Atlas Monroe Before Shark Tank
Jonathan and Deborah Torres, like many entrepreneurs, were tired of being someone else’s employees. They were looking for somewhere to aim their talents when Deborah’s father developed type two diabetes.
The entire family rallied around him, and they all went on a 90-day raw vegan diet in support. After weeks of only eating salads, they were feeling a little hangry. They were all snapping at each other, and something had to give.
Deborah and her husband Jonathan got in the kitchen and started creating. They made delicious raw vegan recipes such as raw lasagna and tacos. This was the catalyst for their business, Atlas Monroe.
They invented their recipe for vegan fried chicken that didn’t involve soy, a common ingredient in fake meat. They brought their chicken to food festivals and craft fairs, which was a near-instant success. Atlas Monroe almost always had two-hour waits.
In the lead-up to appearing on Shark Tank, Atlas Monroe’s success exploded. They started selling their chicken through their website, freezing it, and shipping it worldwide. They began to get wholesale orders, including from an unnamed well-known & popular fast-food franchise—more orders than they could fulfill. Would the Sharks find this business intriguing? Let’s take a look.
Atlas Monroe on Shark Tank
Entrance and Presentation
The entrepreneurial husband and wife duo, Jonathan and Deborah Torres, walked out onto the stage and into the Tank. They introduced themselves to the sharks, stating they were from San Jose, California. They wanted $500,000 in exchange for a 10% investment in their company, Atlas Monroe.
Deborah wanted to cut right to the chase. She insisted they made the best, most enticing, crispy fried chicken they’ve ever put in their mouths. Each Shark had a sample before them, and Jonathan insisted they try them. The Sharks eagerly took a bite, crunching into their microphones.
Jonathan asked if it was some of the best-fried chicken they’d had in their lives, and Rohan admitted that it was very close. Deborah asked their reactions if they told the Sharks that they weren’t eating chicken. Mark Cuban was so surprised he cursed. Barbara also looked shocked, simply stating, “wow.”
Deborah continued, stating they made 100% vegan, plant-based eats using only organic, non-GMO ingredients. She didn’t think that needed to mean that they sacrificed taste. They started the company from the ground up and became an overnight sensation.
They required the Sharks’ help to get their product to chicken lovers everywhere. Deborah asked the Sharks who wanted to cash in on their chicken. At the same time, she and Jonathan performed an abbreviated form of the chicken dance.
Question and Answers
Lori said that she found the batter tasty. It had some spice to it. Barbara let them know that she was sure it was real chicken. Rohan wanted to know what was in what he was eating. Deborah said the whole recipe was proprietary, but the base was organic wheat.
This surprised Lori, who thought it might have been soy-based.
Mark wanted to know if they invented the whole thing or if they were packaging it from other places. Deborah said it was 100% their original recipe. Jonathan told him they were the ones to cook everything from start to finish. Rohan wanted to know what the story was.
Deborah told him that her father was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes a few years ago, and she went on a raw, vegan, and organic diet for 90 days. They quickly got tired of eating salads and fruit salads, so they started experimenting in the kitchen. They made raw lasagna and tacos, and after 90 days, her father returned to pre-diabetic blood sugar levels.
The couple then vowed to stay organic, plant-based, and natural and continued to experiment. The company, Atlas Monroe, was borne out of the experimentation. Kevin asked if they had a commercial kitchen or if they manufactured it. He also wanted to know what their distribution strategy was.
Deborah let him know that they started off taking their chicken to festivals and that they began to get the word out. They always had 2-hour waits, and people were intrigued by their chicken. Soon, they were able to ship frozen product nationwide. Mark wanted to know their total sales as broken down by category.
Deborah said their revenue is $60,000 for the year, with their net being $73,000 and their gross being $76,000. There needed to be more clarity as the numbers needed to be added. It turned out that the confusion was coming from Deborah, leaving the shipping cost out of the net price.
Mark asked them for their profit and their loss. Deborah clarified that they made $43,000, and their expenses were $31,000. That meant they were at a 60% profit margin.
Barbara wanted to know when they sent out a regular shipment, what they charged for the chicken versus what they paid for the shipping. Deborah looked at her notes and said they charged $23 for a six-piece of chicken, and they charged the customer $21 for shipping, depending on their location, for a total of $44.
Mark asked what it would cost for the six pieces of chicken and the packaging, and Deborah let him know that that cost was $2.67 per 6 pieces. This had the Sharks shocked. Lori held up a piece of chicken as large as her hand and said, “Six of these giant pieces of fried chicken cost you $2.67? Oh my god!”
