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Wearable hummingbird feeder wins big on “Shark Tank”

It’s hard not to giggle the first time you see it: someone wearing a bright red adjustable helmet attached to a clear face shield that’s big enough to hold three small hummingbird feeders.

Mark Cuban and the investors on “Shark Tank” certainly had a chuckle when Coloradans John and Joan Creed unveiled their invention, a wearable birdfeeder called the HummViewer, in an episode of the ABC show, which aired Dec. 1. The device lets people feed and observe the tiny birds up close, so close that they can feel the air from their wings on their cheeks.

“When we walked out there, they didn’t know what the product was until we did our pitch. It was hidden under a cloth,” Joan told the Denver Post. So when they pulled off the cloth and revealed the HummViewer, “the sharks all just started laughing.”

But the HummViewer is no joke. Although the sharks loved the product, commenting on its ingenuity, all but one stayed away from the Creed’s proposal – a 10% share of the company in exchange for $75,000 – saying it was “un-investable” or more of a hobby item. But shark Daniel Lubetzky, the founder of KIND snacks and co-founder of Somos Foods, took notice.

Hummingbirds reminded him of his late father, who he calls “my role model and best friend,” because he used to love to watch hummingbirds with Lubetzky’s mother outside their home. And for that reason, he was “in” on the HummViewer — a decision that elicited cheers from the other sharks and some hugs from the Creeds.

“Our chins hit the floor,” Joan said, especially after being rejected by the other sharks. “He had a personal connection to hummingbirds. We knew that’s what we were going to need. It was fate. He said he’d offer us $75,000 for a 30% stake. We took that deal.”

The couple, who live in Loveland, will use the money to help them scale up production of the HummViewer and for sales and marketing efforts. They’ll also get to work with Lubetzky and his firm, Equilibra Ventures, a business incubator that invests in startup companies.

It’s a long way from 2017 when John got the idea for his first feeder, one that was inspired by frequent trips to his family’s cabin in the Western Slope town of Westcliffe, where hummingbirds are frequent and abundant visitors in the summer. Watching them has “been a lifelong passion” for him, Joan explained. But he wanted to figure out a way to see them up close.

The first HummViewer, which he built in the garage, was a hit with the couple’s friends, who joined them at the cabin, so John made a few more. Later that year, the Creeds were featured in a segment on 9News with Steve Staeger and Kyle Clark – and a business was born. Since then, the Creeds have found a manufacturer and sold upward of 600 HummViewers. Each costs $69.95 and comes with three flower feeder tubes, a nectar bulb and cleaning brush.

“We got customers from all over,” Joan said. “People would buy them two or three at a time.”

The pandemic only heightened interest in birdwatching as people sat in their homes, staring out of their windows during social distancing measures. “You don’t need a lot of money or equipment for this hobby, and it can be very calming,” she added.

As for Lubetzky, he said in a statement after the episode aired that “I never cease to be amazed by the ingenuity of Americans. Don’t be fooled by how goofy this helmet looks — Joan and John have come up with a genius solution for experiencing the magic of hummingbirds up close.”

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