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'Shark Tank' winners: How we launched a music start-up that's brought in $2.9 million

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How 2 musicians built a $2.9 million business and got a 'Shark Tank' deal

New Yorkers Ellen Atout, 28, and Omayya Atout, 33, are both passionate about music and songwriting. To pay the bills, Omayya worked as an engineer on track restoration at Penn Station, and Ellen as a barista, and to keep music in their lives, they started an electro-pop band on the side and began booking gigs.

Two performances in, the pandemic sent everyone into lockdown.

While stuck at home, unable to perform, they came up with the idea to write custom songs for people on the internet. Less than 48 hours later, the website for their idea, Songlorious, went live.

Today, the company has brought in $2.9 million dollar in revenue, the Atouts have snared a deal on "Shark Tank" — and they have been able to make music their full-time job.

From idea to the launch of Songlorious in 48 hours

"I was always into music," says Ellen. "I grew up as a kid thinking, 'I'm gonna be in a band and be a famous musician.'" Searching for bandmates online in 2019, she met Omayya, who had been producing music for the previous seven years. "We fell in love very quickly," she says.

Ellen and Omayya Atout
Ellen and Omayya Atout

The couple's electro-pop band was just hitting its stride at the start of 2020. "We finally had our band down, we had some music, and that's exactly when the pandemic hit," says Omayya.

Omayya continued to work but Ellen's coffee shop closed temporarily. Unable to perform and facing an uncertain future, they thought about other ways they could use their musical talents.

They remembered a song they wrote for their friend's wedding, and that idea snowballed into creating a custom song website. "There was about 48 hours between when we had the idea and when we launched the website," Ellen says.

Funding the start-up with savings and credit cards

When Songlorious launched in June 2020, the Atouts' original plan was to write music themselves for anyone looking for custom songs. They used e-commerce site Shopify as an ordering platform.

Customers can pick genres, products and additional customizable options for their original song. Depending on what options are picked from the "Create My Song" page, song prices range from $95 to $630. The standard turnaround for a song is six days, Songlorious says, and customers can pay an additional $80 to have it in three days.

"It's not too expensive to get, you know, a Shopify website up and rolling," Omayya says. "The expensive part is, you know, getting the word out about it."

Using their savings and credit cards, the couple purchased more than $10,000 worth of digital media ads on social media sites like Facebook and Instagram, to run in the site's first weeks.

"We started getting a return fairly quickly," says Omayya.

Only four days after launching their site and buying these digital ads, Songlorious had its first order. And just two weeks after their launch, the couple had enough business to warrant hiring artists to create custom songs.

Ellen and Omayya Atout
Ellen and Omayya Atout

"During the holidays, we had so many orders, even with 80 musicians, we couldn't handle the amount of orders," Omayya says. "We actually had to shut off our advertisement."

Despite that early success, they kept their day jobs until they felt that the company was on solid footing. Omayya recalls working until 2 or 3 a.m. on Songlorious after putting in a full day of work at the railroad.

In August 2020, they both quit their jobs to run Songlorious full time.

Securing a 4-'Shark' deal on 'Shark Tank'

Ellen and Omayya decided to apply to the ABC show "Shark Tank" in February 2021. At that point, they had reached $1 million dollars in revenue from digital ads alone. 

"Where better to get investors in [than] 'Shark Tank'?" Omayya says. "Some of the top investors in the world are there."

"There's a lot of pressure when you're in the tank," he says.

SHARK TANK - 1302 Peter Jones, global business tycoon and original Dragon from BBCs Dragons Den (the U.K. version of Shark Tank), brings his expertise from across the pond into the Tank in an all-new episode. First into the Tank are entrepreneurs from Chattanooga, Tennessee, who think their gift of music is sure to make their dreams come true when they introduce their one-of-a-kind custom song service to the Sharks. Entrepreneurs from Sacramento, California, pitch their helpful work-from-home product that increases productivity, boosts confidence and decreases interruptions. A proper sibling duo from Austin, Texas, present their convenient and healthy meal service that does not require refrigeration, mailed directly to your door while siblings from Seabrook, New Hampshire, hope to hook the Sharks with their apparel company focused on helping clean the worlds oceans on Shark Tank, airing FRIDAY, OCT. 15 (8:00-9:01 p.m. EDT), on ABC. (Christopher Willard/ABC via Getty Images) ELLEN HODGES, OMAYYA ATOUT
Christopher Willard | Disney General Entertainment Content | Getty Images

Although the couple spent months honing their pitch before appearance, which aired in October 2021, Omayya says the Sharks were quick to spot blood. "I get the feeling you're not businesspeople," guest Shark Peter Jones of British sister show "Dragon's Den" told them.

Omayya recalls Jones telling them, "'You're a musician and you're looking to professionalize the operation.' We're like, 'That's exactly right.'"

Four of the five Sharks — Mark Cuban, Daymond John, Kevin O'Leary, and Jones — ultimately offered $500,000 for a 40% stake in the company. After a quick attempt to counter, the Atouts accepted.

"You've got four people who touch every base," Cuban told them during the episode. "That is a home run."

'We've built a community of artists'

"Being on a show once isn't going to change your life forever," says Omayya, and adds that the key to more success is "making the right moves and right decisions moving forward."

Still, with the Sharks on board, the Atouts are excited for new opportunities. Ellen hopes to expand their current roster of musicians and start making songs in languages other than English.

"We've built a community of artists, and we talk to them every day," says Omayya. "Sometimes we have a call with all of them, and then we'll just tell each other like, 'How amazing is this that we're like talking to all these such talented musicians?'"

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