Jonathan Kapla: From Flip Video to Grilled Cheese

August 31st, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

Jonathan Kaplan, maker of the Flip Video camera, is finally zig zagging closer to his beacon in the fog. That may seem an odd statement considering Cisco killed production on Kaplan’s baby project, Flip Video cameras, earlier this year, but you have to remember that zig zagging is about taking indirect steps to get to your goal. And Kaplan’s goal? Grilled cheese sandwiches.

Kaplan has had a dream of building a grilled cheese sandwich restaurant chain for years, but understood his idea was premature. He understood that though he had the mental capital his idea needed to be profitable, he did not have the relationship capital he needed.

Now, Kaplan has had two businesses he sold: #1. Family Wonder to Sega, #2. Flip Video to Cisco. He zig zagged both to success, and in the wake of Flip Video getting scrapped, he now has everything he needs to build his years-old dream. He has the mental capital, the relationship capital, and he also has plenty of financial backing to turn The Melt, his grilled cheese restaurant, into a nationwide chain. Kaplan hopes to have 500 The Melt stores open all over the U.S. within five years.

Kaplan is also smart enough to use a different goal to get people his employees and customers motivated. Though he has the goal of opening 500 stores in five years, he doesn’t use that as a catalyzing statement. Instead, he talks about using grilled cheese to make people remember their childhood. He talks about bringing customers happiness and nostalgia in every sandwich and in every cup of soup, not just a delicious meal. Listening to him talk in this interview makes me anxious to go and try what he’s talking about myself!

Until The Melt comes to Utah or I make it to San Francisco, I’ll just have to keep an eye on this savvy zig zagger and see where he goes next.

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