A Superior company was tapped to bring a retired New York City firefighter’s idea to life after his children appeared on ABC’s “Shark Tank.”
In 2018, Kaley, Christian and Keira Young approached the "sharks" — the TV show's wealthy tycoons who consider pitches for business investments from contestants — three months after their father, Keith Young, lost his battle with cancer. The illness was related to his service as a first responder at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, a Fire Department of New York spokesman told the New York Daily News in March 2018.
“Our dad really wanted to be on “Shark Tank,” even going as far as making his own audition tape,” Kaley Young said in a video promoting the Cup Board Pro on YouTube.
The Young children’s story and their dad’s idea moved all five sharks to come together to provide the $100,000 investment they were seeking and a promise that profits from the product would go to support firefighters battling illnesses related to their work at ground zero.
The idea — a cutting board with an attached cup to collect food or scraps — was a good fit for Epicurean, a kitchen products manufacturing company that launched in Duluth and expanded on Superior’s Connors Point in 2017 after an extensive renovation of the former Woodline Manufacturing building at 257C Main St.
The company was founded by Dave Benson and Tony Ciardelli, evolving from TrueRide, builders and designers of skate parks including Superior’s in Heritage Park.
Epicurean manufactures food preparation products for home and commercial kitchens.
Benson said Epicurean was contacted by Williams-Sonoma, a California-based retailer, after the “Shark Tank” piece aired. The retailer sells a variety of Epicurean products such as cutting boards, kitchen utensils and pizza peels.
“They contacted us and said they were going to be involved in selling this product for the family that was just on 'Shark Tank,'" Benson said of the retailer Epicurean has done business with for about 12 years. He said Williams-Sonoma’s goal was to re-create the product as a U.S.-made product because it was originally made of bamboo in China.
Epicurean spent about three months redesigning the cutting board, which is now made of the same wood fiber composite used in Epicurean cutting boards and redesigning how the cup fit together with the board, Benson said. He said while the cutting boards are made in Superior, the cups are shipped to Epicurean for final assembly of the product because the Superior-based company isn’t equipped to make them.
“Once the (Young) children approved the redesign, it all moves pretty quick … the product relaunched to market last March,” Benson said.
The Cup Board Pro is sold exclusively through Williams-Sonoma. Benson said under the manufacturing agreement they have with Williams-Sonoma, Epicurean can't sell the product.
“It’s been a very good seller,” Benson said. He said since the launch of the redesigned product, about 75,000 units have been sold and Epicurean is producing the Cup Board Pro and sending out new shipments weekly.
Benson said it’s not unusual for Epicurean to make custom and exclusive products branded as Epicurean for some of the retailers that sell its products, but the Cup Board Pro is the first product the company has made in conjunction with “Shark Tank.”
The Cup Board Pro isn’t branded as Epicurean, Benson said.
“We haven’t done anything exactly like this before, but it is in our wheelhouse because it is kitchen prep things,” Benson said.
Benson said he is proud to be involved in the product.
“By partnering with Williams-Sonoma, they helped us re-engineer the Cup Board Pro to make it even better,” Christian Young said. “It’s anti-microbial, dishwasher safe, more durable and it’s also made in the U.S.A. We can’t wait to see it in kitchens everywhere.”