Junior Achievement had the opportunity to speak with Sabin Lomac, co-founder of Cousins Maine Lobster, to learn more about what motivated him to start a food truck business with his cousin Jim Tselikis four years ago. In the interview below, Sabin advises young people that if you want something, anything, you should go and get it.
1. When you were a kid did you have a plan for a career/college, were you preparing for any job or industry? If so did that preparation lead you to where you are today?
When I was growing up I really wasn’t sure which field I would land in, but in hindsight I can see how all of my previous experiences made me the person I am today. At a young age I knew that if I wanted anything, I had to go out and work for it. Coming from a single-parent family, there was no extra money laying around the house. If I wanted the team basketball shoes that everyone else had, I’d better get a job so I could buy them. I worked locally since the age of 12, starting at the Clambake in Pine Point (my neighborhood) and continuing on to work at over 50 locations (I wasn’t always the best employee). I worked as a dishwasher, a bus boy, a waiter, a pizza delivery person, tinting windows, selling sodas on the beach, cleaning a gym, mowing lawns, a line cook at Chilis, the appliance section at Best Buy, a natural food store, and many more. These jobs all helped me understand that hard work is essential in life, and they also helped me realize the type of employer I wanted to be. I saw the good and the bad in management, and it has helped me better communicate with my staff and lead from the front.
I also went to college to study drama and knew I loved acting and performing. I believe this has really helped me now as we are constantly in front of the camera and I feel very comfortable in this position.
2. What didn't you do to prepare for where you are now that you wish you had? Take accounting or marketing classes in high school, for example.
I wish I had taken some accounting/finance classes in college as I really enjoy studying our numbers, but I am not an expert with Quickbooks. When you own a business, you must absolutely know every expense and bottom line number. Knowing these numbers fascinates me, but I need to get better. While we have excellent accountants that help us, I just want to know more. I am going to take a local course this year as I want to get better. I also remember in high school telling Mr. Kegler that I would never use math. Sorry Mr. Kegler, I use it daily. I wish I had studied more.
3. Do you agree or disagree with doing what you love for a job even if it means you won't be rich or famous? Why do you agree or disagree?
Being rich and famous is nothing to aspire for. Being happy and healthy are the only things that matter. People fail to realize these basics when growing a business and it usually costs them dearly. When they are solely looking at the margin, the bottom line, and how much they can make…they will likely fail. People like this will likely cut corners and put out a marginal product, which the consumer will reject. You can’t fool the public, it’s that simple. When you love your work and are passionate about your lifestyle, the money and success will come. By putting out a superior product and providing excellent service, no matter what field you are in, you will be successful. We have had the opportunity to meet some very successful and wealthy people and they all share this same sentiment. Additionally, they each grew their businesses based around wanting to be happy and successful, not rich and famous.
Jim Tselikis (left) and Sabin Lomac founded Cousins Maine Lobster in 2012 after noticing the burgeoning Food Truck industry was missing a fresh seafood option.
4. What does being from Maine mean to you and how does it impact who you are as men and business owners?
Being from Maine means everything to us. We are so proud to tell people we are from Maine and so happy that we are able to provide a glimpse to the world of the amazing state we represent, the hard working people Mainers are, and the beautiful towns we come from. Being from Maine is something unique that we share with a select group of people. My Grandparents met on Willard Beach. My mom was born in Portland. I grew up in Pine Point. Our family has a large number of traditions based in Maine and I feel lucky to be a part of this select club. Not many people are lucky enough to say they are from Maine.
Going home to Maine is always one of the most special times of the year for me. I instantly notice the difference in the air, the smells of nature, and it takes me back to my childhood. I get to eat at my local spots (Pat’s Pizza, Amato’s), I get to drink with my oldest friends at the bars we have been going to for decades (Dewey’s/Porthole), and I get a chance to slow down and appreciate the beauty that life has provided me.
Growing up in Maine we learned that life isn’t always easy, and we apply that mentality with each day of work. We don’t get too high, we don’t get too low, we adjust to the new day and we work hard. Working hard is something we learned at a young age and we still bring that fire to work everyday. Jim’s dad had him cleaning the Greek Church in Portland since he was 8. I worked since the age of 12. We knew that if we wanted something, anything, it was achievable…but we had to work hard. Mainers believe this, it’s a part of our DNA.
5. What are your favorite pastimes when you aren't working?
I love to surf and I love the beach. I am pretty active and always moving, but during the NFL season I devote 10 hours each Sunday to watching football. It really makes me happy. Jim is also very active, still plays hockey in LA, and also loves the beach. We both love spending time with our family and close friends and enjoy acting as immature as possible, when applicable. In our office, we still have the Super Nintendo we grew up with and the game NHL 94 that we always played as kids. Back in the day, it was something to do during family parties. Today, we use it to see who’s buying lunch and for bragging rights. Jim’s currently on a winning streak - Ray Borque and Andy Moog have been playing really well.
6. Anything you would like to say to our readers that we didn't ask you?
I would just remind the readers that if you want something, anything, you should go and get it. Your idea is real, it’s a good idea, but you need to do the hard work and you have to take the risk to see it become a reality. I meet so many people that tell me they “had” a great idea. What happened to it? If your inner entrepreneur is telling you to do something, do it. Just know there are no shortcuts, no days off, and it won’t be easy. Once you accept this and embrace the fear of following your dreams, you are a huge step closer to fulfilling them.
Junior Achievement of Maine believes in the educational and motivational impact of relevant, hands-on learning and is a proud supporter of local entrepreneurs. We hope to encourage more students like Sabin to pursue their dreams by preparing them for the workforce with programs such as JA Be Entrepreneurial and JA It's My Future. Sign up now to volunteer in a classroom this coming school year!