University of Toledo graduate makes a big splash on national TV

Published: Nov. 14, 2017 at 5:39 PM EST
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Tom Burden had all the sharks circling to get a piece of his product when he appeared on the hit ABC show Shark Tank on Sunday. He is also a member of the Air National Guard's 180th Fighter Wing in Swanton.

Tom is a weapons mechanic on fighter jets, and it's his work with planes that started the idea for his product. He started by building prototypes of the Grypmat at home. Several years later he has has three big-time entrepreneurs helping grow his business. It's all a dream come true for a young man from the small Ohio farming community of Celina.

Tom had a well-delivered pitch for his product, "We've sold 10,000 units, and we've had about $400,000 in sales so far."

Tom's pitch was a well-received, "So how much have you invested? I put in about $40,000 of my own money, and then about $150,000 from grants and business competitions. You are incredible my friend!"

Tom's invention is called the Grypmat It's a non-slip tool tray that was inspired by his work on F-16s at the 180th Fighter Wing. Although the product was initially designed for the aviation industry, it's also moved into the automotive sector and work is underway on a make-up and jewelry line, "It's intimidating going in. I made this product in my basement and then you are pitching to billionaires."

But they all took the bait. In fact, it was a feeding frenzy as all five sharks worked to cut a deal with Tom. In the end he didn't have to settle for one shark, he got three, "You truly don't ever expect that to happen. You don't think what would happen if all the sharks loved me and they fight over me?" That's exactly what happened, "What would you offer for 2-3 sharks. That depends on the sharks!"

Tom says he thinks he could have negotiated better, but there aren't many people who go on the show and get such a big response, "I feel like getting Richard, Mark and Lori is verification that I am supposed to be an inventor. I feel like I am doing what I was put on earth to do."

As his product has gone from its early development stages in his basement to world markets tom has stayed humble, and his goal is to keep creating. Tom also has a little advice for other inventors, "Something I have always told myself when I think I can't do something, I think of the others who can and I realize they are no different than me."

Tom is a judge for the Pitch & Pour event for entrepreneurs at The University of Toledo Thursday night. On a side note, Tom says he entered the Grypmat in the Pitch & Pour event a few years ago. He says he was turned down the first time, but won it the next time around.

If you'd like to learn more about Tom, his product or the Pitch & Pour event, we've posted links.