Hometown Boy on Shark Tank
By Barbara A. Preston l April 5, 2021
“Let’s talk about how sausage is made,” Montgomery Township native Phil Wong, 27, announced during his appearance on ABC’s Shark Tank on March 12. The reality TV show gives budding entrepreneurs the chance to secure business deals that could make them millionaires.
Wong was seeking $250,000 for a 5 percent stake is his company—Misfit Foods, which makes “sustainable sausages.”
“Food has always been a part of my life,” Wong says. He grew up in Montgomery Township in “a family of immigrants.”
“My mom is from Indonesia and my dad is from Macao,” he says, noting that food for his family was a way of maintaining a connection to their homelands.
Wong's parents still live in Montgomery. His mother, Darlene Kwee, MD, is a dermatologist with Princeton Medical Group. His father, Tai Wong, is a world class molecular biologist who works to develop new cancer medicines. His sister, Alexandra “Ali” Wong, MD, who graduated from MHS in 2011, followed in her parents’ footsteps in the field of medicine. She is finishing up a specialty in internal medicine.
In an interview with The Montgomery News, Kwee said her son chose a different path. He developed an interest in entrepreneurship while he was studying at Georgetown University, where he earned a degree from the School of Foreign Service in 2015. “I told my kids that whatever you do, you’ve got to do something you love,” Kwee says.
Misfit Foods is born Misfit Foods started as a juice company, but ended up making sausages. “It was a weird path to take,” Wong admits. Wong and Ann Yang started the company as 24-year-old college students at Georgetown in 2014.
“We were focused on fighting food waste and addressing supply chain inefficiencies,” Wong says. They made cold-press juices from so called “ugly” fruits and vegetables (the mis-shaped ones farmers could not sell).
About 20 billion pounds of fruits and veggies go unharvested or unsold in the United States each year, according to sustainabilitydefined.com. “Ann and I started the company in my college kitchen with four crates of ugly peaches, a borrowed blender, and this belief that we could create delicious cold pressed juice from food that is yummy and nutritious but that would be wasted otherwise,” Wong says.
He told the sharks that he shared that kitchen with “six other guys” he was living with at the time, and they were not too happy about it.” While Wong and Yang were featured in Forbes magazine’s 2018 list of “30 Under 30: Social Entrepreneurs” list for their juices, they ultimately switched direction and decided there was more opportunity for growth in the “Flexitarian” (a mix of flexible and vegetarian) market.
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“Meat is more resource-intensive and environmentally impactful,” according to misfitfoods.com. “Eating a more plant-based diet is a great way of doing your part in the fight against climate change.” “Many Americans want to eat less meat, whether it’s for their health, the planet, or for animal welfare,” Wong said on Shark Tank. “Most people are not ready to go vegetarian. Yet, we are stuck with an all or nothing choice when we go to the store.”
Misfit Foods sells a line of sausages—half chicken and half veggies and spices— at Whole Foods, and also online for delivery straight to the buyers’ homes.
Shark Tank—the outcome
Minutes after Wong completed his presentation, Kevin O’Leery, aka “Mr. Wonderful,” declared that he was “out.” He reasoned that he had invested in frozen and refrigerated foods in the past and that he "never made a lot of money." Next Robert Herjavec quickly declared he was also “out.” “I’m a vegetarian,” he said. “I think your sausage products are innovative, but I don’t believe in the trend. I think consumers want to either be vegetarians or carnivores. I don’t share your vision, so I’m out.”
Just when things were not looking good for Wong, a guest shark—Daniel Lubetzky, the founder of the KIND Snacks—made an offer of $250,000 for 15 percent of Misfit Foods. It was not as generous an offer as Wong wanted, but ... it was an offer.
Mr. Wonderful warned Wong that he would have to “take a haircut,” if he wanted a shark for a partner. Lori Greiner, the “Queen of QVC,” jumped in and offered Wong a “sharkier” $250,000 for 18 percent of Misfit Foods. “I think a good product speaks for itself. This is going to sell,” Greiner said. “I do wonder if people will start knocking it off like crazy. It’s so smart. I think you are going to have to race to the market.”
Ultimately, Mark Cuban and Lubetzky wrangled a deal of two sharks for $300,000 for 15 percent of the company. “Dan Lubetzky and Mark Cuban are both two huge business idols to me,” Wong concluded. “I am kind of fanboying. It’s going to be a game changer.”
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Watch the episode on ABC.com or Hulu.
Where can you buy Misfit Foods?
A Shark Tank sampler for $39.99 includes: Kabocha Squash Sweet Italian Chicken Sausage (4 links); Kale Chimichurri Chicken Sausage (4 links); Lao Curry Carrot Ground Beef (1 lb); and two packs of Wong’s favorite, Sweet Potato Hot Andouille Chicken Sausage.(8 links). Visit misfitfoods.com.
Misfit Foods are also for sale at Whole Foods market.