Elgin's Emmy Award-winning 'Shark Tank' producer
Before entrepreneurs pitch their products on ABC's "Shark Tank," they work with producer Heather Dreiling.
Dreiling, 33, who grew up in Elgin, is an Emmy Award-winning producer on the show and just started her fourth season doing what she calls the best and most fun job she's ever had.
"I've done cop shows, dance shows, home makeover shows," said Dreiling, who now lives in Los Angeles. "(This) job is cool, because it changes all the time. But it's the most rewarding to see these companies doing well."
Dreiling helps the company owners work on their pitches to the investors, known as the "sharks." She might suggest props, clothing, or emphasis on certain facets of the business.
"Ultimately, it's up to them. It's their business. So we can suggest things which they may or may not do," she said.
When a prospect does well in front of the sharks, Dreiling often travels to the company's hometown to produce a segment she calls "home packages," featuring footage of the owner's back story and company.
One of the home packages she did recently was for Sugar Grove-based Fun Time Express, a mall kids train company that last year landed a deal with shark Lori Greiner, from the shopping channel QVC.
Dreiling, a graduate of Larkin High School, always knew she wanted to move to California and work in television. Problem was, she'd never been to California before and didn't know anyone out there.
After earning a communications degree from the University in Iowa in 2003, she packed up her car and drove out there anyway.
Dreiling started at the very bottom, waiting tables and eventually getting a job through a college friend as a production assistant and a receptionist at a production company. At these entry-level jobs, Dreiling worked hard to learn as much as possible.
"I just kept working my butt off and working my way up, because I knew that's where I wanted to go," she said. "You go from show to show in this industry, and I was always looking for my next step up."
Comedy Central hired her to be an executive assistant on a few shows, and by 2006, she had started producing. She's worked as a producer on more than a dozen shows, including "So You Think You Can Dance," "Trading Spouses," "Interior Therapy with Jeff Lewis," and "CMT's Next Superstar."
Now that she's producing "Shark Tank," the No. 1 thing people ask her is "How do I get on the show?"
"They'll say, 'Well, my friend knows this guy who does this or that.' I always listen, because you never know," she said. "It doesn't bother me at all."
She can submit companies to the casting department, to go in a pile with the 35,000 to 40,000 other applications the show receives each season. But she does not get a say in who is picked.
In August, Dreiling won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Structure Reality Programming for her work on "Shark Tank." Her parents had flown in from St. Charles to be in the audience.
"It was the first time I'd been nominated," she said, "so it made it even more special to win, having them there."
Her ultimate goal is to be an executive producer.
"I'm gonna keep taking those steps up," she said. "But there's definitely more 'Shark Tank' in my future. I feel really lucky. I absolutely love coming to work."
-- Jamie Sotonoff
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