Cary couple pitch invention to ‘Shark Tank’

08/08/2014 12:26 PM

08/08/2014 12:27 PM

Bryson and Melissa Johnson’s love story seems like something out of a movie.

They met at Bryson’s dad’s martial arts school when they were 12, started dating at 14, married at 20 and opened their own taekwondo academy at 23.

It’s their momentum as business partners that may land them on television.

Along with running Johnson’s Tiger-Rock Martial Arts in Cary, the couple has been developing a piece of exercise equipment called Stryker Pro for the past three years.

Last month, the 32-year-olds auditioned for a spot on ABC’s “Shark Tank,” a show where innovators pitch their products to millionaires who consider backing them.

“We’ve seen how martial arts-based fitness can change people’s lives and get them in great shape,” Bryson Johnson said. “I’m really looking for a strategic investor.”

Stryker Pro is the Johnsons’ retort to conventional punching bags. Bryson Johnson says the product is lighter, more portable and more fun than similar products on the market.

“The equipment that exists today is bulky and cumbersome,” he said. “People want to hit stuff, but they don’t want to hurt their hands.”

The Stryker Pro has four adjustable punching pads that are attached to a 6-foot pole. The pole is attached to a base with wheels.

It also has foot holes for sit-ups, a platform for push-ups and channels in the base for resistance bands.

The Johnsons are waiting to hear back from the television network after making their one-minute pitch in Greenville on July 24.

“We got really positive feedback,” Melissa Johnson said.

The Johnsons wouldn’t be the first North Carolina-based entrepreneurs to appear on “Shark Tank.”

Last year, Matt Richmond of Chapel Hill sought $150,000 to expand his Rent A Goat business, which connects goat owners with people who want to clear their land.

In 2009, Kevin Flannery of Sanford sought $1.2 million for WiSpots, his company that seeks to install tablets in hospitals and earn money by selling ads on them.

Neither received support from the sharks, but the exposure helped the Chapel Hill man open 13 Rent A Goat affiliates across the country.

The Johnsons hope to have better luck, but they say they’ll continue with plans to sell the Stryker Pro with or without the sharks.

Bryson Johnson spent too many hours in the garage building and tweaking prototypes to give up without a fight.

“He’s sort of got a little mad-scientist workshop in there,” his wife said.

They’ve touted Stryker Pro at trade shows and martial arts competitions and recently ordered 500 units that will go on sale in October.

“I had a feeling and still do that (Bryson) is gonna do something great,” Melissa Johnson said.

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