Sunday, December 8, 2013
By Meredith Goad firstname.lastname@example.org
Jim Tselikis and Sabin Lomac are jumping from the lobster tank into the "Shark Tank."
Jim Tselikis of Cape Elizabeth, left, and his cousin Sabin Lomac of Scar- borough appear on an episode of “Shark Tank,” looking for capital to invest in their lobster food business. The show airs Friday.
Photo courtesy of ABC
The panel of rich investors that often put entrepreneurs on the spot on the TV show “Shark Tank” are, front row from left, Mark Cuban, Kevin O’Leary and Lori Greiner, and back row from left, Daymond John, Barbara Corcoran and Robert Herjavec.
Photo courtesy ABC
The two young entrepreneurs from Maine will be wading into dangerous waters Friday when they make an appearance on the popular ABC show to try to get funding and a billionaire business partner for their Los Angeles-based food truck venture, Cousins Maine Lobster.
The show, which airs at 8 p.m., throws everyday people with interesting ideas into a room with five rich investors who quiz them on their businesses and then decide whether to invest in them.
Whether the sharks bite or not, Tselikis and Lomac are using the airing of their episode as a platform to launch the next phase of their food truck business: a Maine-based online company that will sell lobster and gourmet lobster dishes, such as lobster mac and cheese and lobster pot pie, nationwide.
The food for the company is being made in Maine, and will be shipped out of a distribution facility in Biddeford that will initially employ about 40 people, depending on the season.
The appearance on "Shark Tank," Tselikis said, is "not just branding Cousins Maine Lobster, it's branding Maine lobster and the Maine lobster industry."
Tselikis, 28, and Lomac, 31, are cousins who grew up in Cape Elizabeth and Scarborough, respectively. They opened their food truck, serving a variety of dishes using Maine lobster and other Maine foods, in Los Angeles in late April. But before they had even served their first lobster roll, the sharks came swimming around, asking them in an email if they'd like to be on the show.
"Generally speaking, there's about 20,000 to 25,000 applicants (for the show) in a season, and they go to open castings and try to get on," Tselikis said. "But ('Shark Tank' producers) reach out to about 60 companies, and we were one of them."
Producers had seen a piece on Urban Daddy, an email magazine, about the L.A. food truck. Tselikis and Lomac have since opened a brick-and-mortar extension of the business in Pasadena, Calif., as well.
Tselikis was already a fan of "Shark Tank," so he knew a little of what to expect.
"We weren't in it for the money, we were in it to give up as little of our company as possible in terms of equity," he said. "What we really wanted was to have a partner who would help us hit the national market."
"Shark Tank" had almost 6 million viewers last season, and this season it's the No. 1 Friday-night show among adult viewers ages 18 to 49.
The show features five wealthy investors who listen to pitches from entrepreneurs and then quiz them, sometimes brutally. Some of the business owners get chewed up and spit out; others become the subject of a feeding frenzy as the sharks, smelling money, fight one another for a piece of the business.
The "sharks" on the show are billionaire Mark Cuban, owner of HDNet and the Dallas Mavericks basketball team; Barbara Corcoran, a real estate mogul; Robert Herjavec, a technology innovator; Daymond John, a fashion and branding expert; and Kevin O'Leary, a venture capitalist who calls himself "Mr. Wonderful."
Once Tselikis and Lomac knew they were going to be on the show, they did everything they could to prepare.
"We watched pretty much every show," Lomac said. "We sat down and we looked at every rebuttal that each shark came up with, and we put it on a flash card. And then on the other side, we'd answer it however we wanted to answer it, in light of our business or our numbers. And then we just practiced."
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