Shark Tank couple turn $18 bank balance into millions, here’s how they did it

Abu Mubarik October 25, 2023
Buena Papa founders James and Johanna Windon on ABC’s “Shark Tank.” Photo: ABC/Christopher Willard via CNBC Make It

Meet James and Johanna Windon; they are the founders of Buena Papa, a food business started in North Carolina. They launched the company two years ago when they had just $18 in their bank account. Today, the food business is raking in millions in annual revenue across three thriving restaurant locations in North Carolina, USA.

They launched the first location of their restaurant in Raleigh in July 2021, providing Colombian, Mexican, Puerto Rican, and American flavors piled on top of French fries. The launch of the restaurant came following the close of their cleaning business amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to CNBC Make It.

The duo went into the restaurant business without prior experience. Nonetheless, they invested their life savings of $40,000 leaving just $18. Four weeks later, their fries went viral on TikTok and the attention brought in a lot of customers.

“Our first year, we did $1.1 million. We took all the profits from that and invested it in [our second] store … Combined, this year, we’re going to finish at about $2 million,” said James. He further added that he and his partner are planning to expand to a Miami location later this year.

The duo recently appeared on “Shark Tank” to share their remarkable journey from having a mere $18 in their bank account two years ago to bringing in millions in annual revenue. According to CNBC Make It, the couple asked the Shark Tank investors for $400,000 in exchange for a 7% equity stake in their business. They explained in their pitch that they would use the money to open one location a year for the next five years, adding that they wouldn’t want to use their profits to do so because bootstrapping was “sucking up all the cash flow.”

What is more, they had already sold the franchising rights for four other new locations, which haven’t opened yet, they told the Shark Tank investors. 

Mark Cuban pulled out after pointing out the challenges of running a restaurant and overseeing multiple franchises simultaneously.

“Running a restaurant is a hard business. Once you franchise, you’re in a second business … the babysitting business,” Cuban said. “If you guys were just in this, I was interested, but you’re in two different businesses. I think that’s going to crush you. I’m out.”

However, investor Robert Herjavec offered the Windons $400,000 for a 20% stake in Buena Papa. The couple countered with 15% but they eventually settled on 19%.

“We’re going to take Buena Papa from Raleigh, North Carolina, and it’s going to travel all over these United States until it’s in every metropolitan city. The sky is the limit,” James said in his parting remarks.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: October 25, 2023


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