Cousins Maine Lobster was initially a Los Angeles-based, lobster roll food truck before founders Sabin Lomac and Jim Tselikis went on Shark Tank, and with the help of the investor Barbara Corcoran turned it into a nationwide seafood enterprise.
Now complete with an upcoming book titled Cousins Maine Lobster: How One Food Truck Became a Multi-Million-Dollar Business by Lomac and Tselikis, and a spin-off television show, Seaside Snacks and Shacks in the works, the duo’s motto “shore to door” has never been more expansive.
The business was started as a weekend gig by the cousins and Maine natives, Lomac now in Los Angeles, wistful for his childhood growing up outside of Portland and interested in introducing the west coast to the state’s signature lobster dishes. This sparked the idea of creating a food truck selling lobster rolls to Los Angelinos, becoming popular enough that it caught the attention of Shark Tank. They turned down offers to appear on the show twice, before finally relenting and catching the attention of veteran businesswoman and investor Barbara Corcoran on the show.
Speaking to The Scope Weekly, Corcoran said, “I love working with young people. Part of the beauty of it is getting to watch a dream come true.”
I find it most important to start trying to make it in business when you’re young. Start early, take a shot, and reach for whatever you can. Because when you’re young, you’re too stupid to worry about the mistakes.
It was this connection that proved essential to what Cousins Maine Lobster has evolved into today. Corcoran was so impressed with the pair that she invested 55,000 dollars into the business, over time bringing it to the culinary forefront and transforming its net worth from 20 thousand to 20 million. For Corcoran, the choice to solidify what is now fifteen percent of the company was easy. “I could tell these guys were the real deal from the moment they started talking,” she said. “They knew the business they were pitching inside and out, and despite only having run it for about three months at the time, you would have thought they had been in it for three years!”
Speaking to The Scope Weekly, co-founder Sabin Lomac concurs. “She saw something in Jim and I that she believed in,” he said. “As far as what our relationship is like now, it’s very much like family.”
Now sporting eight different restaurants, twenty different food trucks, and food to order from the Cousins Maine Lobster website, Lomac and Jim Tselikis are very much an American success story. The franchise also is starting to go international, with the chain opening branches in Taipei and Taichung in Taiwan. “They get a chance to go to Maine and have something that either they’ve grown up eating…or having something they’ve never had before…so it’s pretty special and unique,” says Lomac.
Looking back on their success over the past six years, he comments, “Nothing has changed with regards to our work ethic. If anything, we’re just more excited, more enthusiastic, and more passionate. When you’re able to go to another city and see how excited people are, it reinvigorates you and makes you proud.”
In addition to its exploits at home and abroad, Cousins Maine Lobster has opened a charity branch entitled Cousins for a Cause. The branch supports the organization Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, a place of special significance for co-founder Lomac. “We thought it would be selfish to squander such opportunities of exposure solely for ourselves,” he said. “It seemed like a great cause to partner with, because they help and mentor children. If someone hadn’t done that for me, I’m quite confident I wouldn’t have been able to go to college, let alone manage a business of this magnitude.”
It is clear when speaking to two of the remarkable individuals running Cousins Maine Lobster that in spite of the rich rewards, no one has lost sight of what started the ball rolling in the first place. “Jim and Sabin had their own careers that they were very successful at before any of this started,” Corcoran said. “This was essentially a passion project on the weekends, and because of their skills in business it became much more.” She joked that her only regret in the six years passing is the fact Tselikis is now married, and Lomac has gotten engaged.
For the latter, the company’s expansion has allowed the duo much more freedom creatively.
Probably when we first started, we were a little scared of taking risks,” Lomac said. “We’re a little more fearless now, we take more chances and try new things without being afraid of losing money. We want to continue to grow, and to be able to continue to challenge ourselves.
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