Ryan Sung // Ep 27 // Carrying the Legacy for Honolulu Cookie Company
Welcome to Episode 27 of the Asian Hustle Network Podcast! We are very excited to have Ryan Sung on this week's episode.
We interview Asian entrepreneurs around the world to amplify their voices and empower Asians to pursue their dreams and goals. We believe that each person has a message and a unique story from their entrepreneurial journey that they can share with all of us.
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Today Jerry leads a full team of 70+ employees in Silicon Valley, Boston, Toronto, and the Philippines, helping clients manage and analyze over a billion dollars in contract value around the world. He’s been recognized in Forbes 30 under 30 and Silicon Valley Business Journals’ 40 under 40.
Before turning 30, Jerry Ting started a company that upended one of the largest sectors of the legal industry. The company, Evisort, uses AI to read contracts automatically, saving household-name brands like Jelly Belly, Fujitsu and Cox Automotive millions of dollars per year on legal fees, earning Jerry the distinction as one of the founders of modern contract management.
Evisort’s AI is revolutionizing the contract management industry, and the technology is impressive in its own right. The software can read a 30-page contract in 15 seconds, extracting relevant legal and business terms, recognize key expiration dates and organize the information in a central repository. It can read 230+ contracts and 50+ provisions and metadata “out-of-the box.” Evisort is one of very few enterprise AI companies with its own R&D lab, building proprietary models to help legal, sales and procurement professionals more efficiently manage their contract workflows.
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Intro: (00:00:00) Hey guys, welcome to Asian Hustle Network Podcast, My name is Bryan.
And my name is Maggie
And we interview Asian entrepreneurs around the world to amplify their voices and empower Asians to pursue their dreams and goals.
We believe that each person has a message and a unique story from their entrepreneurial journey that they can share with all of us.
Maggie: (00:00:23) Hello everyone. Welcome to the Asian hustle network podcast. Today. We have a very special guest. His name is Ryan. He was born and raised on Oahu. And he has always been a local boy at heart, moving away in 2006 to attend community college in orange County, eventually transferring to USC. He always knew he’d be back someday. After graduating, he worked in advertising with the eventual goal to pursue a media sales position until he was called by his parents to see if he was interested in learning the family business. This decision was not easy, knowing the pressure to prove his worth at a company that had grown. Quite a bit since he left home, but he knew this would be an opportunity worthwhile. Should he be able to succeed like many sons or daughters in his shoes entering a family business started by his parents. There’s little structure when it comes to training and plenty of constructive criticism. In addition to the pressures of proving. There are the complicated aspects of family dynamics and that come into play sometimes resulting in an absence of professionalism, all in all. He finds himself fortunate to having the opportunity to carry on his family’s legacy, contributing a fresh perspective while also honoring the vision his parents have in mind. Ryan, welcome to the show.
Jay: (00:00:59) Thank you guys for having me Maggie. Brian, appreciate you guys.
Ryan: (00:01:38) I thank you for having me.
Bryan: (00:01:39) Yeah. We’re super excited to have you, so let’s hop right in. What was it like growing up, growing up in your family business?
Ryan: (00:01:46) Yeah, sure. Uh, so just for some backstory, um, family business was, my parents are all as entrepreneurs, right? So they didn’t always have a cookie company though. Um, before this, it was actually kind of. Souvenir type business. Uh, if you, for anybody that went to Hawaii back in the nineties, it was, if you ever went to ABC store and saw shirts and clocks and coasters with, uh, the Hawaiian maps on it. And, you know, they were kind of like wood-frame clock and whatnot. That was kind of the business earlier on. It evolved into kind of a food business where we started like making muffins and whatnot. Wow. And hard candies and cookies here and there. And then it eventually finally evolved into the cookie business and all those pivots over time were a function of kind of like what was going on with the economy, how to, how the business was going, if it was continuing to grow. And so eventually we kind of settled on that cookie business and, um, so growing up, it was always very interesting having entrepreneurial parents because of the businesses that weren’t successful. Um, I didn’t personally feel it or. Recognize it as much, but we were moving a lot. We either had a nice house or where you were living in my grandma’s house. It kind of, it changed over time. Um, I was too young to, like I said, recognize what was going on, but looking back on it, I definitely saw where the sacrifices came and at which points in time that our life changed and the reason why it changed. And I understand it now. And so it’s, it’s, it’s been exciting this whole time and, um, Never adult day, for sure.
