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Emerson Alumna Gets in “Shark Tank” with Play Mat Company

Elizabeth (Alpert) Granados ’01 has taken her idea for attractive play mats from a living room in the New York City suburbs to a Culver City sound stage.

Granados and her company, Little Nomad, will appear on ABC’s Shark Tank on Friday, February 3, 9:00 pm ET.

“To say it was nerve-wracking is an understatement,” Granados said.

Little Nomad creates and sells tasteful floor mats in subdued colors, intended for babies and young children to roll around on, but useful too for yoga. It launched in May 2016 with a $100,000 Kickstarter campaign, and now Granados is looking for more backing from the “sharks”—the business titans who sit in judgment of the entrepreneurs who come calling.

Or at least she was last fall, when the show was actually filmed. She didn’t find out the segment would air until about two weeks ago, and of course, she can’t disclose how it turned out.

She would say, “It’s an incredible opportunity and one you want to maximize.” Granados also said the pressure in the tank was extra intense for her, because she had her then-14-month-old daughter, Taliah, with her.

No spoilers on how Taliah did, either.

“You’ll see,” she said. (A teaser provided by the network reveals that “a mom from West Hartford, Connecticut” changes educational software magnate Kevin O'Leary's nickname to “Uncle Wonderful” and asks him to hold her toddler during the pitch.)

Granados first got the idea for Little Nomad a few years ago, while visiting her best friend who had just become a mom. The friend had recently bought a beautiful new home in the ‘burbs, every room magazine-worthy—except the living room, which was covered in garish foam mats.

“I was like, ‘Dude, what are you doing with your décor here? It looks like a daycare center.’ She said, ‘That’s all there is!’” Granados said.

She thought then there might be a market for attractive play mats, but she was trying to get pregnant and busy with her job, so she filed it away.

After her daughter was born, Granados decided she would go for it. She quit her day job (which she created) bringing photo booths into retailers such as Urban Outfitters and Forever 21, and launched the Kickstarter campaign.

Her goal was $68,000. She hit it in three days.

Before launching, Granados had embarked on a social media campaign, Photoshopping her designs onto pictures of “ugly” play mats and sharing on moms’ groups. In one day, 300 mothers signed up to be notified when the mats were available, and it was then that she knew she was onto something.

“That’s what lit the fire inside of me to keep going,” she said.

The process to get on Shark Tank involves tons of applications and video pitches, she said. Once she was selected, Granados, who said she’s a huge fan of the show and has seen nearly every episode, immediately started reading all the sharks’ books.

“[Shark Tank] forced me to accelerate my own understanding of parts of my business that I wouldn’t necessarily [immediately get],” she said. “I would say it was like going to business school in just a few short months.”

Granados credits the Marketing Communication program at Emerson, and specifically faculty member Doug Quintal, with preparing her for entrepreneurship and the high-stakes pressure of the tank.

Her senior year, Granados was part of a team that pitched an advertising campaign for a car manufacturer at the American Advertising Federation. She said that was the closest thing she had done to appearing on Shark Tank.

“I’m a huge fan of Emerson,” she said. “There’s no better place to get in there and do it yourself as if you’re in the real world.”

Granados said after a few years in Connecticut, she and her company are moving back to Boston this summer. And she would “definitely be interested” in recruiting Emerson interns.

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