Photo above: In 2015, Gloria Hoffman and her mother, Linda Clark, appeared on “Shark Tank,” and secured a partnership with investor Lori Greiner (center in photo above) for $125,000 for a 20 percent stake in the company.

 

One day, several years back, Gloria Hoffman and her mom were chatting on the telephone as they often do. Her mom, Linda Clark, was lamenting about the bit of extra weight she was carrying in her middle. Clark was in her sixties, fairly active, had never set foot in a gym, but was in need of a solution to her problem.

“I wanted something I could do in my living room. It’s against my religion to go to the gym,” joked Clark, from her home in Lamar, Colorado.

After the phone call, the challenge stuck with Hoffman, of Greeley. What could her mom do to strengthen her core? It needed to be something that was low-cost and simple.

Gloria, then a stay-at-home mom, started experimenting on a children’s toy, standing on it, balancing and twisting. With her fitness background, she knew this movement was strengthening her core, plus it was fun. It was January 2013. In less than a month, Gloria and her mom were meeting with a manufacturer to create a prototype of the Simply Fit Board.

In laymen’s terms, the board is made of curved, hard plastic. The user stands on it and twists to build strength and balance, engaging the body’s core and legs. It can also be used for weight training, squats and planks.

The two women met with designers, engineers, a “mold-injection guy,” and other manufacturing experts to make Gloria’s vision come to life. Within months, the mother-daughter team were hawking the Simply Fit Board from a tent at various fairs, festivals and expos throughout Colorado.

They sold thousands. Buyers loved the board’s simplicity.

Later that year, Clark and Hoffman heard the news that hit television show “Shark Tank” was holding auditions in Denver in May 2015. They stood in line for five hours to do a one-minute pitch in front of five casting directors.

That proved to be the women’s biggest hurdle. The women appeared on the November 6, 2015, episode of “Shark Tank,” and secured a partnership with investor Lori Greiner for $125,000 for a 20 percent stake in the company.

 

“Shark Tank” investors trying the Simply Fit Board.

 

“The minute I saw it, I knew it was a hero, and I had to do a deal with Linda and Gloria,” Greiner said.

In seven months, sales increased from $575,000 to $9 million. More than a million Simply Fit Boards were shipped to retail stores for the fourth quarter of 2016, according to Shark Tank. And now, according to Greiner, in nearly three years since airing on “Shark Tank,” the Simply Fit Board has hit more than $160 million in retail sales.

But this wasn’t just beginner’s luck for these two. Twenty-five years ago. Clark, with the help of her family, founded Play Clay, a scented dough for children to sculpt and bake into shapes.

During that time, the family hit a rough spot financially. Clark’s husband worked in the oil industry, which was suffering, and the rig was down for a while.

“I’d been making Play Clay for my kids and I thought, ‘I could sell this.’” So, she did.

 

“A brilliant idea doesn’t guarantee a successful invention. Real magic comes from a brilliant idea combined with willpower, tenacity and a willingness to make mistakes.” —Lori Greiner, American inventor, entrepreneur and television personality

 

Clark recruited women throughout Lamar to make different varieties of the clay in their kitchens. Crews of the ladies rolled and packaged it. Hoffman and her siblings sold Play Clay at county fairs, first in Colorado, and then out of state.

“That’s how I learned many valuable skills,” Hoffman said. “At those fairs I learned how to sell, how to speak to people and how to handle rejection.”

Play Clay is still being produced and is sold by Nasco, which primarily sells to schools and other institutions.

“I’ve always been a dreamer,” Clark said. “You just have to follow through. Have confidence in your ideas and make it happen.”

“People tend to give up before they ever start,” Hoffman said. “You just got to go for it.”

Each woman is celebrating success in her own way. Clark is building her dream home in Lamar. Hoffman is spending quality time with her sons, watching the boys compete in athletics in the Windsor area. She bought a home and a camper and is spending leisure time in places like Horsetooth Reservoir and the Estes Park area.

“We’ve been very blessed,” Clark said. “It’s taken faith and hard work, but it’s all been worth it.” 

 

Freelance writer Michelle Ancell teaches journalism at Colorado State University. To comment on this article, send an email to letters@nocostyle.com.