Vietnamese coffee is something coffee lovers should try, but not it’s not sold in many places. Debbie Wei Mullin created Copper Cow Coffee to make this delicacy available to anyone who wants it. She pitched her startup on Shark Tank and made a deal with Robert Herjavec. As of 2023, Copper Cow Coffee is worth an estimated $20 million.
About the Founder
Debbie Wei Mullin was raised by Vietnamese immigrants who moved to Los Angeles in hope of a better life. She has a bachelor’s degree in economics from UC Berkeley and an MCP degree from MIT.
After interning at United Nations – Habitat, she was hired as a senior program officer at The Asia Foundation. Two years later, Debbie became an associate at The World Bank branch in New Delhi, India.
She eventually transferred to the company’s office in the Greater Seattle Area. In 2014, the California native left the corporate world to start her own business, Wei Pantry, which served Vietnamese food items.
Founding the Company
When Debbie was young, she always loved drinking Vietnamese coffee due to its gentle caramel texture. But growing up, Debbie realized that not many coffee shops serve her favourite brew.
That’s when she came up with an easy-to-make Vietnamese cup with a biodegradable pour-over coffee filter. No other specialized equipment is needed to make it, so anyone can enjoy it at any time.
Debbie launched Copper Cow Coffee in 2017 and sold her product personally in stores until she got in touch with brands like Williams-Sonoma. In three years, the startup had $4 million in sales but wasn’t profitable. To fund the business, she raised $3.5 million over two funding rounds.
Shark Tank Appearance
Copper Cow Coffee already had strong sales but was burning a lot of money in the process. Debbie Wei Mullin appeared on season 12 of Shark Tank, seeking $600,000 for a 4% equity stake.
The Sharks had mixed reactions when they tasted the samples, but they were impressed by the revenue. However, the atmosphere changed when the founder revealed they lost $1.4 million in 2019 and was on track to lose $700,000 in 2020.
Daymond John criticized how Debbie was running the company but Mark Cuban and Robert Herjavec defended her. Robert (who didn’t seem to like the coffee) agreed to invest $600,000 for 5.5% equity and 1.5% advisory shares.
After Shark Tank
The publicity from the show helped drive a spike in sales and helped the company become profitable. Sales on Amazon in particular had a big bump in orders. Debbie revealed in an interview that the deal with Robert never closed because the due diligence process took too long. Some Sharks will stall negotiations until they know the episode will air.
The episode was taped in August 2020 and it took almost a year for it to air. During this time, the coffee startup was expanding rapidly and needed to raise more money at a higher valuation.
The funding round was led by Cultivian Sandbox and Arborview Capital with six other firms also investing. By now, she has raised over $11 million and her equity is below 40%. The money was used to launch new flavours and design a compostable coffee filter.
Debbie got her product into more than 3,000 stores such as H-E-B, Walmart, Thrive Market, Sprouts, and Whole Foods. In store’s they are typically placed in the Asian foods aisle or speciality coffee section. Their coffee products are also available on Amazon and their website, CopperCowCoffee.com.
Their authentic Vietnamese coffee has a 4.1-star rating from 1,891 customer reviews on Amazon. Copper Cow Coffee makes $4 million in annual revenue and is valued at $20 million.