Dominican Immigrant Goes From Janitor to Getting Funded On Shark Tank with His Idea

From the Culturetainment Blog

 

 

In a tear-jerking final segment on a recent episode of Shark Tank, Robbie Cabral accepted a $200,000 investment for 15 percent equity of his company from Kevin O'Leary.

 

The emotional moment marked the culmination of Cabral's inspiring journey from a penniless Dominican immigrant student, working janitorial jobs just to scrape by, to  becoming the founder and  CEO of a well-funded startup

Cabral came to L.A. from the Dominican Republic with dreams of being a rock musician. But after a many months of banging on club doors and rejection after rejection, the hard reality of life in the music business went away. His friends packed up and went home, but Cabral decided to stay.

"I love my country, but I just felt like there was really not a lot of opportunity to move forward," he says. "I needed to figure out a way how to stay here and be proactive”

He started looking for work. "I did a lot of crappy jobs. Dishwashing in restaurants, cleaning vomit in hotel rooms, doing people's laundry, cleaning up gym locker rooms," he says. "I had a college and I was working in these jobs.

There were countless days when he felt like quitting, but a voice in his head kept telling him, "This is not the end of your journey. This is going to lead to something else, keep pushing forward, always stay positive," he says. "Even though that was hard, the positive energy really helped me."

Eventually, Cabral was able to save enough money to pay for a management course at UCLA.

Even with his newfound credentials and connections, Cabral couldn't land a decent job. "I just started applying to lots of jobs, and nothing came in, "lots of rejection, again”

A few months later, Cabral began to land some jobs, including a well-paying position at a real estate company. Unfortunately, for reasons he still doesn't entirely understand, he was let go during the Christmas holidays -- two weeks before his baby boy was born. The news was devastating, but again he tried his best and managed to stay positive.

With no job, no prospects and a new baby keeping him up all night, Cabral hit an all-time low. "Part of me felt like I want to go back home. I'm done with this whole American Dream crap," Said Cabral. 

He became depressed and gained 50 pounds, which, strangely, turned out to be a good thing because it led to him joining a gym.

"That's where the whole BenjiLock idea started because I noticed people having issues with their combination, locking their keys inside the locker, getting stuff stolen all the time," Cabral says. "One guy had a Bluetooth lock but couldn't get a Wi-Fi connection. So I thought, what if I designed a simple lock that you can open with your fingerprints, but also with a traditional key?"

After doing research, he discovered there was no product like this in the marketplace, but Cabral had zero tech knowhow or  experience. He persisted and was able to find a local engineer to buy into his vision, and he agreed to build the lock on his off-time.

For three years, Cabral scraped together enough money to keep his dream alive, even though his family and friends told him he needed to get a real job. "That kind of inspired me more," Cabral says. "I was like, I'm just going to take all this in and I’ll be the last one laughing."

 

A friend suggested that Cabral showcase his invention at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, an idea which he initially dismissed. "I wasn't selling," he says. "All I had was a porotype." But realizing he needed to make a big move to jumpstart his business, he decided to go for it.

It was the best decision he ever made.

Crowds gathered around his booth, and he was named a CES 2017 Innovation Award Honoree. In addition, people kept encouraging him to audition for Back in L.A., Cabral was asked to pitch Shark Tank’s producers numerous times. The same guy who couldn't get an employer to even return his calls three years ago was ultimately selected to be one of 50,000 applicants to appear on the show. Shark Tank, which was doing an open casting call at the convention. 

"I'd never even heard of the show," Cabral says. "But I ran over to their booth at the last minute. I was one of the last people on the line." After his audition, he was told, "There's something here. I can't promise you anything, but I'll be in touch," according to Cabral.

Back in L.A., Cabral was asked to pitch Shark Tank’s producers numerous times. Ultimately selected to be one of 50,000 applicants to appear on the show.

After he poured his heart and soul into his pitch, Cabral was faced with a dizzying array of different deal options. Many expected him to team with fellow Dominican-American Alex Rodriguez. Lori Geiner, with her QVC expertise, also seemed like a good fit. But in the end, Cabral went with Mr. Wonderful, Kevin O'Leary.

"I went with my gut, and my gut kept telling me to go with Kevin," he says. "He was asking all the right questions. He just connected with me."

“I have always followed my guy, and its finally paying off”

 

Benjilock is available in Walmart, Home Depot, Lowe’s, Ace, B&H, Amazon and many other outlets

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