Wednesday, April 16, 2014
It's not pretty taking a swim in the "Shark Tank."
Jim Tselikis, left, and Sabin Lomac on “Episode 406” of “Shark Tank.”
Cousins Jim Tselikis and Sabin Lomac learned that on Friday night's episode of the popular ABC show when they pitched their Los Angeles-based lobster food truck business before five wealthy investors, hoping to land a deal that would help their venture grow.
Tselikis and Lomac, who are originally from Cape Elizabeth and Scarborough, got called "greedy crustaceans" and "greedy pigs." Their initial offer to the sharks was dubbed "ridiculous" and "outrageous."
In the end, all but one "shark" dropped out of the deal. But one was enough.
Tselikis and Lomac ended up getting $55,000 from real estate mogul Barbara Corcoran in exchange for 15 percent of their company.
"The future with Barbara, the sky's the limit," said Lomac after they sealed the deal with a big sandwich-style hug. "... We feel really good about it, and we're excited."
Tselikis and Lomac started their food truck business in L.A. last April, and it has quickly taken off. The cousins went on "Shark Tank" looking for an investment to buy more trucks and to launch a Maine-based online business selling gourmet lobster meals such as lobster pot pie and lobster mac and cheese.
The online side of the business, cousinsmainelobster.com (which is launching with the airing of the "Shark Tank" episode), was discussed for 10 to 15 minutes during filming, the cousins said earlier this week. But that part of the show apparently ended up on the cutting room floor.
The episode began with an image of a "Welcome to Portland, Maine" sign and scenes from The Lobster Shack in Cape Elizabeth, Portland Head Light, and other foggy venues around the Greater Portland area. Then the view switched to Los Angeles and the long line of customers buying lobster rolls at the Cousins Maine Lobster food truck.
"Right now our business is booming," said Lomac, who is also an actor. "We have lines around the block, and we can't service the people. We need another truck, and we can't do it on our own, so it's important for us to get this investment from the sharks."
But their first pitch did not impress.
Tselikis and Lomac asked for $55,000 in exchange for 5 percent equity in their company, an offer that made venture capitalist Kevin O'Leary sneer in disgust.
"You're valuing this business at over a million bucks," he said.
O'Leary asked why he couldn't just call up someone in Maine and start his own lobster truck business.
"Come back with an answer that maybe you won't get sliced up into a bun with," he said.
Tselikis explained that it's their personal connections that allow them to buy lobster at a lower price and ship it "shore to door" in less than 24 hours that makes the difference.
"You can start your own truck and hire your own staff," Tselikis said. "But what you can't do is what you just said, and call up on the phone to Maine. They just don't do business with other guys."
A cynical Daymond John, who is a fashion and branding expert -- and appeared to consider himself a lobster expert, too, because he once worked at Red Lobster -- wasn't buying any of that.
"You are very greedy crustaceans," O'Leary piled on.
Soon after, billionaire Mark Cuban dropped out of the negotiations. O'Leary quickly followed. "It's outrageous what you're asking for," he said.
When John asked for their best offer, Lomac said he would "feel really comfortable right around 7 or 8 percent."
That lowball offer made John drop out, and Robert Herjavec, a technology innovator, said to Lomac: "You know what? You're a very good actor. You said that with a straight face."
Herjavec countered with an offer of $55,000 for 25 percent of the company, then later upped it to $100,000 "to get more trucks on the street."
Corcoran offered $55,000 for 17 percent and told the cousins she could help market their business. "I think your truck is terrible," she said. "... Let me get my hands on that business, and I'll tell you everything that's wrong with it."
At this point, Herjavec dropped out.
When the cousins asked Corcoran if she would take 12 percent, she mouthed a silent, but emphatic "No." Ultimately, she met them in the middle, offering to take 15 percent for her $55,000.
Lomac looked over at his cousin: "J.T.?"
"Cool," Tselikis replied.
"Barbara," Lomac said, "welcome to the family."
Staff Writer Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at:
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