Serial entrepreneurs Dee and Angie Cowger’s most successful businesses to date are Custard Stand Food Products and The Custard Stand Restaurants (six locations). The Cowgers pitched Custard Stand Hot Dog Chili on SHARK TANK in February 2016. While they didn’t get a deal, the husband and wife team have inspired entrepreneurs with their can-do spirit and drive. Angie Cowger also is a part-time gifted education coordinator. She received degrees from Fairmont State University (BA), WV College of Graduate Studies (Master’s) and Marshall University (Master’s). Dee Cowger drove truck and managed several businesses he launched. The couple resides in Webster Springs, WV, where their businesses are headquartered. They have three children and three grandchildren.
1) How did you come up with the idea for the Custard Stand?
We grew up with a local restaurant in town called Elsie’s Dairy Bar that everyone referred to as The Custard Stand which closed in the mid ’80s. When we were looking for a new business, we decided to open a restaurant very similar to the one that was already here.
Custard Stand Food Products grew out of that business. We had so many of our customers wanting to buy our Hot Dog Chili that we finally had to figure out a way to cost it out, market it and sell it at retail so that anyone who wanted it could buy it anytime!
2) What makes it different from its competitors?
We use 100% Ground Beef and most other companies do not … they use textured vegetable protein or lesser cuts of meat or fillers (such as oats, crackers, meal, etc.) to lower their product costs. We also do not use any additional additives or preservatives and most other companies do. Our product is the closest to home made that we’ve found on the market.
3) How did your experience on Shark Tank help your business?
Our online orders have grown 10,000% and have allowed us to reach customers in all 50 states. Our sales are up 47% across the board. Along with gaining more recognition nationally, we are working with several new retailers and distributors to secure product placement, as well as expanding with our existing retailers.
4) You have been told you are living the American Dream, and what is that like?
We enjoy having the opportunity to own our own business, raise our family in this business, make a difference in our community and influence the next generation. Being an entrepreneur means that you don’t have to answer directly to anyone, you can make your own schedule to facilitate personal or family time, come and go as you please, but it also means that you are where the buck stops so you are the one loading the truck when it’s late, going to pick up something that didn’t get delivered, having to work when no one shows up. You may make your own hours but you usually work more than if you worked for another company or employer. We are able to vacation when we chose, and we don’t have to always count our pennies, which is pretty awesome.
5) What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
Do not be afraid to take risks to achieve your goals or move to the next level. Weigh out the pros and cons so you are aware of the level of risk and what you stand to lose, but do not be afraid. “No” is not always a bad thing, use the “no” to gain information about your product or your pitch to make yourself better prepared. Stay focused, be passionate about what you want and know that you have to work hard to get what you want.
We would like to thank Dee and Angie for speaking with us.