How the children of a 9/11 firefighter carry on his entrepreneurial legacy

How the children of a 9/11 firefighter carry on his entrepreneurial legacy

Kelly Young knows that her late father would be “very proud” of her and her two younger siblings.

Three years ago, he made his business dreams come true by offloading a life-changing investment into his invention of ABC’s “Shark Tank” stars. His emotional speech brought many Shark investors to tears, as he touted the Cup Board Pro, a bamboo cutting board invented by his father that expected to launch before dying just three months before recording of the episode. The habit of doing

At the age of 53, Keith Young died of cancer as a firefighter in New York, cleaning up debris in lower Manhattan after September 11, 2001. The Sharks invested $ 100,000 in exchange for a 20% stake in the family business, and has pledged to donate all profits from that stake to a charity affiliated with the New York City Fire Department.

Keith Young (second from left) with fellow firefighters cleaning up debris at Ground Zero in lower Manhattan in 2001.

Source: Kelly Young

Next, Shark Daymond John helped the siblings secure an exclusive licensing deal with home-based retail giant Williams-Sonoma, which has preserved their father’s invention in more than 600 stores across the United States. United States. Williams-Sonoma takes care of the manufacture and distribution of the cutting board, which features a removable, collapsible plastic tray and strategically placed grooves for kitchen cleaning, while the siblings co-own the brand and market the product. help a.

Now, says Kelly Young, the nature of that licensing agreement has given her and her siblings the freedom to pursue their education and careers, while remaining emotionally and financially attached to their father’s creation. It is, one might say, his ultimate gift to him – an enduring legacy.

Siblings “can still focus on their dreams while running” [Cup Board Pro], the 28-year-old told CNBC Make It.

For her, that means running the New York-based interior design business she launched last year. Her 24-year-old brother Christiane is a veterinary assistant in a veterinary hospital. And her 18-year-old sister, Keira, recently started college in her freshman year.

As an entrepreneur, Young notably followed in his parents’ footsteps. She attributes her business ambitions to the fact that she grew up around her parents: She says she helped her mother run a Pilates studio on Long Island when she was a teenager, while both parents helped us create sites. Web for their businesses.

“I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit because of them,” she says.

‘A signal from above’

In the months following his father’s death, Young spent time reaching out to his industry contacts to learn how to turn Cup Board Pro into a full-fledged business. After “Shark Tank,” Shark Matt Higgins also put Young in touch with marketing professionals to help him build the Cup Board Pro website.

It would have been a lot to deal with for any aspiring entrepreneur, let alone one who lost his father – but Young faced an even greater emotional burden.

For six years, she had already run her mother’s Pilates studio on her own, taking over as a teenager after her mother’s death from breast cancer. She was also taking interior design courses at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. And after her father’s death, she was the legal guardian of her two younger siblings.

“There was a lot going on,” Young says. “But I was fully committed, ready to do whatever we needed to do to make all of my father’s dreams come true.”

At first, Young thought that meant running the business himself. But then she and her siblings struggled to keep up with the demand.

Before his father’s death, he had ordered 2,000 units of his cutting board from a manufacturer, selling a few hundred online to create his own “Shark Tank” audition tapes. When the siblings told their story on television, Young said that “within minutes” the first board prints sold out. The siblings received an additional 100,000 emails from customers wishing to purchase the Cup Board Pro.

“It was crazy. Our messaging system just exploded with orders on the waiting list,” Young said.

The Williams-Sonoma agreement was therefore timely. Young says his dad talked about putting his own cutting board on the Williams-Sonoma shelves, so “it felt like it was a sign from above that it had to happen.”

The Siblings and Williams-Sonoma have declined to release sales figures for the cutting board, which sells for $ 69.95 at Williams-Sonoma stores nationwide. But Young notes that these physical locations typically have Cup Board Pro screens, adding that online orders often come from international customers in Australia, Asia and Europe, perhaps from the global “Shark Tank” footprint. Due to the number of viewers.

“It definitely exceeded my own dreams,” she says.

(left to right): Keira Young, Christian Young and Kelly Young.

Source: Williams-Sonoma

“He was the best man”

On Saturday, as the world anxiously awaits the 9/11 attacks to mark the 20th anniversary of the tragedy, Young and his siblings will be thinking of their late father.

“I will never be able to forget that day – I was in third grade – and my dad picked me up from school,” she says.

At the time, his father worked at the FDNY Ladder 56 fire station in Brooklyn. When he saw the World Trade Center towers collapsing on television, he picked up Young from school and took his kids to get some ice cream, before telling them that he loved them and that they had to go. work.

In the days following the attack, he spent hours sorting through debris at Ground Zero in lower Manhattan. He spent nearly two decades as a firefighter before being diagnosed in 2016 with a form of soft tissue cancer linked to 9/11 first responders, due to the large amounts of smoke and dust he inhaled.

In the years that followed, the siblings raised over $ 44,000 through the 2018 GoFundMe campaign to attract 9/11 first responders for the Foundation’s non-profit cancer awareness and prevention program. FDNY. A is for healing. Young also says that the Sharks’ gift of Cup Board Pro “means a lot to me and my siblings.”

The cutting board was also from the fire station: Young’s father was a fire station chef with a degree in cooking from Johnson & Wales University in Providence, RI. After joining the FDNY in the late 1990s, he fell in love with cooking for his fellow firefighters, serving huge meals of anything from pasta to roast to firefighters returning from long shifts. – often making “the biggest mess of all time,” Young recalls.

Young says he remembers his father making a prototype in early 2010 by cutting up pieces of plastic to help clean up the mess, but his mother’s breast cancer diagnosis in 2011 had no effect. The business plan was also derailed. Two successful appearances on the Food Network cooking show “Chopped” in 2014 later earned her father nearly $ 10,000 in prizes, which kept the Pilates studio alive and continued to grow the board. to cut.

While actively fighting cancer, he made his own “Shark Tank” audition tape. While in the hospital, their children will help deliver and ship all orders placed through Amazon and Shopify. And after his death, the siblings took on the responsibility of appearing on television in his place. His only strategy: do your best to incorporate your father’s enthusiasm for the product into your sales pitch.

“Come to think of it, I don’t know how my siblings [and I] We did what we did, ”Young says. “I just wanted to make my parents proud and really show the world how awesome they are.”

Now, she says, it’s about carrying on her legacy and working to make sure her dreams for her invention are in good hands.

“He was the nicest person,” Young says. “He showed us strength in everything he did, and he was funny, smart, kind and the best chef ever. He’s a dad.

Disclosure: CNBC owns the exclusive rights to the off-grid cable of “Shark Tank”.

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