Some kids make extra cash running lemonade stands. Mark Cuban sold trash bags door-to-door when he was 12 years old. The billionaire businessman and owner of the Dallas Mavericks recently told GQ magazine that he got his first sales job through a family friend.
Cuban’s friend sold him boxes of trash bags for $3 each, so Cuban could sell them around the neighborhood for $6 each and save up for sneakers.
Cuban said that for each customer, he made a 14-second pitch. He would knock on people’s doors, say hello, and ask if they used garbage bags. Then he’d give them his phone number and say that if they called, he’d bring more boxes over.
“It went like this: ‘Hi, my name is Mark. Do you use garbage bags? I’ve got a great deal for you, and every time you need garbage bags, you have to call me, and I’ll put them back in my wagon and bring them right down to your house,’” he recalled.
“That was my first business: The world’s first, and probably only, garbage bag door-to-door subscription company,” added the panelist on ABC’s “Shark Tank.” The short pitch allowed him to explain the value of his company as quickly as possible, maximizing both his own and his clients’ time.
Cuban carried that lesson with him as he got older, selling stamps and coins throughout his teenage years. Eventually, his focus shifted from accruing money to finding opportunities that would help him “control my own time,” he said.
He still appears to value time highly. In 2020, Cuban told the “Raising the Bar” podcast that he receives about 1,000 emailed pitches per day and judges them by only their first few sentences. “I’ll read the first paragraph or two, and if it’s something that catches my attention, is interesting, and I think is forward-thinking, then I will just start peppering them with questions,” he said.
In 2017, Cuban spoke at South By Southwest about the impact a single sentence can have. He recalled receiving a cold email in 2012 from Adam Lyons, the then-25-year-old founder of insurance comparison start-up The Zebra. The email was an investment pitch, and its short subject line, “Wanna disrupt the insurance industry?” got Cuban’s attention.
Cuban said he responded within 25 minutes, and the two emailed back and forth for weeks. Cuban went on to invest in The Zebra, which has since raised $256.5 million over nine funding rounds, a company spokesperson tells CNBC Make It. According to a financial research database, the company is now a unicorn, having achieved a billion-dollar valuation last year.