Dr. Amy Baxter might or might not have found investors among ABC's panel of millionaires on Shark Tank — that's a secret until the show airs — but she said she's certain she wouldn't have been swimming in those deep entrepreneurial waters if it wasn't for growing up in Lexington.
The graduate of Henry Clay High School honed her burgeoning business skills going door to door in the mid 1980s selling tie racks and trivets for Junior Achievement.
"If I hadn't had those outlets, I wouldn't be where I am," she said.
Where is Baxter, exactly? Waiting to see how a once in a lifetime opportunity pans out.
ABC has confirmed that Baxter and Lori Cheek, a Taylorsville native who studied architecture at University of Kentucky, both appear on the Feb. 28 edition of the show where business ideas are evaluated by successful entrepreneurs such as Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and FUBU Clothing founder Daymond John. The competitors are under very strict rules about revealing how their deals went. Shark Tank, Baxter said, helpfully provides you with a coach after your segment is taped to help you learn deflecting phrases such as "I'm also anxious to see how the show turns out."
The penalties, she said, for letting any information slip about whether or not you got a deal are "huge."
But, as Cheek explains, whether someone walks away with a deal or not, if they make it on the air, their product is displayed before a huge television audience.
The two Kentucky natives met by happenstance while waiting to go into the Shark Tank. Baxter, an emergency room pediatrician, is pitching a bee-shaped, vibrating cold pack called Buzzy that helps take the sting out of getting a shot. Cheek is selling what she calls Cheekd.com, which she describes as "online dating but backwards. People exchange flirty cards, like business cards, in the real world then enter an ID number of the site to learn more about each other.
It turns out going into the Shark Tank is no joke. In the waiting room, hardly anyone was talking. Everyone was focused on making the most of what might be a make-or-break chance for products that each contestant had spent years nurturing.
But Cheek said she thought she heard a familiar lilt in Baxter's voice and they began to chat.
"We met that day and we started bonding," said Baxter. "Both of us were just incredibly nervous."
"It was great having a tiny island of friendship in that intimidating atmosphere," she said.
Even getting into the room was "just an insane process," said Cheek.
Baxter had been contacted by the show several times before she felt ready to go before the notoriously tough panel. Cheek had submitted an online application and video and waited months to hear a response.
But the work just begins once you get the call that you will be officially going before the panel.
You have to submit paperwork about your business, patents and partnerships. You need to know the ins and outs of production and marketing and the value of what you are trying to sell.
And you have one shot.
"My heart was literally pounding out of my body when I walked down the hall," into the Shark Tank, said Cheek. And, she said, although the television show features several pitches in the course of an hour an individual pitch can go one for as long as two and a half hours.
"It was a total mental bungee jump," said Cheek.
Baxter will be watching from her current home base in Atlanta. Cheek is throwing a party for hundreds of her closest friends in New York.
But, they said, they will be pulling for each other.