Gary Gagnon s inspiration was a pile of his kids beat-up sneakers.
When taking out the trash at his Ballantyne-area home, Gagnon noticed a heap of them ready for the garbage. A self-proclaimed diligent recycler, he had an inventor s flash of insight: There has to be a better way.
He now hopes his creation, a line of fully recyclable sneakers, will draw the eye of a billionaire investor. On Friday, Gagnon will take his budding company, Remyxx, to Shark Tank, the hit prime-time show on ABC.
It s a sneaker with a purpose, he said.
The show is essentially American Idol for entrepreneurs. Hopefuls pitch their ideas to a panel of self-made millionaires and billionaires, including Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and FUBU fashion line founder Daymond John.
The entrepreneurs try to convince the panel that their idea is worth investing in, which the moguls do with their own money.
In its third season, it consistently ranks near the top in its time slot, drawing 6 million viewers in its last few episodes, according to Nielsen data.
Gagnon, 43, will appear on the show s season finale, showing off shoes that took him nearly three years to create.
It s clear why ABC producers saved a spot for him in the finale. He s a natural showman, with an outsize personality that hits you like a linebacker which he was, at Glassboro State College in New Jersey. After college, he worked as a high school vice principal. He moved to Charlotte in 2001.
His shoe creations, with a narrow fit and colorful patterns, are fashionable in the style of Chuck Taylor or TOMS Shoes. They re made from a blend of chemicals that allow you to throw them, laces and all, into the recycle bin when they re worn out. Gagnon expects them to retail for about $60 to $75 a pair.
Eventually, he hopes to make it easy for consumers to send them back, so he can grind them down and make new ones.
He s got about $30,000 invested in the company so far an expensive hobby, he admits. He works a day job, as a self-employed sales and business consultant.
But his dream is to start a business he can one day run with his two sons: Harris, 10; and Leo, 8.
The show taped in September, so Gagnon knows whether he s got a deal or not. But he s not telling.
In the meantime, he s shown off the idea at trade shows and launched an online campaign on Kickstarter, a crowdfunding site, to fund a new batch of orders.
On Friday night he ll be watching the show with his family at home. Then, if all goes as he hopes, he ll watch the orders come in.
My show, deal or no deal, shark or no shark, will make for good TV, he said.