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A Firefighter Died Before His Product Could Appear on ‘Shark Tank.’ Now 5 Sharks Are Investors

‘Shark Tank’ investor Daymond John said Cup Board Pro was the ‘most emotional pitch’ he had ever been through. Here’s why.

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BY Emily Canal - 23 Oct 2018

firefighter died before shark tank

Christian, Keira, and Kaley Young. CREDIT: ABC/Eric McCandless

There's never been a Shark Tank product quite like Cup Board Pro.

The inventor of the bamboo cutting board, a former New York City firefighter who died in March from a rare form of cancer related to his 9/11 cleanup efforts, didn't live to see his product make it on air. On Sunday's episode, Young's children Kiera, Christian, and Kaley pitched their late father's invention and scored a $100,000 investment--split evenly between all five Sharks--for 20 percent of the company. The Sharks pledged to invest any profits from the business to a charity benefiting firefighters suffering from illnesses related to the 9/11 cleanup.

Cup Board Pro is a tilted cutting board with grooves that direct liquids into an attachable plastic dish. The dish also collects scraps to make cleaning the board easier. Young invented the product after years working as a cook in his local firehouse and publishing a book entitled Cooking With the Firehouse Chef.

When the Sharks learned that the siblings had sold 300 of the $40 cutting boards in just three weeks, they asked the Youngs to step out of the room, and then deliberated privately. One of the reasons the Sharks were so impressed with the Youngs has to do with the tremendous strength the siblings displayed just by appearing on the show. Six years before their father's death, their mother died of breast cancer. Their story also resonated strongly with guest Shark Matt Higgins, the co-founder of venture capital firm RSE Ventures, who was also the press secretary for New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani on September 11, 2001. Higgins was at Ground Zero within minutes of the first plane hitting the World Trade Center.

"When I saw these beautiful kids talk about their firefighter father, my mind went back to all the rescue and recovery workers I met, and people who lost their lives," Higgins said during an interview with Inc. He added that the Youngs' story also hit home for him personally, as he is a cancer survivor himself.

Sunday night's episode has already led to a strong response from viewers, as the Youngs sold out of all 2,000 cutting boards within minutes of the show's airing. In addition to running Cup Board Pro with her siblings, Kaley Young also manages Hot Pilates Secret, a Pilates studio founded by her late mother. "Both businesses give me so much support," Young told Inc. "I'm always surrounded by positive people."

Though the Sharks helped realize a dream for the Youngs--and their late father--by investing in Cup Board Pro, host Daymond John tweeted Sunday about struggling to maintain his composure during their pitch.

Higgins noted that while Shark Tank helps entrepreneurs grow their businesses, the show can also serve as motivation for aspiring founders.

"That one pitch represents everything that is great about Shark Tank," Higgins said. "The power of the show can inspire people to go the distance."

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