Shark Tank ‘joke’ to $5m empire
The idea behind Jake McKeon's hit business is so incredibly simple he was amazed nobody else had thought of it first.
It all began during a 2015 surfing trip to Bali when the Melbourne man stumbled across some carved coconut shells that had been turned into decorative candle holders at a market.
He realised they would make a great vessel for smoothies, and flew back to Australia with 100 shells stuffed into his suitcase.
Within weeks, his eco-friendly Coconut Bowls business was born - and business started booming.
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Mr McKeon also appeared on the season four premiere of Shark Tank in March last year, and the Sharks initially thought the business was so simplistic it had to be a joke.
But their scepticism turned to amazement when Mr McKeon revealed his company was raking in a small fortune from those eco-friendly bowls, which sell for $12.95 to $14.95.
"Since selling our first coconut bowl in January 2016, we've now sold well over 100,000 units. The first year we turned over $200,000, last year we grew by more than 500 per cent to revenue of almost $1.2 million.
"This year our organic growth is forecast to push beyond $3 million," he said on the show, adding he expected to make a profit of $600,000 in the following 12 months after paying himself a salary of $80,000.
He was offered a $300,000 investment in return for an 18 per cent stake by Boost Juice founder Janine Allis and investor Andrew Banks.
But when the cameras stopped rolling, Mr McKeon surprised everyone by turning them down.
"I did not accept the offer - we filmed in February, and the pitch used figures from the previous calendar year. By the time the episode aired … the business had grown dramatically, and ultimately, I just decided because the business was growing so much, I didn't really need the cash injection, and I wanted to continue on my own path," he told news.com.au.
He said he now expected to turn over up to $5 million in revenue in the 2020 financial year after revenue "tripled" following his appearance on the show.
"Being on the show really gave us credibility in the marketplace and being the first pitch of the season went really well for us - we definitely had our biggest day ever after the show with more than 50,000 visitors that day alone when the average was 5000," he said.
Mr McKeon was "inundated by inquiries" from cafes and other businesses afterwards, and his products are now stocked in 600 stores in Australia.
The company also amassed an incredible 461,000 followers on Instagram, and in March this year, Mr McKeon moved to the US temporarily to take advantage of a huge spike in sales in the country.
The 30-year-old plans to return home to Victoria in September, and after launching the company himself with just one social media manager, he's now expanded with a team of nine.
But despite his incredible success, Mr McKeon said a lot came down to being in the right place at the right time.
"I think I've been very lucky in terms of timing - people are photographing food more than ever before, and there's also that sustainability aspect of the business that people have got behind," he said.
"If it happened two years earlier it probably wouldn't have worked, and if it happened two years after someone else would have done it."
After completing his university degree, Mr McKeon worked at a financial management business "giving advice to Baby Boomers" for two years before founding a social networking app and later starting several businesses, including selling trendy superfoods such as acai and matcha.
He said Coconut Bowls was now his true "passion", and he was committed to helping individuals and businesses replace single-use plastic with sustainable and biodegradable items like his bowls, which "made sustainability sexy".
He said the business would launch several new products in the near future, and he also aimed to make it carbon neutral by offsetting emissions from all shipments.