RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) — It all started in their pandemic kitchen.
“I was cooking one of our favorite meals which is bandeja paisa which has beans and chicharron and just something that my family always eats and loves. And here I am cooking and I realize I have no rice. There’s no rice in the pantry,” said Johanna Windon.
In the midst of the shutdown, going to the grocery store wasn’t an option. But Johanna’s husband James had an idea.
“And I was like, ‘just put them on the fries,'” James said.
“I listened. We put it on the fries. We served it to the kids. And they loved it,” Johanna added. “I saw it on their faces, we were onto something.”
And from that, Buena Papa was born.
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Using traditional flavors and ingredients from different cultures and always keeping the base the same: French fries. They opened their first location in Morgan Street Food Hall and the idea came at the perfect time. Their cleaning business was forced to close when the pandemic began.
“We were totally in the unknown before. The business was shutting down and really as the head of the household I was trying to figure out how do I make something work?” James said.
“When we opened here in Morgan Street Food Hall we would have people come up to us and say ‘you guys should be on “Shark Tank.” And we were like what? It’s just fries. And then one day we actually got a call from “Shark Tank.” You gotta tune in to see. I think there’s going to be a lot of drama in our episode. Are we going to swim? Or sink? We’ll see,” the couple said.
And in three years time, they’ve made it work and then some. Because on Friday, they entered the Shark Tank hoping to make a deal and expand their business. And they survived and garnered a deal with Robert Harjavec.
“Shark Tank’s” Robert Herjavec who is a renowned entrepreneur and investor decided to take a bite and team up with the Windons. Herjavec said he sees the brand as a standout among fast-casual restaurants.
“When I tasted what Buena Papa Fry Bar had to offer and saw their impressive market traction, I knew this was a golden opportunity. They’ve managed to turn something as simple as fries into a whole-meal experience. I’m thrilled to be part of this journey and help them expand their franchise program nationwide,” said Robert Herjavec, Entrepreneur & Shark Tank Investor.
Despite their huge success, they continue to celebrate their roots. On all of their branding is a photo of six-year-old Johanna and her family when they arrived in the U.S. from Colombia.
“Thinking back, I remember that picture. I never thought it would be on branding. I never thought we’d be able to represent my family and my culture. To have people willing to try. Have people loving it. Be fans of Buena Papa I’m just really floored and blesses and grateful,” Johanna said.