Alumni pitch business idea on “Shark Tank”

Chase Mitchell and Brian Bloch, wearing Chill Systems t-shirts, present their company on the set of “Shark Tank.”
Chill Systems was inspired by the park culture in San Francisco, where Mitchell and Bloch noticed people frequently holding large picnics and gatherings. (Photo Courtesy of Chase Mitchell and Brian Bloch)

While living in San Francisco, USC alumni Chase Mitchell and Brian Bloch loved to visit parks. During their visits, the pair noticed a “huge park culture” in the city, with people frequently holding large picnics. Experiencing the firsthand trouble of carrying a cooler gave them the idea to start their business venture: Chill Systems. 

“People go out [to the parks] drinking their beers. They’re hanging out, [with] massive picnics [of] thousands of people at a time in the parks in San Francisco,” Mitchell said. “The problem with that was lugging around a cooler was a pain.” 

Mitchell and Bloch looked for an effective and mobile solution for cooling beverages, and created Chill Systems in July 2018. In mid-March, the team pitched their company on ABC’s hit TV show, “Shark Tank.” 

“[We] thought for a long time about wanting to start something and be entrepreneur[s], and [we’ve] been inspired by shows like ‘Shark Tank’ for a long time,” Mitchell said. 

The Chill Systems cooler can fit three 12-to 16-ounce drinks in its three compartments, or one large bottle in its large hole. It includes a freezing gel that lasts six hours and is made from recycled materials.  

“When it comes to actually using [the cooler], you use less energy and you can use less single-use plastics,” Bloch said. “It saves you time, money and the environment, so all across the board, we think that it’s a great product.”

Mitchell and Bloch originally met working as drivers for USC’s Campus Cruiser program and lived next door to each other on Greek Row. Following their graduation in 2014, they both decided to move and live together in San Francisco to pursue their jobs, Mitchell in sales at Google and Bloch as a financial analyst at Apple. 

“I wouldn’t even know [Mitchell] if not for USC,” Bloch said. “USC is the fulcrum of our partnership, so it’s wonderful to be a part of the USC family.” 

According to Bloch, the pair began working on Chill Systems a few years into their jobs before launching a Kickstarter campaign in the summer of 2018. After raising $53,000 over 50 days, Mitchell and Bloch left their corporate jobs to pursue Chill Systems full-time. 

When first beginning their company, Mitchell turned to Stacy Geck, an associate professor of clinical business communication, to bounce ideas off of. 

Geck met Mitchell on a study abroad program, “Learning about International Commerce,” based in Singapore in 2011. The program consists of a 2-unit course for first-year business students, allowing them to gain exposure to international companies and work on global business projects. 

“It’s nice to see our students learn not only to identify their skill sets, but also to use their skill sets to be able to better themselves in business,” Geck said. “I’m excited for [Mitchell] and his partner and their business to be able to put it out there for the rest of the world to see.”

When teaching about business, Geck said she tells all of her students that they need to be genuine, passionate and real. 

“When those things are combined well, it really is a wonderful mixture for success for those who are going out there in the business world,” Geck said. 

For Bloch, the class “The Entrepreneurial Mindset- Taking the Leap” taught him the most valuable life lessons about growing a business and promoting an affirmative mindset. The course, taught by David Belasco, an adjunct professor at the Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, brings in guest speakers to speak about “high performance mindset.” 

“The entrepreneurial mindset was the idea. You’re going to have to just take a leap and jump in the pool, in the deep end, and figure it out,” Bloch said. “The nature of entrepreneurship is you don’t know what you’re doing necessarily when you’re starting, because you have to figure it out as you go.” 

Mitchell said appearing on “Shark Tank” was a “once in a lifetime experience.” 

“It was awesome being on the other side, from having watched the show for so many years, and actually being in the room was really surreal,” Mitchell said. “You can imagine the anticipation buildup, walking into that room. It’s like, ‘Wow, I can’t believe I’m here doing this.’”

Bloch said it was “really cool” to interact not only with the crew and staff working on the show, but the other entrepreneurs pitching their ideas to the “Sharks” as well. Although Chill Systems did not receive an offer on the show, the pair are continuing to work on growing their company. 

“It was something that we really got passionate about and started building ourselves, which was really cool,” Bloch said. “It’s cool to just totally build something from scratch.” 

Bloch said finding an intersection between what he and Mitchell liked to do and the needs of consumers was the key to Chill Systems’ success. 

“That’s really [Mitchell]’s, and my story,” Bloch said. “We saw a need for a product that we wanted ourselves and so we said, ‘Well, how can we do that? How can we provide that?”’

Mitchell said that “mentality is really important” in entrepreneurship, and that new entrepreneurs need to be “self-motivated.”

“You need to believe in yourself. You need to believe in the project you’re working on, and you need to be motivated to show up and just keep working on it,” Mitchell said. “Keep your eyes on the prize and just keep showing up and keep moving in that direction.”