Local startup Handy Hats auditions for Shark Tank

Dani Ruffolo, founder of Handy Hats, auditioned last week for the next season of Shark Tank.

Handy Hats, founded in fall 2016, is a hat with a patented inner pocket to hold keys, cash, credit cards, an ID or chapstick. Dani pitched the idea as part of an entrepreneurship class during her sophomore year at University of Dayton.

Currently, she’s seeking marketing dollars and connections to large sportswear companies with the goal of licensing her patent.

Last week, she traveled to Nashville, TN for a shot at pitching her product on the national stage.

The lines were long, with some people camping out to get their 60 seconds with the show’s directors, Dani described.

The Nashville open call is one of a handful of open calls happening across the country this spring as Shark Tank searches for entrepreneurs to pitch during Season 11.

Dani will find out by mid-April if she made the cut to pitch to the Sharks — but she won’t be allowed to tell us if she did. If her pitch makes the show, it will air sometime between October 2019 and April 2020.

“I’ve done my pitch several times, and there’s always self-reflection after about what I’d change or could do better, but I think I did extremely well this time,” she said. “My fingers are crossed that I hear back. I’d be super excited.”

If you missed her Early Risers pitch in February, you can see her pitch locally on Saturday at University of Dayton’s Flyer Formation. You can also keep up with her on Instagram.

“If you have an idea and believe in it — do it,” she said. “I don’t know if this (trip) will do anything, but take the chance, do a little extra work, go for it, explore the options.”

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