Jung Song and Dok Kwon, both Korean immigrants, say they live the American dream.
Their Provo, Utah-based Korean barbecue business, Cupbop, started out of a food truck in 2013. Today, it’s a restaurant with 36 locations in six U.S. states — and more than 100 locations in Indonesia — which recently brought in $18.7 million in revenue over a 12-month period, the duo said on Monday’s episode of ABC’s “Shark Tank.”
Ultimately, this growth landed the two business partners a $1 million investment deal with Mark Cuban, showing just how far Cupbop has come in nine years.
Song, the CEO of the company, originally purchased this first food truck and operated it with three other business partners. Kwon, a hedge fund investor who saw the truck become a staple in the community, joined the team in 2020 to help the company grow.
Cupbop’s business model is simple: it sells Korean barbecue bowls for $8 to $10. The company still operates food trucks, but the bright yellow and black vehicles are more for marketing than revenue. The pandemic’s takeout craze boosted Cupbop’s sales — before 2020, the company made less than $10 million a year, Song and Kwon said.
The duo asked the Sharks for $1 million in investment funds, in exchange for 3% of the company. They noted that they only owned 50% of Cupbop, which meant the amount of equity they could offer was limited. – but they wanted the help of a shark to become a national brand.
“So many investors [have come] for us, I [said] no for eight years,” Song said. ” I think that we [grow to] 2000 stores with you guys. I want to be Korea’s first national brand with the Sharks.”
The five Sharks jumped at the chance. First, Kevin O’Leary said he would take the 3% equity and give Cupbop a $1 million loan with 10% interest over three years. Barbara Corcoran followed up that offer with one of her own: $1 million for 30% of the business.
Then Robert Herjavec upped the ante, bidding $5 million for 28% of Cupbop. Herjavec said he felt particularly drawn to Kwon’s immigration story: Kwon’s parents sent him and his older brother to live with a family in Utah when they were children, so that they can look for opportunities in America.
“Like you guys, my dad gave up everything to come here,” said Herjavec, who was born in Croatia and moved to Canada when he was 8. “I had to succeed to justify this sacrifice – and you’re onto something here.”
Lori Greiner decided to join Corcoran, collectively offering a $1 million loan with 8% interest in exchange for 5% Cupbop. And then, during a break in the action, Mark Cuban – the only remaining shark – made a much simpler offer: $1 million for 7% of Cupbop.
“I love the company, I love the product,” Cuban said. “You have the operations in place, but you need someone to propel you in terms of marketing and PR and just to be able to have a national presence…I can deliver that better than anyone.”