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An inside look: Entering the 'Shark Tank'

Saturday - 3/9/2013, 10:40am  ET

Randi Martin, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - If you are facing the sharks, you had better be prepared.

ABC's "Shark Tank" has opened its reality show doors to budding entrepreneurs in hopes of getting funding for their ideas and products.

The shark panel consists of five very wealthy entrepreneurs, including Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, and Barbara Corcoran, a real estate mogul. The "sharks" listen to pitches from future sharks and decide who to invest in.

Rebecca Rescate was one of them. Her product "CitiKitty" was born from a desperate attempt to make her family's 500 square foot apartment livable for two people and a cat.

"As soon as you opened our front door, you knew we had a cat," Rescate says.

To remedy the litter box situation, Rescate toilet trained her 11-year-old cat, Samantha, and developed the product as a result.

She was invited to be on "Shark Tank" for the second season of taping, since the show was just finding its audience. It is so successful now that future entrepreneurs must apply. They are screened and interviewed many times, and they must submit a product video with documentation -- and that is the easy part.

Facing the sharks comes next and Rescate says you need to do your homework.

"That is your responsibility as an entrepreneur before going on the show," Rescate says. "Figure out what the sharks are willing to do and what they can offer you."

After giving a product pitch and going through a brutal line of questioning from money-wise sharks, they decide if they are in or out as an investor in your company. Rescate says if you don't know your business plan and if the numbers don't add up, you will be leaving empty-handed.

If a shark is in, the shark will use his or her own money and business experience to produce, promote and sell your produce until the investment is paid off.

Many budding entrepreneurs see this mentor arrangement as the road to their own riches.

CitiKitty got a shark investment and was successful enough that Rescote was invited back. Her second product was the Hoodie Pillow.

"It's a sweatshirt hood that's attached to a premium grade sweatshirt pillowcase, so it's a pillowcase with a hood attached to it," she explains.

After pitching this to the sharks, Rescate once again left as a winner.

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