A chat with the smarter half (his words!) of the two-man team that started and grew Cousins Maine Lobster.
4 min read
Half a dozen years ago, cousins Jim Tselikis and Sabin Lomac met up to share a couple of drinks and a couple of memories of the lobster cookouts of their youth. From that meeting, a delicious idea was born: to bring authentic Maine lobster rolls to Los Angeles.
Just about as quickly as they served their first lightly mayo-covered masterpiece, the cousins landed a spot on Shark Tank. Barbara Corcoran took an interest and six years later, Cousins Maine Lobster has become a national lobster franchise with 20 trucks in more than a dozen cities and some brick-and-mortar restaurants as well.
Related: How to Win on ‘Shark Tank’
The lobstermen detailed their improbable journey in their new memoir Cousins Maine Lobster: How One Food Truck Became a Multi-Million Dollar Business. Tselikis recently stopped by the Entrepreneur offices to discuss the book and share his tips on starting and growing a food truck business. Check out the video above, and read below for some highlights of their journey.
Life after Shark Tank
Lomac: When Barbara first approached us and said that our business was scalable and that we should franchise, I didn’t even really know what the word meant. Seriously, I had to look it up. To think we started from that point just a few short years ago and are now where we are — an international company. The growth we’ve had, both at the personal and company levels, is really amazing.
Tselikis: We are incredibly selective with our franchisees, and the result of that has been that we’re now surrounded by a network of hard-working entrepreneurs who share our passion for providing the Maine experience.
Related: 2018 Franchise 500 Ranking
Mixing family and business
Tselikis: It’s funny because I think there is, at times, a misconception that family and business don’t mix, and that family can muddy the waters a bit. But for us, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Maybe it’s because we’re from Maine, and it’s a little bit of a different way of life there, but our family values shape how we run our business — from how we treat our customers to how we treat our employees to how we nurture vendor and business relationships.
Lomac: We have two sayings here at Cousins Maine Lobster — one is “Family First” and the other is “Treat everyone like your mother.” Go to any of our trucks or restaurants and ask our staff to turn around and you’ll likely see “Family First” written on their back.
Tselikis: For us, ultimately it’s about staying true to our values and our identity. And we do that by working, partnering and franchising with like-minded people who share and appreciate those values. We serve the best lobster in the world — wild-caught, sustainably harvested, premium lobster from Maine. We bring our unique rolls from Maine. We never compromise our product.
Lomac: We’ve found success by embracing why we’re unique, and sharing our love of Maine lobster with anyone who encounters our trucks or restaurants. We don’t want to simply serve someone lunch, we want to give them an experience. To take a bite of our food, close their eyes, and be transported to a small lobster shack on the coast of Maine. To this day, sharing that experience is still a thrill for us. If we could, we would take every customer of ours to our home state of Maine. But until then, we’ll do the next best thing and bring Maine to them.