WEST LOOP — Steve Gadlin no longer wants to draw a cat for you.
The local weirdo who charmed a $25,000 investment out of billionaire Mark Cuban on “Shark Tank” with a song-and-dance sales pitch for his strange online business, IWantToDrawACatForYou.com, has stopped accepting custom cat cartoon orders.
“The project has run its course,” Gadlin said.
The cat-drawing venture started as a social experiment that posed the question, “Can I make stick-figure cats, the ultimate widgets, and create a market for them on an e-commerce site?”
And, thanks to his "Shark Tank" appearance and Cuban’s startup cash, the stick-figure business really took off.
“When I started, I had no clue how to run a business and navigate taxes and payroll. I learned how to do that. We had a lot of fun, but it was costly to run and such a time-suck and stressor,” Gadlin said. “I was very happy to fill a bunch of orders for the last time.”
Gadlin said Cuban, who owns 33 percent of the cat-drawing company, probably isn’t happy with the decision.
“He’s a minority investor and has fewer votes than I do,” Gadlin said. “I’m not sure he’s delighted about it, but that’s fine. I don’t mind.”
Four years — and 18,794 custom cartoons later — Gadlin inked his final cat drawing for his wife, Becky, who may or may not be excited about the project’s end.
“She’d like to think this means more time for family, but she knows that hasn’t been the case with other projects that died,” Gadlin said. “It just means there’s another project that will take up a lot of time.”
Indeed, the decision to stop spending hours drawing cat cartoons — sold for $9.95 each — had everything to do with Gadlin’s successful Kickstarter campaign that raised $20,000 to produce a second season of his bizarre talent showcase, “Steve Gadlin’s Star Makers,” which aired on WCIU-TV and earned a small but exuberant cult following.
“Drawing cats is very time-consuming, and since we had the successful Kickstarter for 'Starmakers,' I want to spend all my time on that,” he said. “We’ve had some good meetings [set up] with Game Show Network and truTV. And I don’t want to have to slow down because I’ve got 100 stick-figure cats to draw.”
Next week, Gadlin plans to attend the National Association of Television Program Executives meeting in Miami in hopes of finding a distribution partner for the 26-episode season of "Starmakers," billed as “Featuring: Tomorrow’s stars of Hollywood and/or Broadway.”
Gadlin says he’s hoping that life after I Want To Draw A Cat For You will be an exciting adventure.
“It’s a little terrifying because I’m burning the best bridge that I ever had. Something that gave me instant recognition,” he said. “Who knows what will happen now that I’ve really killed it, but I’ll never know until I try.”
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