SAN CLEMENTE – At a few minutes after 5 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 1, 12-year-old Carson Kropfl logged onto his website, lockerboard.net.
He could hardly believe his eyes. “The website started blowing up,” he said. “It was super cool.”
The reason his website, his Facebook and his Instagram were lighting: the season premier of ABC-TV’s Shark Tank was under way on the East Coast.
Carson and his mother, Carrie Kropfl, were the first guests on the two-hour show that would air in California three hours later.
Within minutes after 5 p.m., international magnate Richard Branson made Carson an investment offer he couldn’t refuse: $65,000 for 20 percent of Carson’s skateboard company.
“I see a young Richard Branson in you,” Branson said. “You’ve got a wonderful story. You are very articulate. Your product itself is great. We’d love you to give it a shot with us.”
When Carson said, “it’s a deal,” he and Branson embraced on the show.
The show was taped in Culver City in June. The Kropfls were sworn to secrecy until it aired Oct. 1.
Surrounded by about 70 friends and supporters at Wahoo’s Fish Taco in San Clemente, Carson and Wahoo’s owner Wing Lam hosted a viewing party.
The audience went wild as Carson and his mother told prospective investors about the Locker Board, a mini skateboard that Carson designed a year ago. On his first day of middle school, entering the sixth grade, he had learned he had a school locker for the first time but his skateboard wouldn’t fit in it.
By trial and error in his back yard, he shaved down a succession of used skateboard decks until he settled on a design he could slip easily into his backpack and locker. The trick was finding just the right shape to make the mini board capable of kick flips and solid performance.
On Shark Tank, Carson rode up on a Locker Board with his skater friend Sierra Downer to make his pitch to celebrity investors. Branson outbid sports magnate Mark Cuban for a deal with the Shorecliffs Middle School student from San Clemente.
Ever the entrepreneur, Carson set up a promotion on his website to coincide with the show’s airing. He is offering Locker Boards decorated with artwork inspired by his experiences on the show.
“They are a limited edition,” he said. “You can only get them for a couple of days.”
Carson sketched out the artwork in his journal and sent it to a graphic artist who refined it into decorative designs for skateboards and t-shirts.
One design is a shark in a tank, with the backdrop of an American flag. The shark’s fin is a British flag, a tribute to Carson’s investor.
Carson designed it as a thank-you card that he sent to Branson, his mother said.
Asked what he will do with the money, Carson said he will look to Branson for advice. “I’m just going to put more back into the company,” he said. “I’m going to meet with him Oct. 14-15 in San Francisco.”
At the Virgin Sport San Francisco festival, Carson plans to join Branson and select CEO’s doing a one-mile run to exemplify the importance of sport and health. He will have a Locker Board booth, showcasing his product and his clothing line.
Carson previously made news in January when he went to New York City, invited to appear on television’s “The Harry Show” with host Harry Connick Jr. While in the city, Carson boldly rode his Locker Board into Trump Tower and offered to send a Locker Board to President Trump’s son Barron. He left a note, scrawled onto a napkin, for the then-president-elect.
In April, Carson received a letter from the president. “I am impressed by your craftsmanship and business spirit,” it said.
His appearance on Shark Tank stemmed from a 2013 Kropfl family vacation at Mammoth. Carson and his parents Carrie and Keith found themselves sharing a hotel elevator with Max Swedlow, an executive producer with “Shark Tank.” Noticing the logo on Swedlow’s sweatshirt, they mentioned Streetubez, a tarp surfing device that Carson and his mom were working on.
“He advised Carson to stick with it and keep growing his business,” Carson’s website says.
As word about Carson’s Locker Board gained traction nationally this year, Swedlow invited the Kropfls to apply for an appearance on Shark Tank.
“It was crazy, it was awesome,” Carson said of the experience. “I was blown away.”
Asked about the offers he had to choose from on the show, Carson said they were all awesome, “but Richard Branson, like, I mean, he’s Richard Branson! He ‘s the best.”
Asked how he felt, watching himself sealing the deal on national TV, Carson said, “It just blows my mind that I made it this far.”