Kelley alumnus to debut ticketless coat check system on ABC’s reality show, ‘Shark Tank’


Kelley School of Business alumnus Derek Pacque promotes his company, CoatChex, which he started while a student at IU. Pacque will compete against other entrepreneurs in this season of the ABC show "Shark Tank," which premieres Friday. Buy Photos

“Shark Tank” is a reality show that brings promising entrepreneurs before the “Sharks,” successful and often well-known business owners, inventors and entrepreneurs.

Those who “enter the tank” must make their pitch and convince the sharks to grant them the funding necessary to “make their dreams a reality,” according to a press release about the episode.

Pacqué applied to be on “Shark Tank” on a whim.

“I was a big fan of the show, so when I saw a tweet that said they were casting, I was like ‘Oh, this is interesting. Let me see what I have to do to be on the show,’” Pacqué said.

His short application described how his original coat checking idea made him $50,000 in the first two months of business. He and one of the sharks, Mark Cuban, are both graduates from IU.

He was competing against 30,000 people, so he said he didn’t expect anything to come of it.

“I was at a trade show in Chicago and I get a call from Santa Monica on my business phone. ‘Why is someone in Santa Monica calling about a coat checking business, isn’t it always like, 70 degrees there?’” Pacqué said.

The call informed him that he had made it past the first round.

After spending time perfecting his application, he eventually received a call asking him to come out to Santa Monica for final auditions in front of the producers. He was chosen to go before the sharks and appear in the season premiere episode in

“I didn’t encourage or discourage him from making an application,” Gerry Hays, Pacqué’s former entrepreneurial finance professor, said in an email.  “Obviously, it was exciting when he was accepted, but my focus was making sure the business had the right message to the viewers in order to maximize the benefit of showcasing the business to 7 million viewers.”

Hays is also founder of Slane Capital Partners,   an early-stage venture investment firm that invested in CoatChex.Pacqué’s first appearance on national TV and the public introduction of CoatChex’s ticketless system are Friday.

The CoatChex keg is a portable coat checking system that can be fit into the back of a truck and is transported, set up and taken down at different venues. The system takes a picture of clients and their belongings so attendants have a record that is easy to use, Pacqué said.

It also obtains name and phone number information in case someone forgets his or her coat.

“That was a big problem,” Pacqué said. “People would often leave their coats.”
The original idea for CoatChex was created in Bloomington on a cold night when Pacqué, who had to walk home from the bars at 4 a.m., discovered his coat was nowhere to be found.

When he first went out to bars, he realized they had no place to store coats, so he had to carry it with him on those nights. For a while, finding hiding spots for his coat sufficed, he said. But then one night, his coat was stolen from his hiding place inside one of the fake presents behind a Christmas tree.

“This is ridiculous,” Pacqué said. “Bars need a coat check.”

He then realized he could make a business out of it.

“I started talking to venue owners, which was the hardest part,” Pacqué said. “It was kind of a weird question to ask. ‘Why don’t you have a coat check?’”

Most venue owners said coat checking had too many liabilities, was too chaotic and required space they simply didn’t have, Pacqué said.
“So what if I do it for you?” Pacqué said.

With Hays’ venture capital class,  Pacqué pitched the idea while enrolled in the Spine Sweat Competition, an capstone course that ends in presenting an entrepreneurial idea before a panel.

“You get mostly thumbs-up, you pass and they can invest in you,” Pacqué said. “You get thumbs-down, you fail and can’t graduate.”

Pacqué asked Hays to be his academic sponsor for his coat checking idea for the class. Hays accepted.

“I was impressed with the fact that he wasn’t coming to me with ‘Here’s what I want to do’...but with ‘Here’s what I’m doing,’” Hays said.

After passing Spine Sweat, Pacqué found the experience helped him during “Shark Tank” since it was essentially the same thing.

Even so, the glamour of television production was new to him, Pacqué said.
“It was sort of unreal,” he said. “I’ve watched pretty much every episode that they filmed. You get to the studio and you’re like ‘Whoa, this is exactly what’s on TV.’ Hundred of cameras pointing at you. Lights everywhere.”

After graduating from IU in 2011, Pacqué continued to pursue coat checking as a business. Both he and Hays realized that a ticketless coat checking service that could be operated by anyone could be an industry-changing idea, Hays said.

“Derek called and was contemplating taking a consulting job back in DC,” Hays said. “I’m not a sales guy but I do remember putting out all the stops to convince Derek to turn down the job and pursue CoatChex in Indianapolis. He had multiple questions I couldn’t answer...I just said ‘Trust me, we’ll get you everything you need to make this work.’” 

Now, CoatChex operates out of Broad Ripple and services the Indianapolis area, with plans to expand to other cities such as Chicago.

“Derek is a unique individual,” Hays said. “He’s definitely a performer, but underneath that layer, he’s smart, incredibly hardworking and genuine.  I don’t think Derek charmed the producers of ‘Shark Tank’ ... he was just being himself.”


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