Swimming in the DEAC TANK

By Taylor Borden, Marketing and Communication Intern, Center for Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship


DEAC TANK is a Shark Tank-style competition where student entrepreneurs participating in the Deacon Springboard pitch their ventures to three knowledgeable judges in front of a large audience of other WFU entrepreneurship students in hopes of gaining valuable insight on how to improve their concepts and taking home a monetary prize.

The first annual DEAC TANK went off without a hitch on March 21! It featured six incredible student ventures and pitches, dynamic judges, and even an inspiring keynote speech by Michael and Laura Dweck, the co-founders of Basic Outfitters, a venture recently featured on the hit TV show, Shark Tank!

Tommy Worcester, a WFU senior, emceed the inaugural event. He recently emceed TEDxWakeForestU2017 and runs his own venture, Loopey Laces. He introduced the three judges, or “sharks”: Peter Marsh, a founding partner of Flywheel, Ben King, a seasoned WFU professor, and Steve Lineberger, a consumer retail professional.


After this quick introduction, the five minute pitches began:

Higher Art Galleries Brooke Einbender, Zanny Dow, Hanna Polizzotto

Higher Art Galleries is a dual purpose venture to support student artists and student art departments by providing an online platform that directly sells student originals and student art prints, with proceeds directly benefiting the student and his or her art department.

Pillotect Youssef Albanawi and Moises Castano

Pillotect is a new venture to help the fight against prescription abuse. It is a smart pill bottle that monitors medical intake through the detection of weight fluctuation.

SimpullCork Arthur Willson and Hannah Shows

SimpullCork is an innovative wine opening solution that uses an integrated loop system that allows the easy removal of wine corks without damaging the cork, allowing it to be reinserted in the bottle.

Ellis Bell Sophie Hollis

Ellis Bell is a clothing and design company that seeks to support the practical and modern woman by providing inventive clothing with useful and creative pockets, promoting gender equality even in clothing.

The Portal Pocket Tee Bailey Greenberg

The Portal Pocket Tee is a t-shirt with a decoy pocket that allows cancer patients easy access to their chest ports while receiving chemotherapy infusions.

UpDog Kombucha Lauren Miller and Olivia Wolff
UpDog Kombucha is a kombucha microbrewery. Kombucha is a fermented tea packed with probiotics, enzymes, and acids that support digestive health.


After these six short and impressive pitches took place and the judges began deliberations, Michael and Laura Dweck took the stage to share their story and words of wisdom with the participants and the audience.

The Dwecks developed Basic Outfitters after getting married in 2014. Laura realized there wasn’t nearly enough space to house Michael’s old and vast collection of socks and underwear in their tiny NYC apartment, so she tried to downsize and replenish his “basics” drawer but found it to be difficult, especially considering that one pair of underwear typically costs $28.

Understanding they must not be the only people with this problem, Basic Outfitters, along with their hit feature “Create-A-Drawer,” was born. They are able to provide Tommy Hilfiger quality basics at Hanes prices by “cutting out the wholesale middleman.”

They’ve garnered plenty of national attention, including being featured on Shark Tank. They admitted that their business has grown 1,000% since their Shark Tank appearance and described the experience as “grueling but incredible for us and our business.” They told the audience what they found their key principles to success have been thus far:

  • Smiling is contagious:” There is nothing you can’t achieve if you have the right attitude. Smiling seems to be, at surface level, a silly tip, but people are most likely to help those who are friendly and inviting.
  • When they zig, you zag:” It is important to differentiate yourself from the pack and the best way to do that is to think outside of the box and always go the extra mile.
  • Grit:” “We are willing to do anything to see our company succeed. Sometimes that means getting in the warehouse ourselves and fulfilling orders with handwritten notes from us, the founders, or doing our own PR pitches, sometimes it means having the most miserable week of your life—but it is those small moments that count.”

These tidbits of advice are so helpful and inspiring for our nascent entrepreneurs. Funnily enough, the Dwecks concluded by sharing how inspiring hearing our student pitches were for them, too:

“It’s amazing to see what you are all accomplishing at this age. In college, I feel I was very, very lazy,” Michael admitted. “We were just talking about if we would be willing to invest our own money in any of these and we came to an immediate agreement on every single one.”

The Shark Tank stars wrapped up with an essential insight: “You are at a pinnacle moment in your life where you can do anything.”


1st place $3,000: SimpullCork

“We’re growing a great entrepreneurial ecosystem here and we’re so proud to be a part of it” Arthur Willson

2nd Place, $1,500: UpDog Kombucha

3rd Place, $500: Ellis Bell

Shark Tank Stars’ Choice, $250: Portal Pocket Tee

We are so proud to be fostering and furthering that ecosystem with events like these! We are already excited for our second annual DEAC TANK event to take place next spring.