SUGAR GROVE – Kevin Ullery and Stan Krozel know what it's like to mingle with sharks – metaphorical sharks, that is.
The Sugar Grove residents got a chance in September to pitch their company Fun Time Express to a group of investors on ABC's Friday primetime program "Shark Tank."
Watching themselves get a deal with QVC-TV personality Lori Greiner and entrepreneur Kevin O'Leary on the April 11 broadcast was a surreal moment, they said, noting they are fans of the show.
The process to appear on "Shark Tank" began last spring, when Krozel submitted an email to the show without Ullery's knowledge, the couple of 19 years said.
Although they have other professional pursuits – including a real estate business – they were seeking an investment in Fun Time Express, a provider of trackless train rides in malls.
They pursued that business venture after hitting a rough period when the real estate market crashed, they said. Their first station opened in 2011 in Rockford's Cherryvale Mall. Now, they have eight locations in five states – Illinois, Ohio, Florida, Louisiana and Michigan.
The prospect of pitching to the sharks – who also include Mark Cuban, Robert Herjavec and Daymond John – was daunting, they said.
"We were scared," Ullery said, describing it as "easily the most intense experience of my life."
But once they were in front of the investors, he said, they soon realized the sharks were just people – "just very, very rich people."
Ullery said it helped that he and Krozel, a licensed funeral director, have experience in performing and public speaking.
"We put our professional game faces on and went out there and performed," Ullery said.
They sought $125,000 for 20 percent equity of their company from the sharks, who were quick to dismiss the company as a worthy investment.
"It's tough to grow this," said Cuban, the first to say no.
Even O'Leary had initial doubts.
"I like to think big," he said. "It's not bad. It's just small."
Greiner, however, was willing to make an offer.
"It's like a feel-good, nice business to have," she said.
Ullery agreed with her, recalling his initial reaction to Krozel's proposal for Fun Time Express.
"There was such a level of joy associated with it," Ullery said on the show.
The offer Krozel and Ullery accepted from Greiner and O'Leary essentially was a $125,000 loan. The sharks will receive 20 percent equity in the company after the debt is repaid.
Krozel and Ullery said the deal still is in the due diligence process.
Ullery said the once-in-a-life-time experience is his proudest moment as a couple since he and Krozel started the business together and both applied their skills to make the "Shark Tank" opportunity happen.
On the Web
To watch Sugar Grove residents Stan Krozel and Kevin Ullery on the April 11 episode of ABC's "Shark Tank," visit www.abc.go.com. It is also available On Demand.