Siblings Kaley, Christian and Keira Young were excited and grateful after appearing on the Oct. 21 episode of “Shark Tank.” Not only did all five “sharks,” or potential investors, buy in to the Wantagh family’s deal, but their product — Cup Board Pro — completely sold out within hours of the show’s airing.
The Youngs began by offering a 10 percent equity stake in exchange for an investment of $100,000. Ultimately, the sharks agreed to take a 20 percent stake for the same investment. They also committed to donating all of the profits from their stakes to Fired Up for a Cure, a Sept. 11 charity that benefits firefighters.
“We were each so touched by the Young family’s story that we wanted to do more than invest,” one of the sharks, Miami Dolphins Vice Chairman Matt Higgins said. “We wanted to honor Keith Young’s memory . . . So we decided to also donate to the charity of the children’s choice.”
Higgins said he wasn’t aware of any previous deals in which the sharks pledged to donate their profits, although they do support a number of charities, such as Autism speaks.
“Cup Board Pro resonated with me personally, because I was at [the World Trade Center] within minutes of the first plane striking,” Higgins, who was former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s press secretary at the time, recalled. “I didn’t leave the area for two years.”
The Cup Board Pro was designed by the Youngs’ father, Keith Young, in 2010, “to simplify the way you work in the kitchen, so you can have more time with your family,” according to the product’s website. A collapsible rubber cup slides into the side of the bamboo cutting board, to collect the scraps that are an inevitable part of meal preparation. The board also has a groove that drains juice into the cup, which can be washed in a dishwasher.
Young was a New York City firefighter who helped in the post-Sept. 11 recovery effort at ground zero, according to Christian, 21. He developed a 9/11-related cancer, and died in March.
Christian said his father was an “amazing family man. He would cook for us, like, every night, and he would always use the Cup Board Pro while he was cooking,” he said.
“Every day he would tell us how much he loved us,” Christian added. “He was literally the most supportive guy in my life. We really appreciate our dad.”
Christian felt nervous and excited about appearing on “Shark Tank,” he said. “Being on there felt like a dream,” he said. “Once they told us they were all on board, I just felt amazing. I felt really grateful that they would want to help us continue my dad’s dream . . .”
Christian’s sister Keira, 15, said she also felt nervous, but “I was excited to see how it would turn out, if we would get a deal, who it would be with and how the sharks would react to our dad’s product,” she said.
Sister Kaley, 25, shared her siblings’ excitement about appearing on the show. “I think the three of us just feel completely blessed to have the support of all five sharks and to be able to give back to the FDNY,” she said. “It’s pretty incredible.”
The siblings wanted to appear on the show because it was their father’s dream. “We’re actually not really a big family on TV, but the one show that we would all watch together was ‘Shark Tank,’” Kaley said.
Rather than make the pitch themselves, the siblings played their father’s audition tape for the sharks. The segment was “incredibly emotional for all of us,” Higgins said. “Part of why we asked the children to step out of the room was so we could compose ourselves. Those children were so strong. We didn’t want to fight it out; we wanted to work together to help them as much as possible.”
Keith Young, who had a degree in culinary arts from Johnson & Wales University, was the chef in both the family kitchen and the firehouse, Kaley said. His experience led him to create the Cup Board Pro, because he would always make a mess while chopping vegetables and cutting meat. “He wanted to take away the cleanup time afterward, and the Cup Board Pro is designed to do just that,” she said. “His motto was to give you more family time and less mess in the kitchen.”
Her dad began designing the board when she was in high school, Kaley said. “I’d come home from school and he would be carving out plastic boards to try to figure out the groove in the actual board,” she recalled.
As Keith began ramping up production and manufacturing in China, his wife, Elizabeth, was diagnosed with breast cancer. He put production on hold to take care of her, according to Kaley. “On August 22, 2012 — that’s when the three of us lost our beautiful mom,” she said. “We all got knocked down off our feet a little bit. It was a really hard loss.”
Kaley said it took her father a year or two after her mother’s death to begin working on the board again. In December 2015, the family had 2,000 boards shipped to the U.S. That same month, Keith found out about his cancer. “So once again,” Kaley said, “everything was put on hold.”
The Cup Board Pro, which retails for $40, is available at www.firehousechefky.com and through Amazon. Before the “Shark Tank” episode aired, the siblings also promoted the board on social media and at the Pilates studio that Kaley owns in Seaford, Hot Pilates Secret.
The siblings are currently working on fulfilling the backorders for the board. It has sold out, so they set up a GoFundMe link on the Cup Board Pro website. All the money donated through the link will go to Fired Up for a Cure, according to Kaley. She and her brother and sister hope to present a big check to the FDNY on Thanksgiving weekend.
Kaley hasn’t thought about where the product would be now if the sharks had said no. “But I think that [with] the product itself, the three of us would still be continuing it [and] carrying it on in my dad’s name for a bigger purpose,” she said. “Now we have the sharks’ support, which is incredible, and we’re extremely thankful for it.”