Published: February 15, 2021
Entrepreneurship Major Catches a Shark
In fewer than 10 minutes, entrepreneurship major Shirah Benarde ’24 landed $60,000 and international attention for her company, NightCap, with her appearance on the ABC TV show Shark Tank.
Benarde, and her brother, Florida State University graduate student Michael Benarde, pitched NightCap as a drink-spiking prevention product, which panelist Lori Greiner jumped at in exchange for 25% of their company. The episode aired on Friday, Feb. 5 .
“I love this; I don’t think that I have ever seen a product come to the Shark Tank that resonated to me more deeply in a social mission way, than this. This needs to be in every woman’s hands,” said Greiner as she presented her deal to the sibling duo.
Although Shirah Benarde, of West Palm Beach, FL, admits she was nervous heading into the tank, she didn’t let it affect her pitch to the sharks.
“I walked into the tank with confidence and hoped the sharks would like the product along with the entrepreneurs who presented it to them,” said Benarde. “I was honored to stand in front of the sharks that I have been watching since I was a little kid and am so grateful to have had this opportunity.
NightCap is meant to deter drink spiking by covering the top of a cup, while allowing the user to still drink easily out of the glass. The drink cover is housed inside a pocket in a scrunchie that can be worn on the wrist or in the hair. Users simply pull the drink cover out of the scrunchie pocket, place it over their drink and stick in a straw. The product is machine washable and reusable.
At 16, Benarde was inspired to create NightCap after having a vision of the product in a dream: When she woke up, she immediately started working on making the product come to life.
“I shared the idea with my dad; instead of trying to explain it to him, I used my mom’s pantyhose and a scrunchie from my room to create the first prototype,” said Benarde. “That’s how NightCap was born.”
The sibling duo then started to work on establishing the company. The two raised over $12,000 through an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign and competed and won money from several pitch competitions that allowed them to fund the company. Since 2019, NightCap, which sells for $11.99, has sold over 10,000 units and continues to grow.
At UT, Benarde is part of the Lowth Entrepreneurship Center’s Spartan Accelerator program, which supports entrepreneurial students to formulate successful business plans and investment presentations. Students attend boot camps and are paired with a team of experts to help them reach their goals.
“UT has created a very supportive and motivating environment for me, specifically in the Accelerator program,” said Benarde.
Moving forward, Benarde hopes to have bars, liquor companies, women’s clothing brands and universities customize their logos on NightCaps. She hopes to see it in every college bookstore and many bars and clubs down the road.
“It’s rewarding to be so young and still have an influence on my community and to others who want to pursue their dreams,” said Benarde. “I’m rewarded every day knowing that someone’s life could be saved by a product that was formed in just a dream of mine.”
Story by Mallory Culhane '21, journalism major