Viewers might have scoffed when Andrew Bentley didn’t get a deal on the Oct. 29 edition of ABC’s Shark Tank. After all, can’t a stay-at-home dad get a break? His company Father Figure tries to do just that by selling paternity clothes and accessories.
“When I was with my son everyday during paternity leave, and I’d look around for burp bags and diaper bags, I saw that they were clearly designed by women for women,” Bentley told Technical.ly DC. “So, essentially, brands and products weren’t speaking my language and I felt devalued as an involved parent.”
The company’s $128 denim shirt is softer than a baby’s behind, with muslin cotton patches in those places where dads carry their kids the most, and a loop on the hip to store bandana-style burping rags.
Bentley left his job trying to bridge the digital divide with the Google Fiber Community Impact Team in New York City to raise his now-two-year-old son, Booker. The native of Madison, Wisc., started work at Google straight out of Northwestern University, where he met and later married his wife Elizabeth, an attorney with the federal judiciary.
“At Google, I had three months of paternity leave that I had used and exhausted,” Bentley said. “For me, everything aligned. The team that I was helping to build had grown a lot, and I felt they were in a good position without me. I just left. I quit. I fell in love with being a dad and I wanted to be with my son.”
Bentley found himself wearing shirts that were too rough, and using products, he felt, that did not cater to men. He started thinking about it from a user perspective, about clothing and accessories with a masculine edge, and launched Father Figure in Oct. 2016. This was about the same time that he and his family moved to Capitol Hill.
Then, in June, he was a guest on Shark Tank.
— Daymond John (@TheSharkDaymond) October 30, 2017
“I didn’t get a deal,” Bentley said. “It was close. [Spanx founder] Sarah Blakely, who was the guest shark on my episode, she was really close on giving me a deal. She looked down at her notebook and looked up like she was going to give me an offer. She conferred with Mark Cuban, and I don’t know what was said, and she said no.”
The Shark Tank appearance has helped business, and afterward, Bentley raised $30,500 on Kickstarter. His products range from $12 for a water bottle to $128 for a denim shirt with all the trimmings. He’s even got a prototype for a new swaddle.
“We work to strengthen the loving bond between fathers and their children,” Bentley said. “My vision for the company is to build a lifestyle brand for fathers.”