When Yair Reiner got up in front of the “sharks,” all the nervousness left him. “Up until I got in there, I was nervous,” he said. “It was a little like an out-of-body experience for me.”
“I don’t know how many hundreds of times I’d practiced my pitch,” said 48-year old Reiner, who lives in Park Slope. His family probably has a good idea, because when they gathered to watch his appearance on the show last Sunday night, his daughter could recite her dad’s pitch in perfect sync with the TV.
Luckily, Reiner’s time with the Sharks went swimmingly. Multiple investors made offers on his product, but Lori Greiner, the “Queen of QVC,” offered him the golden ticket: $100,000 for a 10% stake in the company—his original ask. As exciting as it was getting on the show, it’s been a long, winding journey to his success as a kitchen invention entrepreneur.
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Originally born in Israel, Reiner studied English and Comparative Literature at UCLA—a world away from inventing kitchen gadgets. He moved to New York in 1998 to work in publishing, bouncing around as an editor before working as a producer for the Peabody award-winning Yiddish Radio Project.
Eventually, Reiner made his way to business school, graduating from NYU in 2004. He worked at Oppenheimer & Co. as a stock analyst, rising through the ranks before he was hired away by GE Capital. But it wasn’t a good fit, he said, and after the company was acquired, Yair saw the writing on the wall. He started thinking about an idea he’d had for some time: the Frywall.
“I was increasingly obsessed,” he said. “I never would have left a healthy paycheck for it, but I decided when the time came, I wasn’t going to look for a new job.”
So, he poured his time into solving what he calls “a really common kitchen problem.”
The impetus for the invention came after Reiner’s children visited their Aunt in France, where she prepared them fried duck. Back in the States, his kids asked him to fry up his own version of the dish. He did, and it caused a mess of grease splatter—the wall, the stovetop, the toaster. The next week, when they asked again, he created his first Frywall—a collar of aluminum foil that found worked surprisingly well!
Reiner did some research on patents, which he said was “a little intimidating… there’s been about 150 years of splatter prevention innovation.”
After ordering up some mix-at-home silicon and creating a jig to mold it around, Reiner has a working prototype—which still sits proudly in his kitchen at home. Despite being “ugly and super heavy,” it’s a reminder of where it all started.
“Dozens of similar products hadn’t gotten traction, other than splatter screens,” said Reiner, so he put together a Kickstarter campaign to get the word out. More than 300 backers helped him raise $16,443 for the project. Launching in September 2016 in conjunction with cooking website The Grommet, the product sold out almost immediately.
“After that, it was off to the races,” Reiner said. He appeared on the Today Show, winning the Next Big Thing competition in April 2017 and getting the word out about his invention. The Frywall has since been on QVC and featured on curated cookware site Food52.
Now, appearing on Shark Tank, he had the opportunity to show his work off to a television audience in the millions—and get an infusion of cash to help him grow his business. Are there new inventions in the future for Reiner?
“There are new products I’ve been thinking about,” he said. “But it’s important not to get distracted. I don’t want to dilute focus.”
While he perfects and promotes his flagship product, it looks like everything else is on the back burner.