s graduate is the co-founder and CEO of Reviver, reusable dry wipes that eliminate odors left on clothing after trips to the gym or smoke breaks during work.

Joined by brother and Reviver president Eric Kusin, the pair is taking the $150,000 investment from shark and QVC personality Lori Greiner, their line of products, and their entrepreneurial spirit on to the next step.

The Reviver line offers intermediate freshness, much like a breath mint or dry shampoo, to last through the day, with options for pet owners, parents, smokers, and pheromone-infused Spark meant for singles looking to attract a date.

For the brothers, whose product can be found in Petco and Walgreens among other stores, the business is a true family affair.

The duo’s mother, Karleen Kusin, co-owner of JK Chocolates ­— with whom they share an office ­— pushed them to join the show in the first place. After filming a “momtrepreneurs” segment on Katie Couric, featuring a few sharks, she encouraged her sons to apply online.

Months later, out of 45,000 companies who auditioned for the sixth season of Shark Tank, the Kusins brought their product onto the show, at 8 a.m. on the first day of filming, just after the sharks had their first cup of coffee.

Now, Reviver is looking forward, with its next step as a VIP sponsor at SXSW in the Artists Lounge, allowing them to expose their product to new, and famous, clientele.

The brothers like to keep it all in the family. Eric left a job as a buyer at Neiman Marcus to join Ben, who committed full time to Reviver after leaving an interactive production company in Los Angeles. Their father, Gary Kusin, is an entrepreneur in his own right as founder of Babbages, the company that later became GameStop. He offered the $2 million initial investment and now provides advice as needed.

“Eric and I, we’ve been working together since we were born. And to have someone like our father, with such tenure, to give advice — he’s the best in-house advisor,” Ben said.

Both brothers have the same advice for burgeoning entrepreneurs: ask and listen, in all stages of the product.

“Whenever you create a product, it is so important to listen to the customer and really just listen,” Eric said. “It’s easy to think your vision is the right vision, but the journey to the finished product is not a straight line. Listening is essential to getting to the right place quickly.”

Starting, taking the leap to ask, and listening has worked out for the siblings, who have used their father and Lori, among others, to move their product into the limelight.
“‘Shark Tank’ is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. If you can get it, why not?,” Ben said. “Once you’re on, it sets the stage for growth.”

After their October air date, orders rolled in, and in late January, after a rerun, Reviver received great web traffic and more orders, according to Eric.

“We laid it all on the line and were really proud of what we said. It’s been really rewarding and finding Lori as a partner has opened doors that would not have opened otherwise,” Eric said. “But ‘Shark Tank’ was by no means the finish line.”

Imani Chet Lytle

Imani Chet spends most of her time behind the scenes at People Newspapers handling design and marketing tasks, but you can occasionally catch her out and about covering the latest museum openings, musical concerts, and delicious new food menus in the area – and all through her trusty dusty iPhone camera. Catch some of the action on our instagram page: @peoplenewspapers

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