A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Doug Schultz, a Campbell County grad, and his business partner to pitch their life vest on Shark Tank

Hometown man, Doug Schultz, 38, now of Coconut Creek, FL, will appear on the show with his business partner Justin Rietema to pitch the Sharks on the Bottoms Up, a dual-purpose life vest that can be inverted and worn like a pair of shorts, and the Scuttlebutt, a saddle configuration floatation aid that also can be used as in-water lounge chair or kayak seat. 

Schultz grew up in Camp Springs graduating from Campbell County High School in 1997 and earning a degree in Landscape Architecture from  the University of Kentucky in 2002 before moving to Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Doug Schultz and Justin Rietema

“We are boaters at heart, and after watersports like tubing, water skiing and wakeboading, we would often anchor up our boat and float around in the water with some drinks,” Schultz said. “Most of the guys in our group would just put on a life vest upside down and use that as a saddle for floating, but as you can imagine, life vests are not designed for that. There was foam in all the wrong places, which made for a very uncomfortable experience.”
How They Got Their Start

Rietema and Schultz are landscape architects and they watched as multiple layoffs sent their friends and colleagues away several years ago during the economic bust, so in anticipation of a similar fate they founded H3O Sports in 2011 with the hopes to one day be self-employed, and began working on their Human Bobber prototypes.
“We began with a denim cutout prototype with foam blocks duct taped into place,” Schultz said, “but we knew our wearable floats had to be panelized and flexible for comfort, so big blocky boam would not work and the big foam blocks had to go. From there we set out to perfect our designs and eventually, we began manufacturing and selling the Bottoms Up and the Scuttlebutt in 2012.”  
Today, Schultz and Rietema are still employed full time as landscape architects, finding the time to grow their business at night and on weekends.
“Our local wings place is going to start charging us rent for holding all our meetings at their high tops,” said Schultz, who is a father of three boys under five. Rietema is expecting his first child in November.
A pivotal milestone in the growth of their business came in 2016, when the Bottoms Up received U.S. Coast Guard approval as a type III flotation aid suitable for rescues in calm waters.
“We knew from day one that we needed USCG approval to succeed,” Schultz said. “The process took years, and we had many naysayers who told us we would never get it approved, but we proved them all wrong.”
The duo next set their sights on Shark Tank.
The Shark Tank Experience

“We originally applied for Shark Tank online and made it to the video round. We submitted video interviews and product samples but never heard back, so when they held open auditions in Miami, we figured we might as well give it one more shot,” Schultz said.
Schultz remembers more than 4,000 people showing up for that audition.
He added, “When we walked in, the producer came up to us and said, ‘Hey, I recognize those products. We would wear them around our office for laughs, but then I sent them to my friends in Maine who have a lake house and they absolutely loved them.’ Then the producer took a picture with us to send to his friends in Maine. Needless to say, they passed us straight through to the next round.”
When Schultz and Rietema finally got the email that they were scheduled to film the show in Los Angeles in just two weeks’ time, they had a hard time believing it.
“It’s such a surreal experience,” Schultz said. “When we were there, time stood still.”
Schultz added, “We’ve been watching the show for years and before we went in, we decided that instead of targeting one investor in particular, we wanted to be open to any and all of them since each Shark brings a different approach and set of skills to the table.”
While these two entrepreneurs can’t reveal the outcome of their time in the tank, they have no regrets about their experience and are planning to host a watch party Sunday night to celebrate the milestone.

“Our goal has always been to provide consumers with multi-use floats and life vests that make their time on the water more enjoyable,” Schultz said. “It’s a simple concept that we deliver on through fun and creative products.”

The show will air on Sunday at 9 p.m.

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