How a Couple on the Brink of Bankruptcy Turned Things Around With Buena Papa Restaurants

How a Couple on the Brink of Bankruptcy Turned Things Around With Buena Papa Restaurants
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https://www.cnbc.com/2023/10/23/buena-papa-founders-from-emptying-life-savings-to-shark-tank-offer.html
https://www.cnbc.com/2023/10/23/buena-papa-founders-from-emptying-life-savings-to-shark-tank-offer.html

 

James and Johanna Windon, the dynamic duo behind Buena Papa, went from nearly broke to securing a $400,000 investment deal on ABC's "Shark Tank."

When James and Johanna Windon embarked on their Buena Papa journey, their bank account balance was a mere $18. Fast forward by two years, and their thriving business earned millions in annual revenue from three popular restaurant locations in North Carolina. Their remarkable journey reached new heights during an episode of ABC's "Shark Tank," where millionaire entrepreneur Robert Herjavec extended a $400,000 investment to the couple.

How the Buena Papa story unfolded

James and Johanna, a husband-and-wife team, unveiled their first Buena Papa location in Raleigh in July 2021. This unique eatery offers a fusion of Colombian, Mexican, Puerto Rican, and American flavors creatively layered atop a bed of French fries. Their journey into the food industry started with the closure of their cleaning business due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Johanna, a native of Colombia, aspired to infuse the vibrant tastes of Latin street food into their venture. Despite their lack of prior experience in the restaurant business, the Windons courageously invested their life savings of $40,000. This venture left them with just $18 in their account but fortune soon smiled upon them as their mouthwatering fries went viral on TikTok within four weeks, attracting a surge of paying customers.



 

Their debut year saw them generate $1.1 million in revenue. Wisely reinvesting their profits, they opened a second location. Collectively, they anticipate closing this year with approximately $2 million in revenue. But they're not stopping there; James and Johanna have set their sights on expanding to Miami later this year.

Turning to the "Shark Tank" investors, the Windons sought $400,000 in exchange for a 7% equity stake in Buena Papa. Their goal was to fuel the opening of more locations, with an aim to establish one new restaurant per year over the next five years. They emphasized their preference not to utilize profits for expansion, as bootstrapping was draining their cash flow. Additionally, they had already sold the franchising rights for four forthcoming locations.

Sharks Robert Herjavec, Daymond John, Lori Greiner, Kevin O'Leary, Mark Cuban, and Barbara Corcoran attend the premiere of ABC's
Sharks Robert Herjavec, Daymond John, Lori Greiner, Kevin O'Leary, Mark Cuban, and Barbara Corcoran attend the premiere of ABC's "Shark Tank" Season 9 | Getty Images | Photo by Rodin Eckenroth

 

The investors provided mixed responses. Mark Cuban opted out, expressing the challenges of operating multiple restaurant locations and overseeing franchisees. He believed that managing a restaurant was already demanding and that branching into franchising would be overwhelming. Kevin O’Leary, known for his sharp investments, refrained from making an offer. He humorously explained that his personal mission was to eat more healthily, and investing in a French fries restaurant would make him feel hypocritical.

Barbara Corcoran and Lori Greiner took a different approach. They declined to invest because they believed that the Windons were already on an excellent trajectory. Corcoran noted, "You don’t really need anybody. You have the whole package, you have each other, you’re progressing nicely, and I think you’ll continue that way."

In the end, Robert Herjavec emerged as the savior, offering the Windons $400,000 in exchange for a 20% stake in Buena Papa. A brief negotiation ensued, but Herjavec firmly settled at 19%, which the Windons accepted with excitement.

With Herjavec's investment, Buena Papa is poised to continue its extraordinary journey and tantalize taste buds across the United States.

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