Shark Tank bites into meat-delivery subscription business

Matthew Wilson, Special to USA TODAY
Published 11:00 p.m. ET March 10, 2019

On Sunday’s “Shark Tank,” an eighth-generation farmer shared an endearing look at the struggles of family-owned farms, and brought home the bacon.

Lucinda Cramsey is from La Belle, Missouri, where she herds livestock, shuffles hay and toasts her business success with a mason jar. Her meat subscription service, Moink, is farm-to-table on a national scale, supporting the local farmer over the large corporation.

“Family farms are struggling, being snuffed out by big business,” Cramsey told the sharks. “With four companies controlling over 80 percent of the meat industry in the United States, the little guys have been left fighting for the scraps.”

Cramsey knows the struggles all too well. When she was 11, her father took his own life. Her mother worked two jobs to keep the farm, and there were plenty of nights when they went hungry. She entered the tank cautiously, after previously trading 51 percent of an agriculture subscription company without a penny in return. Incensed, Cramsey sold off the other 49 percent for $5,000.  

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“‘You think I could get $5,000 in cash?’” Cramsey recounted with tears. “‘Because for one day, I want to feel like I’m not poor white trash.’”

From Cramsey’s story to the delicious food samples to her $730,000 in sales, Moink seemed like the complete package, but profits were slim: Moink sold an order of meat for $159, but it cost $127 to produce.

“It’s actually a great story about perseverance,” said shark Kevin O’Leary “But your margins are much less than the other players in the direct protein marketing business.”

Cramsey wasn’t in the mood to argue over the valuation: “Do I think it’s worth more? Sure. But I also think my husband’s the most handsome man in the world; (that) doesn’t mean I’m willing to go to war to prove it.”

That intensity divided sharks Daymond John and Lori Greiner. Greiner appreciated Cramsey’s tenacity, but even she was more vegetarian than carnivore when it came to making an offer.

John thought Cramsey was too guarded. “I know you got screwed the first time, so you’re very sensitive to partnerships,” John said.  “However,  this is our first date, and you’re very defensive.”

Cramsey was rescued by guest shark Jamie Siminoff, who knows how it feels to be on the other side of the tank.

“You’re talking to a bunch of sharks that don’t remember what it’s like to be little,” Siminoff said,  annoying Cuban. “They want to invest in big companies.”

Siminoff offered Cramsey $400,000 for a 20 percent stake (he’d asked for $250,000 for 10 percent). Cramsey hesitated.

“I wouldn’t think about that too long, Lucinda,” O’Leary said, and for the second consecutive week, a “Shark Tank” entrepreneur told him to shut up.

“Kevin, I’m talking here. Can you just give me a minute?” Cramsey said, before accepting the deal. “Let’s get ‘er done.”


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