As far back as he can remember, John Pinto wanted to be a businessman.
“I remember telling my parents at a young age I wanted to be a businessman and wear a suit,” said the 2005 Desert Vista High alumnus whose parents, Dr. Peter Pinto and Dr. Amy Puls, still live in Ahwatukee even though he makes his home in Los Angeles now with his dentist-wife, Chelsea.
“I don’t know,” he replied when asked how it was a kid dreams of being a businessman of all things. “My grandfather was an entrepreneur who built a garbage hauling business. My parents are entrepreneurs (in an Ahwatukee-based alternative medicine practice). My sister has a skin care business. I guess it’s in my blood.”
And at 8 p.m. Sunday on ABC Channel 15’s “Shark Tank,” the world will know if any of the five titans of industry who listen to contestants’ pitches for investments smelled that blood and put down hard cash on his unique foray into the world of business that he dubbed Boom Boom Naturals, which makes and sells flavored nasal inhalers.
Though he already knows the outcome but is sworn to secrecy until the nationally televised show airs, there may be a fortuitous omen in the fact that the guest shark is none other than Charles Barkley, a star in the sport he loved to play both in high school and at Emory University in Atlanta until several injuries took him off the court for good.
It didn’t matter all that much in the long run, though. He met his wife there and after earning a degree in business, set off for LA, where he helped a guy named Sean Kelly start and build a business called Snack Nation.
It sells healthy snacks, and first started doing so through vending machines that found their way into high schools across the country and now ships them in bulk orders to offices and businesses throughout the nation that are tired of potato chips and candy for mid-day breaks.
Even then, Pinto seemed marked for success: Kelly hired him as his first employee, and he returned that faith by helping him build the firm into one that now has 150 workers.
But a year and a half ago, Pinto got an idea. He had gone to Thailand and discovered a cultural phenomenon. Just about everyone he saw was prone to pull out a menthol or herbal inhaler for a quick pick-me-up. “These inhalers are everywhere,” Pinto said.
Thai people have been using this type of traditional medicine – called “ya dom” for thousands of years. It’s an herbal medicine made of aromatic oils that offers the same benefits of aromatherapy even when you’re walking down the street.
The strong smell of these nasal inhalers covers up nasty city smells, masks pollution and, of course, clears up nasal passages. But they also revive the senses and give a feeling of heightened energy.
Pinto started thinking maybe this was his chance to be a businessman in his own right, an entrepreneur just like so many other members of his family.
“I thought, ‘This is a cool product,’” he recalled. “Everyone there uses them to feel better. When we started looking at it, I decided we have to make it more fun. The ones in Thailand have a medicinal smell and I wanted to have flavors.”
So, one of Boom Boom’s co-founders began working with scientists and health professionals to work out a formula for the inhalers that could come in flavors, or stimulating scents.
His line now includes peppermint, eucalyptus, orange peel and a number of other flavors, and the product itself is a blend of natural ingredients aimed at providing a healthy alternative to sugar-laden or caffeinated pick-me-ups.
Retailing online for $7.95 apiece or three for $19.95, each inhaler lasts about 30 days before it loses its intensity and most of its beneficial effects. Because Boom Boom makes no medical claims for this product, it does not require Food and Drug Administration review.
But it does offer an alternative to popping an energy drink, soda or coffee. And it’s convenient, since it fits in a pocket and is easily handled while at work, driving or at outdoor activities.
Pinto visits the factory he lined up to make the inhalers because he’s deeply involved in product development – he’s working on a hemp-based product as well as one that offers a more relaxing effect. He also oversees marketing – sometimes with the help of his wife when she’s not at work in her pediatric dentistry practice.
“She has a keen sense of smell and is good at marketing herself,” Pinto explained.
About a year ago, they got the idea to make a play for “Shark Tank.”
They put a video together – and got no response.
Then early this year, he learned that “Shark Tank” had an open-casting call at a nearby casino.
That started them being reviewed by a parade of producers until June, when they were summoned to appear before all the show producers and a number of other network honchos.
On the show, Pinto and his wife will try to convince at least one shark to invest. If more than one gets interested, a bidding war will ensue, driving up the overall investment.
Regardless of how he fared on the show, Pinto and Boom Boom Naturals are in for the long haul.
He has something of an edge in the United States, since such a product as the one he develops and sells doesn’t have much competition. As he explained, “The market is wide open here.”
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