Nevada City man to appear on TV show ‘Shark Tank’
Who: Schuyler Ellers. Lord von Schmitt men’s clothes
What: ‘Shark Tank’ reality TV show
Where: KXTV Channel 10 and http://www.abc.com
When: 8 p.m. Friday
On Friday, Schuyler Ellers of Nevada City jumps into the deep end of the popular TV show “Shark Tank.”
Schuyler (pronounced SKY-ler) Ellers will ask the “Shark Tank” investors to fund his plan to take his exotic men’s clothing company, Lord von Schmitt, to the next level. He makes bold and beautiful attire out of crocheted, Afghan blankets and throws he finds in thrift stores.
Actually, the show was recorded last September in Los Angeles, but Ellers is constrained by a strict non-disclosure agreement with ABC Television not to reveal the outcome of the show before it airs locally at 8 p.m. Friday on KXTV Channel 10 in Sacramento. It will also be broadcast online.
Although he was careful not to say how he did on the show, Ellers emphasized that “I had a wonderful, positive experience pitching my crazy little business to some of the greatest entrepreneurs of our time.”
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The “Shark Tank” is aptly named. The five, self-made millionaires in the “Shark Tank” can, and will, shred a flimsy business plan — and the people presenting it. On the other hand, one or more of the sharks can offer to take a bite of the action for hundreds of thousands of dollars and a percentage.
“The sharks have to meet your asking price,” Ellers explained, but they can negotiate the percentage. Not all applicants get offers, and not all applicants accept offers, he said.
“‘Shark Tank’ is for people who are passionate about what they do,” Ellers said at his rustic, secluded studio in Nevada City. “You’re presenting that thing you’ve been working on for so long.”
Ellers reported he and five models all wore his one-of-a-kind designs when they entered the treacherous waters of the “Shark Tank.”
“What are the odds?” asked Richard Ellers, Schuyler Ellers’ father. A Nevada City attorney, the senior Ellers was a consultant to his son’s “Shark Tank” pitch.
Answering his own question, Richard Ellers said in an email: “45,000 apply each year. They allow 1% to make the pitch. Of those, they only pick a handful to actually go in the tank. Less than half of those that are filmed before the sharks actually are broadcast.”
He added, “(Lord von Schmitt) is not a business per se, but rather an art form of taking antique fabrics and making a fun and colorful fashion statement.”
Indeed, the influential culture blog http://www.BoredPanda.com quoted Ellers: “Afghan blankets are original pieces of folk art, hand-made by artisans across America since the 1960s and well before. With scissors and a sewing machine, I transform vintage crochets into wearable sculpture.”
Ellers, 42, made it on “Shark Tank” by sheer determination. “When I found out about this, I said, I gotta do this. Blinders on. Nothing else mattered.”
Ellers’ longtime friend Scott Zellerbach noted, “Schuyler’s creative spirit is quite a force to be reckoned with.”
“Of course,” the elder Ellers said. “He’s my son.”
Works of art
To say the Lord von Schmitt clothing line is a bold fashion statement would be an understatement.
From men’s underwear, shorts, chaps and vests to full-length onesies and tailcoats, each colorful garment from Lord von Schmitt is a unique work of art.
Ellers acquires handmade Afghans at great bargains in thrift shops, often buying in bulk. “They’re the kind of Afghans your granny made,” he said. Ellers started Lord von Schmitt in 2010, and “nothing much happened” for the first five years. Then in 2015, BoredPanda reviewed his custom-made shorts. Lord von Schmitt went viral, and Ellers has had a full-time job ever since.
“He has been featured on the front page of the business section of the New York Times with his picture,” Ellers’ father said. He was also featured in Esquire magazine and on the TV shows E!, Fox News, and Bill Maher. The Union profiled his business in an August 2017 Meet Your Merchant story.
A few years ago, Ellers was on the TV show “Good Day Sacramento.” He persuaded his hosts to try on his clothes. “It was hilarious,” he recalled.
Aida “DeeDee” Brownell has been Ellers’ seamstress and business assistant for the last six years. She also related a hilarious incident of her own. Having cut and sewn more than 500 custom shorts, she said the most bizarre order she ever received was from a bride who wanted shorts for her groom, the groomsmen and a baby.
The shorts were to be worn under their kilts.
Brownell was quick to point out, despite the markedly alternative style of the Lord von Schmitt clothing line, “I’m 61. I’m not some hippie chick Schuyler hired.” She explained she’s a professional seamstress with her own home-based business.
“DeeDee’s done an amazing job of helping me,” Ellers said. “She’s wonderful.”
One might think cutting up a crocheted blanket would cause it to unravel, but Ellers said his sewing technique is a “trade secret.”
Brownell was equally coy. “Let’s just say we’ve developed a particular stitch on a certain sewing machine.”
As Ellers’ business has grown, so has his reputation as an artist. Three years ago, his top-of-the-line garments were selling for $300. Now, he can get up $2,500. “I just sold a pair of underwear for $800,” he grinned.
Although he declined to drop names, he said some “interesting and influential people” from all over the world have purchased his apparel. He stated his work sells well in the international LGBTQ community.
“We have repeat customers from Australia to Germany to Canada,” Brownell agreed.
“They’re very big at Burning Man,” Ellers added, sadly noting that he’ll lose sales this year because the famous counterculture art festival in the Nevada desert has been canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Still, regardless of how he does on “Shark Tank,” he said he expects the national TV exposure to be good for his strictly online business.
“It’s a kick,” Ellers concluded. “It’s a counterpoint to this serious time. If the show makes you smile, I’m happy.”
Tom Durkin is a staff writer with The Union.
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