Diamond Bar High School alumna Lavanya Jawaharlal fought through the shark tank that is high school, vying for the highest grades and the best SAT scores. Jawaharlal was able to rise above her peers, only to head back into the shark tank – this time on national television.
Jawaharlal and her sister Melissa appeared on the NBC show “Shark Tank” on Oct. 30 to pitch their idea, Stem Center USA, to six of the most acclaimed business investors in America. The sisters started off asking for a grant of $150,000 in return for a 15 percent share of the company, but eventually walked away with $200,000 in return for a 20 percent stake. They reached an agreement with Lori Greiner, a self-made investor and inventor who has created products ranging from gem boxes to sunglasses and everything in between, after being rejected by three sharks, Kevin O’Leary, Robert Herjavec and Mark Cuban, and then rejecting Chris Sacca, who had offered $200,000 for a 25 percent share in the company.
Stem Center USA, the Jawaharlals’ company, seeks to inspire young children to pursue STEM careers by engaging them in a hands-on curriculum. This curriculum utilizes a form of learning called “guided discovery,” which allows students to learn by doing. Students are presented with a variety of situations and must make decisions on what to do in each case; these choices in turn affect future scenarios, similar to a choose-your-own-adventure book.
O’Leary did not see success in the venture and pulled out early, claiming it is too early for an investment. Sacca then asked for more information about the company, to which Jawaharlal replied by explaining the goal of the company was to teach students and girls in particular to pursue their dreams, despite what others may tell them.
“We are huge nerds and we are nerds that want to share that passion with other students, specifically for girls, young girls that get told being nerdy isn’t cool. We want to change that, and that starts from the bottom,” Jawaharlal said on the show.
Afterwards, Herjavec pulled out, as did Cuban, who saw success in the company’s future but didn’t think was the right one for him. Sacca then offered $150,000 for a 25 percent share, which was promptly rejected. Greiner then chimed in and offered $150,000 for 20 percent. Melissa then proposed that both Greiner and Sacca invest, an offer Greiner readily agreed to. However, Sacca rejected and the girls proposed a deal for $200,000 in return for 20 percent equity, which Greiner accepted instantly.
“Our vision, in terms of the business itself, is to have a Stem Center in every city,” Melissa said on the show. “We need assistance in expanding the Center through franchise and we need that capital investment to do the documentation, to take this to the next level Lori gave us an offer with absolutely no hesitation and 200 percent belief in what we do. To work with a female like Lori is a dream.”