The Washington Post

Washington companies on national TV

A number of Washington area businesses have appeared on national television with varying degrees of success. Here, a look at a few local companies that have hit the small screen. — Abha Bhattarai

Autograph Collection by Marriott

Armed with a modest budget and the task of introducing a new Marriott brand to consumers, Amanda Altree began looking for unexpected ways to drum up publicity.

Enter “The Pitch,” a show on AMC that follows advertising firms as they compete to create a marketing campaign for a given company. Autograph Collection, a group of upscale independent hotels backed by Marriott, appeared on the show’s first season in June 2012 following the season finale of “Mad Men.”

“It was an unprecedented opportunity for exposure,” said Altree, senior director of marketing for Autograph Collection. “We never would have had a media budget that would’ve allowed to even advertise during ‘Mad Men,’ frankly.”

But first Altree had to convince Marriott executives that the show was a good idea.

“Reality TV, when you talk to a company of [Marriott’s] size, tends to sends shivers up their back,” Altree said. “You’re doing something a little un­or­tho­dox.”

The Bethesda-based hotel giant decided to give it a shot. The resulting demand, Altree said, was overwhelming.

“During the show, we had such an influx of hits that our Web site shut down for a few moments,” Altree said. “We really didn’t expect that much interest.”

College Hunks Hauling Junk

This homegrown company has more than a dozen television appearances under its belt.

In addition to “Shark Tank” and “The Pitch,” College Hunk’s founders have appeared on Bravo’s “Millionaire Matchmaker,” A&E’s “Fix This House” and HGTV’s “House Hunters.” College Hunk franchisees are also regularly featured on TLC’s “Hoarders: Buried Alive” and Bravo’s “Below Deck.”

“We like to joke that we’ve appeared on more reality shows that the Kardashians,” co-founder Nick Friedman said.

But, he said, that was always the goal.

“We wanted to become a national brand from the very beginning,” Friedman said. “We realized early on that there was a lot of opportunity in TV.”

The pair appeared on the very first episode of “Shark Tank” in August 2009 where they turned down a $250,000 offer from investor Robert Herjavec.

“It had an interesting impact on our business — both positive and negative,” Friedman said. “It created dialogue and intrigue around our brand.”

A few months later, the two went on “Millionaire Matchmaker” looking for love — and a chance to plug their business. Omar Soliman raised eyebrows when he took his date along on a junk-hauling mission.

Georgetown Cupcake

Owning a small business isn’t always glamorous and that, Sophie LaMontagne says, is what she wants viewers to see on TLC’s “D.C. Cupcakes.”

The show follows LaMontagne and her sister, the founders of Georgetown Cupcake, as they deal with the ups and downs of owning a bakery.

“When you become an entrepreneur, you want things to be easy,” LaMontagne said. “But life becomes chaotic. Things do not go right every day, and we want people to know that it’s okay if things are rocky sometimes.”

The show, which debuted in 2010, has resonated with budding entrepreneurs throughout the world, she said. Viewers from Australia, China and Brazil often stop by the bakery when they’re in town, and children routinely send their own business plans to the shop’s owners.

“A lot of people write to us and say the show helped them take that leap to starting their own business,” LaMontagne said. “We had no idea that so many people had the same dream as us.”

Abha Bhattarai is a business reporter for The Washington Post. She has previously written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Reuters and the St. Petersburg Times.
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