Rockford couple hope to knock socks off celebrity judges on ‘Shark Tank’

Tracie and Glen Burress will pitch their sockTABs product on the hit ABC show Friday

ROCKFORD — A Rockford couple will swim with celebrity tycoons on the ABC hit show “Shark Tank” on Friday while making a sales pitch that could take their business to the next level.

Tracie and Glen Burress have turned their solution to a vexing laundry problem into an entrepreneurial adventure. In June 2014, the husband-and-wife team won the $5,000 prize for the Stateline FastPitch Competition for local entrepreneurs with sockTABs, a product that’s similar in size to a cuff link and keeps socks together from the hamper to the washer to the dryer so that each one of your socks never loses its “sole” mate.

They flew to Los Angeles in June and taped an episode of “Shark Tank” in hopes of obtaining the financing needed to take sockTABs to the big time. The show has aspiring entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to a panel of accomplished businesspeople in hopes of winning an investment.

“We’re not allowed to talk about what happens on the episode until after it airs,” Tracie Burress said. “All I can say is that the show is called ‘Shark Tank’ for a reason.”

The Burresses have engaged a California company to manufacture their product, which already has a foot in the door at several local retailers. SockTABs are available in a variety of colors and sold in packs of 24 tabs for $9.99 at socktabs.com and at Crimson Ridge, 735 N. Perryville Road;Porch, 3065 N. Perryville Road; b jones Boutique, 1655 N. Alpine Road; and Tom Harmer Sporting Goods, 6550 E. Riverside Blvd.

Socks play more than a minor role in the city’s history. In 1873, Rockford businessman John Nelson revolutionized the way socks were made when he invented and patented a parallel row knitting machine capable of making a seamless sock. Years later, the beloved sock monkey doll was made from the company’s popular red-heeled socks.

The Burresses developed sockTABs with the help of Northern Illinois University’s EIGERlab, the Rockford-based business incubator at the NIU-Rockford Education Center, 8500 E. State St., where individuals involved in startups and existing businesses develop products and commercialize ideas and have access to design engineering and rapid prototyping services.

Anywhere from 100 to 200 people engage the EIGERlab every year to develop a business plan for their product, manufacture a prototype, finesse a marketing plan or seek advice on how to commercialize their entrepreneurial idea, said marketing coordinator Sherry Pritz.

“People come to EIGERlab from all over the Rockford area and from Wisconsin and Chicago to get help with their business ideas,” Pritz said. “We’re very excited for Tracie and Glen, no matter what happens on the show. Because just the exposure to millions of people who watch Shark Tank — how do you beat that?” Click here for the complete article and photos.

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