Some kids make extra cash running lemonade stands. A 12-year-old Mark Cuban sold trash bags door-to-door. The billionaire serial entrepreneur and Dallas Mavericks owner recently told GQ magazine that a family friend gave him the opportunity, marking his first-ever sales job.
The friend sold Cuban boxes of trash bags for $3, so Cuban could turn around and sell them around the neighborhood at $6 to save money for sneakers.
Cuban said he developed a 14-second pitch for every customer. He’d knock on doors, introduce himself and ask clients if they used garbage bags. Then, he’d give out his phone number and offer to bring over more boxes whenever they called personally.
“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 of my wagon and bring them right down to your house,’” he recalled.
“That was my first business: The world’s first, probably only, garbage bag door-to-door subscription company,” added the panelist on ABC’s “Shark Tank.” The advantage of the brief pitch was explaining the value of his business as quickly as possible — maximizing his 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 the 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 and 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, achieving a billion-dollar valuation last year.