ARBOR WEALTH: Mr. Wonderful, disco days, and growing GDP

Margaret McDowell

“Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got …” from “Where Everybody Knows Your Name” as performed by Gary Portnoy

Recently I viewed a proposal by two Oregon college girls who invented a new flavor of peanut butter, witnessed a demonstration by an inventor whose app takes a 360 degree smartphone photo, and enjoyed a presentation by a woman who created a potty training device … for cats.  All in my living room.

Most countries sponsor business development conferences designed to promote more effective ways to grow their domestic economy. In the U.S., our financial symposium is called “Shark Tank.”

Where else could an entrepreneur enjoy the opportunity to sell equity in an enterprise to five potential investors on national television, all of whom are wildly successful entrepreneus. It’s the ultimate proving ground for the creators of “start-ups” looking to expand. No “Shark” will agree to invest in a proposal unless there is a real profit potential, so there is an authenticity to the interactions that does not exist on other such television programs.

There is also a tangible connection between entrepreneurs and “Sharks,” all of whom have been turned down, laughed at and dismissed themselves before gaining financial success. Mark Cuban wasn’t always a wealthy business mogul.  At one time he was a disco dance instructor.

Shark Tank not only extends entrepreneurs the opportunity to publicize their product on television, it offers the chance for them to gain access to much needed capital and valuable business connections. Oftentimes these individuals have hatched and lovingly developed an idea, created a product and marketed it, and achieved sales on a limited basis. Agreeing to hand someone 40 percent of ownership of your business in exchange for a cash injection and access to new relationships is often an agonizing decision. And it’s done on stage, in living color.

What’s the connection to investing? Well, “Shark Tank” style entrepreneurs are the future of the American economy. Successful small businesses hire employees, contribute to GDP and pay taxes. Sometimes IPO’s are executed and these “start-ups” become investable commodities. Only later will they possibly become large enterprises. Many of our most attractive and largest au courant corporations began in a garage, with virtually no funding and only a dream of success. 

That dream used to be called the American Dream. It’s still alive. But it’s a 2014 variation, and it seldom involves being rewarded with a high-paying job out of college, complete with a 401(k) and a pension plan. Sometimes it does, but more than ever these days, folks are creating their own wealth, instead of waiting for it to be handed to them by a company which may or may not be around to offer that gold watch at retirement.

Margaret R. McDowell, ChFC, AIF, a syndicated economic columnist, is the founder of Arbor Wealth Management, LLC, (850-608-6121 —, a “fee-only” registered investment advisory firm located near Sandestin. This column should not be considered personalized investment advice and provides no assurance that any specific strategy or investment will be suitable or profitable for an investor.