Eric Corti hopes to turn an entrepreneurial dream into a real company on tonight’s episode of “Shark Tank” (8 p.m. ABC).
The Mason inventor is one of 52 entrepreneurs selected from 24,000 applicants nationwide to make a pitch to a panel of five wealthy investors for financial backing and mentoring to help fund his Wine Balloon creation.
The Wine Balloon uses a rubber latex balloon to create an airtight seal in opened bottles of wine. The product reduces the oxidation of red wine, which prolongs its shelf life by an addition three to four days, said Corti.
Simply re-corking the bottle traps air inside the bottle, causing the taste to sour, he explained.
“Our product stands the test of time. The consumer can literally see from the outside that it is sealed, and taste the difference once it hits the palette,” he said.
Corti, who works in construction management, says he keeps a spiral notebook handy while traveling for business to jot down his invention ideas. Most of those ideas never make it pass his toughest critic, wife Lisa.
“Ninety-nine-point-nine percent of the time she says, ‘That’s stupid,’ until this one,” said Corti with a laugh. “This one was worth spending some of our saved money on and seeing where it would go.”
Corti’s toughest critic is also his muse — he invented the product in response to Lisa’s frustration with limited shelf lives of opened bottles of red wine.
Both red wine connoisseurs — the couple enjoy a glass nightly — the Cortis grew frustrated with rubber stoppers and corks they say didn’t preserve the wine beyond several days.
“I was tired of throwing away half bottles of red wine all the time,” said Corti. “I started to think, you need to not have a half bottle of air in there. What could you do to seal the wine right at the level of the wine?”
Corti dismantled a blood pressure cuff and experimented with different balloon sizes before finding a combination that worked. He had a prototype built and tested it out on Lisa.
“I put one in the bottle and traveled for two to three days and offered my wife a glass of wine,” he said. “She liked it. Nothing had ever lasted for three days in house past open and I thought, ‘Aha.’”
The product, which retails for $22, has been available online for just over a year at www.wineballoon.com. Corti hopes his appearance on “Shark Tank” will give him the financial support to take his product to the next level.
The episode airs at 8 p.m. Friday with entrepreneur/investors Mark Cuban (owner of the NBA Champion Dallas Mavericks), technology inventor and millionaire Robert Herjavec, fashion and branding expert Daymond John (founder of FUBU clothes), venture capitalist Kevin O’Leary and QVC personality Lori Greiner.
If Corti’s pitch is convincing, the panel of “sharks” are ready to fight each other for a piece of it.
“We’re hoping that Wine Balloon will help a lot of people who really love wine,” said Corti. “There’s got to be a way where you don’t feel bad about opening that good bottle.”
UPDATE: Eric Corti successfully pitched his wine-preserving device to investors Lori Greiner and Mark Cuban for a cool $400,000.