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Life After Shark Tank: Chopstick Art

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EUGENE, Ore. — Shark Tank–it’s an ABC show about making money and making deals.

Most sales pitches promote something new. However, during season one, season one, a Eugene artist dared to bait the sharks with a used product.

Oregonian Bryan Parks first pieced together an idea while on a trip to China.

He wondered, what if all those chopsticks used every day and tossed could be reassembled into something new?

“Before I know it, I had a bunch of chopsticks in front of me, and I am playing with them and sort of started designing stuff,” Parks said.

He made a necklace, a lampshade and a decorative bowl.

KEZI 9 News caught up with Parks in Eugene in 2009, several years after launching his company, Chopstick Art, built on sticks. He took us into his showcase studio.

“My main item are these baskets that fold out like that. It’s green, it’s economical and it’s functional,” he said

And he was making a profit. Imagine his surprise when he got a phone call not for an order, but for Shark Tank.

The show debuted season one in 2009. Producers were scouting contestants, and Parks made the cut.

On the show, Bryan asked for a $100,000 and a 10-percent cut.

“Since I started about five years ago, I’d done half a million in sales,” he told the sharks.

That caught the attention of the sharks, but they didn’t bite.

Parks says he’s okay with the outcome. Business is steady, allowing this global traveler, inspired by a trip to China, to enjoy an extended vacation in South America.

We tracked him down via Skype in Peru. One of the first topics we covered was the recent re-runs.

“I just want everyone to know it’s been four years since I’ve been on the show,” Parks said.

Parks says he saw his appearance on Shark Tank as an opportunity, and he’s not surprised he didn’t get a deal.

“These are multi-billionaires who are more interested in making money and not the environment. Plus, I’m a small business, and I knew there was a really small chance I would get the investment,” Parks said.

Parks also told said that what you see on TV isn’t what is like while making the pitch.

“It made it look like they were really mean to me, but I actually left there feeling really good,” Parks said. “Speaking honestly, I can’t say Shark Tank had a huge impact on my business.”

Parks says Chopstick Art is a niche market.

What has been successful, every year he showcases his art at the New York Trade Show. He sells to museums and art dealers in Canada and the United Kingdom.

Ninety percent of his sales are in the U.S. The majority are on the East Coast. The business practically runs itself, currently managed by his co-partners as he travels.

For anyone considering a business venture, he offers this advice.

“The scary part would be how much work it is to actually start a new business, and I’m glad I didn’t know when this business started how much work it work it would be.”

For now he’s enjoying a new life experience and new cultures. Could it mean a new inspiration?

“When you travel, you never know what’s going to happen you,” Parks said.

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