From ‘Shark Tank’ to Target — St. Louis invention goes nationwide
Akeem Shannon got emotional when he recently walked into the Target in Brentwood. It was a dream come true to see his invention — Flipstik — alongside retail mainstays like Samsung products.
“This has been 3½ years in the making to get to this point,” explained Shannon, the founder and CEO of Flipstik. “And, when you see it, you think about this multibillion-dollar organization; they're selling all these major brands that have been around for 100 years.”
Shannon’s path to getting into more than 300 Target stores nationwide started in 2017. That’s when he launched Flipstik, a company that sells the device that adheres to the back of a phone and allows users to stick it on any flat surface or use it as a kickstand.
After conducting a crowdfunding campaign and selling Flipstik in local malls, Shannon was dealt a setback in 2020, when the pandemic brought the business to a screeching halt. But in late 2020, Shannon got the opportunity to pitch Flipstik on ABC’s hit show “Shark Tank.”
He made a deal on the show with investor Lori Greiner, who’s known as the “Queen of QVC.” Then, the company was valued at $400,000. After a recent round of fundraising, the company is now valued at $5 million.
Shannon credits the St. Louis community for helping him get to this point. In 2020, Shannon was a $50,000 Arch Grants recipient. Last year, he was one of several business owners accepted into the University of Missouri-St. Louis’ DEI Accelerator.
The connections Shannon made through UMSL’s DEI Accelerator helped facilitate the introduction with Target. But, making that deal brought on other challenges.
Flipstik faced difficulties due to supply chain issues plaguing businesses around the globe. “It was a challenge, but we were able to find a brand-new factory, and that allowed us to really fulfill the order for Target,” Shannon explained on St. Louis on the Air. “So it has been a little bit difficult, but we've stepped up to the challenge.”
Shannon also credits the demand for his product to the rise in predominantly younger people who create content on social media apps that use video — Instagram, TikTok and YouTube.
“Everyone's realizing people want to make content in the simplest way possible, which is with their phone and in-app editing, and nothing else,” he said.
The future looks bright for Flipstik. This summer, the product will be in AT&T stores and Pilot Flying J travel centers across the country.
As for Shannon, who lives in downtown St. Louis, his appearance on “Shark Tank” has translated into mini-celebrity status.
“Every once in a while, I walk down the street at a stoplight and someone rolls down their window and says, ‘Hey, you’re that guy, you’re the sticky guy.’
“It always takes me aback a little bit,” Shannon said.
“St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Emily Woodbury, Kayla Drake, Danny Wicentowski and Alex Heuer. Jane Mather-Glass is our production assistant. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.