July 17, 2024


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Charlotte custom-fit swimming goggle maker on Shark Tank

A Charlotte company and its custom-fitted swimming goggles are jumping into the “Shark Tank.”

Bo Haaber, Niklas Hedegaard and Rasmus Barfred will pitch THEMAGIC5 swimming goggles at 8 p.m. Friday on ABC’s “Shark Tank.” The reality television show, in its 13th season, gives entrepreneurs a chance to propose why the “sharks” should invest in their company.

THEMAGIC5’s swimming goggles, manufactured on South Boulevard, are custom fit to the contours of the buyer’s face using advanced robot technologies and 3D printing. After purchasing a pair of goggles on the company website, customers use a smart phone app to scan their face, which takes about 13 seconds, Haaber said.

“We’ve been doing something that no one else has done before,” Haaber said.

The made-to-measure goggles are leak-free and made with no suction around the eye, he said.

“It’s fully customized,” Haaber said. “Every goggle that goes out from Charlotte is different.”

Despite the customized fit, the price range — starting at $55 — is similar to other high-end goggles, Haaber and Barfred said.

“So our goggles are not more expensive than other goggles, you just get a custom (fit),” Barfred said.

The company is growing and considering expanding its customized technology in other areas such as gas masks, diving masks, face masks and glasses. So when “Shark Tank” producers approached them in June to apply for the show, they dove in.

“We wanted to get some help from investors on that,” Haaber said. “The rest of the products would be fairly easy with our technology.”

Preparing to meet the sharks

Since starting the company four years ago, most of the THEMAGIC5 investors have been family members and friends. But the Denmark natives said they weren’t nervous leading up to meeting sharks Mark Cuban, Lori Greiner, Robert Herjavec, Kevin O’Leary and Nirav Tolia.

“We were very naive to how big it was,” Barfred said. “Our nerves were a little calmer than if we would have been local and known them.”

They’d prepared for weeks with two producers after being chosen out of 40,000 companies to go on the show. They learned about two weeks ago that their segment will air Friday.

Still, the experience took them by surprise.

“I still remember the look when we looked at each other right before we walked down the aisle and into the tank, we were very nervous,” Barfred said. “We were like ‘Wow, this is big.’ ”

“It’s the most intense thing I’ve ever experienced,” Haaber said.

Without giving any spoilers about the show, Haaber and Barfred said they were surprised by the heated arguments among the sharks and also by their knowledge.

“When we go into the tank, they don’t know anything about the company. We were surprised by how quickly they could digest the type of business we were and the value of the technology that we have,” Barfred said. “It was not about being critical; they really wanted to understand the business.”

About the company

Creation of the custom-fit goggles was born out of “personal frustration.”

When Haaber, a recreational tri-athlete and Iron Man competitor, was on vacation, he’d forgotten his goggles. He purchased several pairs.

“I couldn’t find a single pair that fit me,” Haaber said, “which makes sense because every face is different, but the goggles are all the same.”

Haaber learned that most fellow swimmers, including his nephew Barfred and professional swimmer Hedegaard, all experienced the same problem.

“That was when we thought, OK, we have to be able to use technology to solve that problem,” Haaber said.

Combining their backgrounds in software development, professional swimming and startups, they set out to create made-to-measure swimming goggles.

The trio started a crowdfunding campaign for THEMAGIC5 in 2017.

A year later, the company started out of Haaber’s basement in Charlotte, after his wife’s company transferred her to the U.S., where the competitive sport dominates and makes up half of THEMAGIC5 sales.

“We wanted to be close to our customers in the U.S.,” Haaber said.

Barfred lives in New York City, while Hedegaard remains in Denmark. Hedegaard wasn’t able to present on “Shark Tank” because of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.

Four months ago, THEMAGIC5 moved into 4208 South Blvd. with two robots and has already expanded to seven. The company has about 20 full- and part-time employees.

More than 55,000 THEMAGIC5 goggles have been sold around the world.

“We’re constantly improving our algorithm to make sure they fit better,” Haaber said.

While Haaber and Barfred were tight-lipped about what happened on “Shark Tank,” they said even though the swimming goggles have backing from top athletes like U.S. swimmers Matthews Grever and Zane Grothe and U.S. triathletes Rudy Von Berg, Ben Kanute and Matt Hanson, the custom fit has much broader appeal.

“It does cater to the elite and top swimmers, but it’s the recreation market where we have most of the volume,” Barfred said.

This story was originally published October 28, 2021 1:10 PM.

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Catherine Muccigrosso is the retail business reporter for The Charlotte Observer. An award-winning journalist, she has worked for multiple newspapers and McClatchy for more than a decade.

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