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Orem entrepreneur brings jewelry to national audience

By Harrison Epstein - | Jan 28, 2022

Harrison Epstein, Daily Herald

Tristen Ikaikamaikai’ikaneokalani Persons sits in his workspace in Vineyard on Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022.

When Orem’s Tristen Ikaikamaikai’ikaneokalani Persons walked into the room, he wasn’t sure what to expect.

Persons has spent two years working and hoping to get on ABC’s “Shark Tank,” and on Jan. 21, the work came full circle. In the premiere of his television appearance, he came face-to-face with the five investors, worth over $6 billion combined, and asked for $250,000 in exchange for 5% of his self-named company.

“It’s the weirdest thing because you’ve thought of every scenario. Every question, you have an answer to. I had flash cards of all my numbers, I thought I was so ready,” he said.

Persons first auditioned to be on the show in January 2020 and filmed his segment in July 2021. While sometimes questioning if it would ever happen, eventually, he was able to share his passion with the country and the world.

While the 23-year-old entrepreneur has now made a name for himself, his Orem upbringing is part of who he is — as well as the 25-cent spoons he found from thrift stores.

Courtesy Tanner Jackson via Tristen Ikaikamaikai’ikaneokalani Persons

Tristen Ikaikamaikai’ikaneokalani Persons, surrounded by friends and family, celebrates during his "Shark Tank" watch party in Lehi on Friday, Jan. 21, 2022.

“When I was, like, 12, I saw a family friend with a spoon ring, thought it was so cool, told my dad about it. We took a spoon from my mom’s drawer and went into the garage and used some tools — beat that thing into a ring,” Persons said. “I wore those all through junior high and high school. Friends would, like, know me for them.”

In high school, he was filming weddings to make extra money, and using that money to go on trips and experience new places. After graduating from Timpanogos High School — “THS, the best” – he saw a comment on Instagram asking where he got his rings.

Thinking he could get a couple of extra bucks from selling them, Persons put a set on his website. It sold out in the first day.

“I think I was lucky in that I had my back against the wall. If it didn’t go well, I was right back where I started,” he said. “When your back’s against the wall, it forces you to do things that you probably wouldn’t do otherwise.”

Since then, it’s been a whirlwind of designing, creating and selling rings. The designs, though, all come from different places. Some are representative of journeys and adventures Persons has had, and others are from different points in his life.

Harrison Epstein, Daily Herald

Tristen Ikaikamaikai’ikaneokalani Persons poses with his favorite piece, the crying ring, in his workspace in Vineyard on Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022.

When Persons was 17, his father had a heart attack. While his dad was in the hospital, Persons would spend hours at the hospital and would start crying after leaving. That cathartic release led to the design of the Crying Ring, one of the staples in his collection.

The Core Collection, Persons expects, will continue to “pop off” in the near future and that demand will go even higher for future drops.

“What I think people love about it is that not everyone has it. It feels like a game trying to get one, and when they get one they feel like they won. So I don’t want to take that away because it has been hard to build that.”

In addition to the story of his father in the hospital, Persons, while choking back tears, told the “sharks” his mother was diagnosed with cancer. To this day, she is one of his biggest supporters.

The private audience of business titans resonated with his honesty, emotion and humor throughout the segment while asking difficult questions about the business — ones Persons was more than ready to answer.

Harrison Epstein, Daily Herald

A box of rings from Tristen Ikaikamaikai’ikaneokalani Persons sit in his workspace in Vineyard on Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022.

The first offer he received was from Kevin O’Leary, offering $250,000 for half of the company. After hearing it for the first time, the cameras switched to a stunned Persons.

“When Kevin threw that 50% at me, I was like, ‘This is not going how I thought it was going to go. How do I turn this around?'” he said.

It took an additional offer from Barbara Corcoran of $250,000 for 20% of the company for O’Leary to adjust his offer to $250,000 for 15% — one Persons accepted after Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban dropped out of the bidding.

“When I walked in there, I wanted Mark (Cuban) for sure. I’ve heard he was a great investor. He obviously has the cool factor, he knows the young crowd,” Persons said. “I was still stoked on Kevin at the end of the day.”

While the two sides are still working through all the details of their partnership, Persons is appreciative of the work with O’Leary and his team.

As the episode ended, and Tristen’s 12 televised minutes under the sharks’ inquisition were over, the investors jeered one another, with O’Leary saying, “Barbara, don’t be a sore loser. I’ll send you a ring.”

He mentioned having 70,000 followers on Instagram when his segment was filmed. As of Friday, he had 97,000. In the day after airing, the online shop doubled its subscription list for emails and almost doubled for texts.

He also hopes that the increased publicity from the show leads to new collaborations in the future, including one dream collab.

“Kim Kardashian, for sure. Her and Emma Grede who do Skims,” Persons said. “I don’t know how it would work but I would love to, in some way, shape or form collab with a Kardashian.”

On the day of the “Shark Tank” premiere, about 340 people gathered to watch and support Persons at The Rooftop Lehi. In addition to friends and family were members of the local business community, from CEOs to influencers.

As much as Persons’ designs are informed by experiences around the world, being in Orem and having his business in Vineyard means the world to him.

“I love traveling and I’d love to live somewhere else at some point in my life, but for me, being by family is huge,” he said. “To be able to be surrounded by my friends and family who I’ve known forever … to me that’s what life’s about.”

Upcoming drops, the Core Collection and clothing apparel can be found on his website, tristenikaika.com.


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