This past September, Charlie Williams and his business partner Brad Boskovic stood before the Sharks on ABC’s hit program Shark Tank, in hopes of receiving an investment for their printing business DigiWrap. Eleven years earlier, Charlie Williams, a 2006 North High School graduate, never imagined a career in business, let alone the notoriety that goes along with appearing on a primetime television show.
“I had no idea what I wanted to do after high school,” Williams explained. “This certainly wasn’t a blip on the radar.” While Williams looks back fondly on his high school experience at North, what he remembers most are the relationships he had with teachers and classmates. This includes winning the interest of Stephanie Harrington, his high school sweetheart, who he later married.
On May 24th, Williams returned to North High School to share his business knowledge and Shark Tank experience with students in the Entrepreneurship course. Students were excited to receive business advice from Williams and gain insight into his journey of appearing on Shark Tank. “This was an incredible opportunity for North students to learn from a successful young entrepreneur. While students loved hearing about Charlie’s experience on Shark Tank, this was an opportunity for students to make a connection with an entrepreneur who was walking the same hallways only a few years earlier,” said Entrepreneurship teacher, Drew Himes.
Time will only tell if we’ll see more District 99 graduates going toe-toe with Kevin O’Leary, Lori Greiner, or Mark Cuban.
Fast forward four years later and a college degree from Illinois State University, Williams began working for a family-owned printing company in Glendale Heights named Lingraph. It was at Lingraph where he met Boskovic. When the two produced custom tissue paper at the request of one of their customers, they realized they had created a product no one else in their industry was offering. After a few short weeks of offering this product on their website, Yahoo became their first high profile customer. “That was when it started…once we got this order that was when we made this product our priority,” Charlie stated.
After learning about an open casting call for Shark Tank in downtown Chicago, Williams and Boskovic had their sights set on bringing their custom printed products in front of the Sharks. Although, the audition nearly didn’t happen – they didn’t start preparing for the audition until 7:30 p.m. the night before. On June 13, 2016, Williams and Boskovic were among 500 entrepreneurs who auditioned in front of Shark Tank producers in hopes of advancing in the audition process. “It was made known to all of us that few, if any, entrepreneurs would catch the attention of producers,” recalled Williams. Days later the phone call came from show producers informing Williams and Boskovic they’d be moving on to the next round in the process. After a successful video audition, the two were flown out to California in September.
Williams remembers the process of being selected for the show as a whirlwind. “From the time we auditioned until we filmed our episode, it felt as though we had two full time jobs…running our business during the day and completing everything asked of us from Shark Tank in the evening.”
After an hour of filming, DigiWrap accepted an offer from Kevin O’Leary for 20% equity in exchange for $150,000 and royalties on gift wrap and tissue paper sales. When the episode aired in December, Williams gathered with family to watch. “I was happy with the way the episode was edited and how brilliant they made us look,” said Williams. Since the episode aired on national television, DigiWrap experienced a significant increase in sales. “That’s the power of Shark Tank; not only the opportunity to partner with a Shark, but also the exposure your business receives from being on national television,” noted Williams.
By: Mark Mirandola