Odor-proof undies get sales boost from ‘Shark Tank’
By LORETTA SWORD at THE PUEBLO CHIEFTAIN
In fact, Buck and Arlene Weimer’s business – underwear for people with extreme flatulence – received a huge boost from their appearance last Sunday on ABC-TV’s “Shark Tank.”
Each week the show pits six entrepreneurs and inventors against each other before a panel of real-life, self-made millionaires and billionaires who also started small.
The winner each week receives money for startup and marketing costs.
The show’s producers invited the Weimers to apply in June. They were accepted after completing an exhaustive check into their business and financial histories.
All of the judges agreed they’d never come across a product like Under-Ease, custom-made underwear for people whose digestive problems cause extremely smelly flatulence.
And a couple of the judges admitted they were tempted to vote for the unusual product, which Weimer invented as an answer to his wife’s years-long struggle with flatulence related to Crohn’s disease.
“They loved us. They really did,” Weimer said. “They told us we should get in the business of happy marriages – which of course, we are – but they didn’t know that.”
Both of the Weimers are longtime psychotherapists. She maintains a private practice and Weimer, although retired, often fills in at Parkview Medical Center’s employee assistance program.
Last Sunday’s winning contestant makes personalized nutrition bars.
Arlene Weimer said one judge, FUBU clothing magnate Daymond John, “was very interested in our project. He started his business in his basement” and mortgaged his house for funding.
“He said, ‘I may live to regret this, but I’m going to have to say no,’ ” Arlene recalled. “He said he just wasn’t sure how he’d market our product.”
The couple take orders online and fill them through a mom-and-pop custom sewing business in Denver.
“Nine out of 10 people thought it was a joke in the beginning, and it’s still a problem of product recognition, along with name recognition,” Buck Weimer said.
Despite not winning, Arlene Weimer said orders for Under-Ease and a newly upgraded line of protective underwear have “gone through the roof” since the show aired. “Being seen by 6 million viewers is advertising we could never afford,” she said.
One of the viewers, a gastroenterologist, called afterward to explore investment options, Arlene Weimer said. “We’re negotiating with him. He has access to a large list of doctors who don’t know about Under-Ease, and that’s a good place to start,” she said.
In the meantime, they’re riding a wave of publicity like that experienced after humorist Dave Barry mentioned Under-Ease in a column about unique Christmas gifts for those who have everything.
They also have scurried to meet order surges after various other statewide and national media interviews and appearances, including one on Howard Stern’s talk show.
Even if the business never makes them rich – “which of course, we wouldn’t mind,” Buck says – the Weimers have visited many cities and met hundreds of people while introducing their product at specialized trade shows, and to TV and radio listeners.
Buck was among 10 other researchers, inventors and scientists to receive the 2001 Ig Nobel Prize from Harvard University. The prize honors people whose achievements or inventions celebrate the unusual, imaginative and goofy elements of science, medicine and technology.
“It’s been quite an adventure,” Arlene said. “And the main point is that we’re offering something that helps people. There are so many people out there who feel like they can’t get on an airplane to go somewhere. Some people can’t even go to the grocery store. Once people realize how well these work, their anxiety levels go down, too. And the less anxiety you have, the less flatulence you produce.”