Let’s Make a Deal
Kevin said that despite that, asking for $500,000 for 10% is ludicrous since they had only made $73,000 so far. They valued themselves at $5 million. Kevin said he would need 120% of the company to make a deal like that. He went out.
Mark Cuban asked if they had tried to secure a copacker, but Deborah told him they had been hesitant since it was the only one of its kind. Lori said they didn’t want to reveal their secret recipe, and the couple confirmed that. Deborah said they were talking with a mega-famous, internationally-known fast-food chain interested in their chicken. They were one of the wholesalers that they’d mentioned.
Mark wanted to know if they would provide that chain with the recipe. They both said no simultaneously. Barbara interrupted before Deborah could go on. She said that she believed that Altas Monroe was there way too early. She said that what bothered her was their confusion over the number and other essential aspects of the business.
Barbara said that she admired where their heart was, but it was too confusing, and she thought they were asking for a ridiculous number. She apologized and went out. Mark said that he wanted to make an offer with “so many” contingencies. He said he became vegetarian three months ago and was passionate about it and loved products he could eat.
Mark thought the couple were brilliant but were learning and becoming businesspeople as they went. He said that he’d seen it in the past – businesses that experience hyper-growth like that often collapsed when they weren’t well organized at the outset. He offered the $500,000 as a letter of credit, and he wanted 30% of the business.
Jonathan and Deborah were hesitant, and Kevin nudged them gently, saying that this was the part where they said yes. Rohan said that he wishes they’d come in with more of a game plan. It was going to take heavy lifting to get Atlas Monroe where it needed to be, and the $5 million valuation was too much for him. He went out.
Lori asked what their projections were for this year and next year. Deborah based her forecasts on the $12,000 Instagram sale day. She saw Atlas Monroe doing $2.5 million by the end of the year and $30 million the following year.
Lori said that she was excited by the product and was generally concerned about the consequences of eating meat. Still, she was worried about the numbers; they just weren’t tangible. She went out, but as she spoke, Rohan got up to talk one-on-one with Mark Cuban, and Kevin pointed out that all was not lost – Mark Cuban was still in.
Rohan said he was in with Mark Cuban. They offered the couple $1 million because they needed the cash flow. They would get all the recipes, do all the work, and get 10% of the royalties. Rohan said if the orders are confirmed, it should be a no-brainer. Mark said that they would immediately become a millionaire couple. And whatever infrastructure investments would be required, they would handle all of it.
Kevin saw them hesitate and told them to listen to him. It was a fantastic offer. They came in with a very confusing pitch. They had a one million dollar offer by “two behemoths that can execute.” And on top of that, they would still get to be their partners. Kevin said that he was stunned and asked them what they would do. Deborah said she liked Mark’s original offer, but he told her it was gone.
Rohan said they should have jumped on it immediately if they liked it. Kevin pointed out that a million-dollar request never happens on Shark Tank. Jonathan said they were grateful for the opportunity but needed to decline. Deborah begged Mark to give them the initial offer back, but Mark insisted that the million-dollar offer was better.
Jonathan said they started the business because they did not want to be employees. Rohan and Mark backed out of the offer, stating they disagreed with the company’s direction. Lori said that great products sell themselves, wishing them well.
Monroe Now in 2023 – The After Shark Tank Update
Deborah Torres has not been shy about her displeasure with how the Shark Tank episode was handled. She does not regret turning down the offer. On the contrary, she is even more convinced that she and her husband made the correct decision in the Tank when the episode finally aired. According to multiple articles, Deborah was shocked to see the edits they’d made to the presentation to make her look like she did not understand basic business concepts.
No matter, though – even without the million-dollar cash injection, the business has become a runaway success. They are now the proud owners of a manufacturing plant in San Diego, CA, which offers 10,000 square feet of warehouse space. This purchase has opened many doors for them. It allowed them to decrease the time it took to ship out each order. They were able to handle all of the orders that were hung up in backorder.
In addition, Atlas Monroe expanded the number of restaurants they provided with their food. Their delicious organic fake meat is available in many vegan restaurants in California, Florida, Ohio, and other states. They have recently partnered with a large Canadian vegan chain called Copper Branch. There are locations within the United States as well.
The Torres’ described their shipping process on Shark Tank, and they are still offering this delivery method. The Atlas Monroe Instagram, which has an impressive 176K followers, posted in December of 2022 that the company would soon be shipping out the Atlas Monroe Sandwich Box. According to the same post, the Crispy Chick’n Sandwich has won the best vegan chicken sandwich for the third year by VegNews.