Like so many before him, Sabin Lomac left Maine in 2006 to become an actor in Los Angeles. When Jim Tselikis visited his cousin a few years later, the two spent a good deal of time reminiscing about their time growing up outside of Portland, Maine. Eventually, talk turned to the iconic Maine lobster, and the cousins agreed there is nothing like it on the West Coast. That was about to change. Cousins Maine Lobster brought the lobster delicacy to Los Angeles in the form of a food truck after the Sabin and Jim pooled their resources to come up with the $20,000.
A deft combination of word of mouth and a smart social media campaign helped to get Cousins Maine Lobster off to a great start. Transplants from the East Coast loved the authenticity, freshness, and quality of the meat in their signature lobster rolls. The success of Cousins spread, and a local L.A. news feature led to an appearance on the nationally televised Shark Tank to try to get funding to expand the business with a second truck.
Lobsters vs. Sharks in the Tank
Shark Tank Season 4 Episode 6
Lomac and Jim spent hours in the weeks preparing for their dive into the Shark Tank. They studied previous episodes, practiced their pitch, went over the finances, and tried to come with contingencies for anything the judges could throw at them.
After presenting a deal of $50,000 in exchange for 5% of the business, Jim painted a picture of bringing the institution of the Maine lobster to Southern California, claiming Cousins Maine Lobster gets its lobsters shipped straight from Maine in less than 24 hours. He explained that the cousins were unable to keep up with the demand for their reasonably priced East Coast delicacy.
As samples were being passed out and devoured, Barbara asked how the lobsters were transported across the country every day. Jim explained that they had built up great business relationships with East Coast suppliers in the area. Sabin said that everything from lobster to the bread is as fresh as can be. The Sharks enjoyed the samples immensely. Jim said that was the taste he and Sabin had grown up with and were bringing to satisfied customers in California every day
Their one truck had generated $150,000 in sales in the first two months after opening Cousins Maine Lobster. Sabin said the price of their signature traditional lobster roll was $13, which cost them $5.85 to make. They bought the truck for $65,000 and shelled out $20,000 a month for employees and other overhead. Jim said they hoped to bring down costs after hiring a general manager, as the two cousins went into the venture, not knowing a whole lot about the food truck business.
The Sharks began sniping at each other, with Mark dropping out because no one was listening to his questions. Barbara ultimately tells everyone to be quiet, and she might make them a legitimate offer. Kevin thought the two were asking for too much capital and bowed out. Daymond also went out after Jim said he would feel comfortable giving up 7-8% of the business for the money.
Hustling the Sharks for a Deal
Robert felt these two cousins were hard workers and willing to push to give their business the best chance to succeed. He made a counteroffer for the $50,000 with 25% equity in Cousins Maine Lobster, but Jim and Sabin declined that high of a percentage instantly. Barbara offered up an additional $5,000 for 17% of the business. Robert increased the financial outlay to $100,000 for 25%.
Kevin laid out the two offers on the table at the moment – Barbara’s $55,000 for 17% and Robert’s $100,000 for 25% of Cousins Maine Lobster. Jim wanted to know what kind of strategies Robert and Barbara would use if they invested in the business. Barbara thought it was an excellent question and talked of upgrading the exterior of the truck to include the faces of the cousins who started the business. Robert was offended by the question, feeling he didn’t have to justify his credentials and pulled his offer.
In the end, Barbara compromised with the pair and settled for the $55,000 and 15% equity in Cousins Maine Lobster. The offer was accepted.
Cousins Maine Lobster After Shark Tank
Since partnering with Barbara, Jim and Sabin expanded Cousins Maine Lobster with the addition of food trucks in Nashville and San Antonio. Several television appearances boosted their presence in the market, including spots on The Today Show, The Chew, and Master Chef. The Cousins Maine Lobster line has grown to 20 trucks in 13 locations across the country and a brick-and-mortar store in West Hollywood. Lobster meals are also sold online and through QVC.
The cousins are appreciative of the support and guidance they got from Barbara and take great pride in providing top quality food and extraordinary customer service. They are proud of their employees, who they treat wonderfully and always strive for open, honest, communication.
Jim and Sabin formed a non-profit organization to give back to the communities that have served their business locations to well. Cousins For A Cause strives to grow family and service awareness throughout the country.
Years before he and his cousin brought Maine lobsters to California and the rest of the country, Sabin had gotten into some trouble, and his mother signed him up with Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. Through the organization, he was matched with a male role model that helped turn his life around, which provided him the opportunity for the successes Cousins Maine Lobster has given him.
To give back to the organization that had such a positive impact on his life, Sabin facilitated Cousins For A Cause to partner with Big Brothers Big Sisters of America in Los Angeles to assist in money-raising efforts and added resources. Sabin was honored with a “Big Brother of the Year” award, a national recognition of the work he has done in the community.
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