Million-Dollar Lobster: Lessons From Two Cousins Who Built a Seafood Empire From One Food Truck
What we can learn from the success story of Cousins Maine Lobster
The names Sabin Lomac and Jim Tselikis may not sound familiar, but they are doing some great work out there.
Having been invited to the Los Angeles area by an ex-girlfriend, Jim needed another reason to justify the trip to LA to his family and friends back in Maine.
Remembering he had a cousin who had been trying but failing to break into acting for the last five years, he decided to kill two birds with one stone by reaching out to Sabin.
For most of the five days these second cousins spent together, a lot of the talk was about their younger years together in their hometown. They reminisced about their families, trips to the beach, and jumping off docks behind ferries to ride the propulsion.
When they eventually arrived at the topic of food and discussed the iconic staple of Maine — lobster, they agreed Southern California was missing out on that experience.
Certainly not your typical kind of necessity that leads to an invention that births a multi-million dollar business.
They decided they wanted to let the California area in on the Maine seafood experience. That was how the idea of the Maine Cousins Lobster was hatched.
In a riveting interview with Ken Coleman on the EntreLeadership podcast, the brains behind the trucks shared some juicy tips on how they grew their business selling lobster rolls and other Maine seafood delicacies.
With at least one food truck present in 17 US states and over $20 million in annual sales, these cousins are surely doing something right. What lessons can we learn from their success?
Always have connections with deep relationships
They credit their success to the connections they built in their hometown. “The ability to call up friends and work our way into those relationships was very helpful,” they recall.
Sourcing fresh lobsters from the sea folks back home was critical to getting the business running.
Even though they grew up in the area, the childhood connections were not enough to get them over the line. It took knowing a lot of the lobstermen personally, interacting with their families, and genuinely caring about them to open even bigger doors for them.
Convince yourself of your idea before you share it with others
They didn’t just get up and share their new-found passion with their friends and parents. They recall how they kept the idea from their friends and family until about a week before they launched.
With okay jobs at the time they hatched the idea, they knew their families would have raised eyebrows at their decision.
“Why would anyone leave their decent, comfortable job for the uncertainty of starting a lobster business?” They figured that question would have been tough to deal with at the start.
They didn’t want any pessimism and negativity about their decision that could derail their progress.
Take the jump
Along the way, there were a lot of customers who admired what they were doing. Some of them were excited about how well the business was growing, sometimes sharing how they had always wanted to start something too.
For the partners, that was the difference. A lot of people also had dreams of doing something great, but they were not willing or able to take the jump outside the security of their comfort zones.
But for Sabin and Jim, they quickly realized their business had a huge upside. What’s more, they loved it, and they were passionate about it. Having checked those boxes, they decided to go all-in.
In this article, I wrote about a friend who took the jump to chase his passion for technology and entrepreneurship. Ignoring every advice from his parents, he decided he wouldn’t resit some failed tests from high school.
Instead, he made his way to the city after he had saved barely enough money to cover his rent and feed him for three months. In 10 years, he has since started six businesses and continues to be an inspiration to a lot of us.
Talk of taking a jump!
Entrepreneurship is not a get-rich scheme
If you are after any form of growth, the business will need constant reinvestments. If your business is part of the 40% to become profitable, you have to plow some of the profits back.
They recall how they put that money into a separate account until they needed to spend it on the business.
Wear different hats now, divide and conquer as soon as possible
They thought their work ethic could carry them through all the tasks. Bookkeeping, payroll, customer service, insurance, and business development were part of their duties.
Micromanaging, double, and triple-checking everything was fast becoming second nature.
But they soon realized it wasn’t the best use of their time as the business grew. Learning to perform those roles was challenging in itself. One of them studied drama in school, while the other studied concussions.
Not exactly skills for the intricacies of a rapidly expanding business. So yes, they took on some help and was instrumental in their expansion. They hired people who were much better than them at roles they didn’t excel in.
At the start, you might feel the need to wear every hat possible. It makes sense when you’re just starting on a tight budget, and the business is still in its infancy.
I shared how I learned contracts, negotiation, marketing, customer service, debt collection, management, business development, sales, revenue projections, and time management through running my side hustle.
But before long, find the best use of your time and abilities, and outsource the other tasks. It will save you some valuable time, and you can reinvest that time in more profitable roles.
Building a multi-million dollar business out of a food truck is as impressive a success story as they come.
By building deep relationships with networks, waiting till a week to launch before informing their friends, jumping all in, reinvesting profits, and wearing a lot of hats at the start, these cousins have pulled a multi-million dollar business out of the mouth of a lobster.
To overcome their doubts and insecurities, “We had to push past our fears to make it happen,” they said.
“We are bringing Maine lobster to your neighborhood,” the Cousins Maine Lobster website promises visitors.