Chicago mom, maternity designer, to appear on ABC reality show

Any business venture in this economic climate can feel a bit like jumping into the deep end of a very cold swimming pool. But for one Chicago momtrepreneur, it’s more like a shark tank.

Kim Pries, a Lakeview mom of two and owner of Samson Martin, a nationally carried line of maternity tees and tanks, will appear on ABC’s “Shark Tank” on Friday, where she will try to convince five tough-nosed entrepreneurs to help her reinvent her business.

Pries founded Samson Martin maternity wear back in 2003 after being laid off from her job in magazine ad sales. Though she wasn’t yet pregnant – her boys are now 5 and 18 months – she says the inspiration came from the question her pregnant friends said they kept hearing.

“Everyone always asks, ‘When are you due?'” she says.

Her tees and tanks answer that question with sass and style, sporting slogans like “Coming this fall” and “Now showing.” Since their launch, Pries’ clothes have been featured in People, US Weekly, Life& Style and Fit Pregnancy, and were named one of E! News’ “Top Ten Must Haves” for celebrity moms-to-to be.

But the recession has hit high-end maternity and baby boutiques especially hard, Pries says. After a few boom years, during which her clothes were picked up nationally and internationally, the market soured. So she decided last summer to take her brand to the masses, and set her sights on chain stores like Target, JC Penneys and Kohls.

So when her husband urged her to apply for ABC’s venture capital series last summer, she did. She filmed the show in Los Angeles in October, pitching the investors a share of her company in return for some investment money and access to their connections in retail and marketing. While she wasn’t spilling any secrets, Pries says she’ll be watching anxiously on Friday to see the edited version.

“I have a lot more respect now for people who go on reality TV shows,” she says. “It was like a firing squad. On the plane ride home, I was sitting there thinking, ‘What just happened?'”

You can catch Pries’ dip in the shark tank Friday, May 13 at 7 p.m. CST.

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