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Buena Papa

buena papaJames and Joanna Windon want a Shark to bite on Buena Papa, their Colombian inspired frenchfry bar franchise, in Shark Tank episode 1505. The couple has experience with entrepreneurship: they used to own a cleaning business called Maid in Raleigh. Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic forced them to shut down.

One night, while cooking at home during the pandemic, they wanted to make Bandeja Paisa, a traditional Colombian dish. They had the ingredients: chorizo (Colombian sausage), chicharrón (fried pork belly) and frijoles (beans), but they were missing rice. Joanna went ahead and made the dish, but with french fries. It was a hit!

Over the next few weeks, they began experimenting with different flavor profiles that celebrate different cultures like Greek, Italian, American and, of course, Colombian. In 2021, they opened a storefront in Raleigh and it became very popular. They named it Buena Papa because that means “good potato” in Spanish. They have three locations: one in Durham, one in Raleigh and a kiosk at PNC Arena in Raleigh. A fourth location in Miami is ready to open soon. They want a Shark’s help getting their franchising program going.

Company Information

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Posts about Buena Papa on Shark Tank Blog

Discover the Flavors of Colombia at Buena Papa Fry Bar!

Buena Papa Shark Tank Recap

James and Joanna enter the Shark Tank dancing to Latin music. They’re seeking $400,000 for 7% of their company. They tell the Sharks Buena Papa means “good people” but it also means “good potato.” Everybody loves potatoes, but they never seem to get the center of attention. As a couple from two different cultures, they’re used to putting different things together and that’s how they created their business: Latin isnspired foods loaded on to hand cut french fries. Each of their signature dishes starts out with 33 ounces of fresh cut potatoes. They showcase their different dishes.

The Sharks examine their samples. Mark has sweet potatoes, salmon, guacomole and pico de gaio. They describe the different dishes as the Sharks chow down. They all like their food. James said people fell in love with their food and it’s been a crazy, amazing ride. When they first opened, they had only $18 in their bank account because they invested their life savings. They tell about how they started during the pandemic. They opened in July, 2021 and in 2 weeks they had $18,000 in their bank account. They got 16 million views of their food on Tik Tok and people flocked in.

Background Info

James and Joanna are high school sweethearts. They don’t have restaurant experience, but James has been an entrepreneur all his life. He worked for Queen Latifa and helped her bring in Latin talent.Joanna’s family immigrated from Columbia in the late 1980’s. In school, she was placed in the back of the class but she eventually learned how to speak English and was the first person in her famiy to graduate college. After she graduated, she went back to the school where she was placed at the back of the class and was a teacher for 12 years.

Let’s Talk Numbers

Each plate averages about $3.50 per plate to make. Average sale price is $13.50. Overall margins are 28%. Their first store has a 200 square foot footprint and they did $1.2 million in their first year. They took all the profits from that and invested it into a second store – a 700 square foot footprint. The two stores, combined for the year, will do $2 million in sales. The profited $200,000 and paid themselves $80,000. They have a third store in an arena and they are opening a 4th store in Miami “this month” (approximately summer of 2023).

They also started franchising and sold 4 franchises their first month for $29,500. The franchisees pay an 8% royalty fee with 2% of that going towards marketing. They want the Sharks’ money to help build the brand. They’ve been using their own profits to open new stores because banks still consider them a start-up. James thinks that’s not a healthy way to grow because they’re sucking up all the cash flow. They only have $70,000 in debt on the business. They want the cash to grow more quickly.

Who’s In?

Lori would not want to speed up growth; she’s out. The five year plan is to open 1 corporate store per year. Mark says running a restaurant is a hard business. Franchising is a second business -the babysitting business. Because they’re in 2 different businesses, he’s out. Kevin doesn’t eat this kind of food and he likes to get behind his investments; he’s out. Barbara thinks they don’t need anybody; she’s out. Robert syas if you find great people, good things can happen, but he hates the valuation. James says they’ll be at $6 million next year. Robert offers $400,000 for 20%. James counters with 15%, Robert says no. James counters at 17%, then 18%, then 19% and Robert agrees.

Buena Papa Shark Tank Update

The Shark Tank Blog constantly provides updates and follow-ups about entrepreneurs who have appeared on the Shark Tank TV show. In November, 2023, just a month after the initial air date, it is unclear whether the deal with Robert has closed. After airing, James sais he was reviewing the franchise system infrastructure and he was seeking quality franchisees with quick service restaurant experience. They want to take the franchises nationwide and expect each store to do $1 million in sales.

In January, 2024, they closed their Durham store to focus their resources on franchising. At this time, their first franchisee is open for business in Jacksonville, NC. A second franchise in Willowbrook, NJ is “coming soon.” 5 additional locations are slated to open in 2024. As of May, 2024, no new franchises have opened their doors yet and there’s still no hard evidence the deal with Robert closed.

The Shark Tank Blog will follow-up on Buena Papa & James and Joanna Windon as more details become available.