Bryan: (00:03:28) I think it’s good that you touched base on that too, because nowadays entrepreneurship is so Hollywood and everything. So glamorous, you know, it’s like you work hard for one or two years and your whole life is glamorous, but here you are just telling the hustle story literally of your parents. You know, and what entails become that successful? I seen it with my parents at school, like same someone, a story growing up, you know, w we’ll be in a small house in a big house, depending on how my dad’s business does. It’s a very similar background, so I can appreciate that.
Maggie: (00:03:57) Yeah, that’s amazing. And so, you know, we read a couple of articles on you. We know that, you know, you were really into skateboarding and just like cutting cookie samples, helping out with your family business. When you were at that age, did you have. Any idea of like the magnitude that the company would get to at that scale, or, you know, were you just kind of helping out your family and going about it?
Ryan: (00:04:19) Yeah. In the early years. Definitely not. Um, it was cool having, uh, you know, my parents have a cookie business. Um, it was, you know, it wasn’t like. An apparel brand or something like that, where, you know, it’s like streetwear along those lines, but it was definitely cool having the business and watching it grow slowly, cutting the cookies back in the day. Right. That story actually came from part of the group growing up in a family business with like me skating around the warehouse, setting up ramps with like, you know, whatever spare wood was playing around in bricks. And they had an, or housing and creating random ramps and then just, uh, trying to entertain myself because my parents were. At the factory all the time. And you know, I was in this back room watching movies every now and then, and then kind of once the business started to, you know, they needed help from us, we would help out where we can. I was, you know, I can’t remember. I was like a middle schooler. Yeah. I was in middle school around there. And so cutting samples. And that’s kind of what people, I guess, some of the stories where people understand, uh, our, our business, they, they remember a lot and they, they recognize the. Whenever they go to the store, you know, they always remember going to the store and eating as many free samples as possible. So always had that aspects of our business, um, and me cutting the samples. So we don’t have to cut the samples anymore, but that was like the very early days. And so I never thought the business would grow because we had such humble beginnings and the more and more. Did business, I guess, from the word of mouth marketing that happens the more and more the business grew, the more opportunities we had from landlords calling us to enter their space. And I think, you know, for my dad, at least the days that he worked with ABC stores in Waikiki understood that business model where, you know, they have a store on every block. He was essentially trying to be like the ABC stores of the cookie companies, I guess. And, you know, it worked out fairly well. Um, Not so well during COVID time where we have a lot of leases, but, um, during the time of expansion, it definitely was good for getting our brand out there and getting it recognized. And so, um, when I came back to the business, um, and started working for them, uh, like it’s going to be five years next year. Um, when I came back and moved back to Hawaii. They had like 21 locations at that point. Um, and over 400 employees. So the one that, when I mentioned that it was scary going back to a business with, you know, that has grown exponentially. That’s the type of business I went back to initially in getting to know the people that work there, you know, the people don’t even. They know me as the sun or whatever, you know, silver, silver spoon kid. Um, but that was a lot of the insecurities and fears that I had when, when moving back. And I never would’ve thought I would’ve grown that big, but it did. And you know, that’s where I was a little bit worried.
Bryan: (00:07:11) I mean, your company is iconic. You know, every time we go to Hawaii, we see it everywhere. Every, before you go back to California, we always made sure that pickle bash gives her friends and family, you know, and that that’s amazing. You know, we love that iconic feeling for your company. So out of curiosity, too, like how did you maintain. How’d you help maintain the culture that your parents built onto the vision that you have, right?
Ryan: (00:07:39) Yeah, I think. One thing that I made it a point to do. And, you know, uh, with the help of a lot of our senior management team and just the management team in general was everybody had an idea of what the culture was, but it was never defined. And so I never went to school for business or anything like that. And I don’t have my MBA. But, you know, I, I definitely like to try to improve myself as much as possible research where I can develop myself as a leader and, you know, take advice from as many people as possible. So what I’ve kind of, uh, got from all of that was, you know, we, for our company, we always had this familial business culture.And we have always cared about our employees and the team. And we tried to do things as humanely as possible, um, legally, you know, everything legally as well. And so that kind of culture rolled out into basically how everybody functioned in the business at that time. But like I said, it was never defined. So I made it a point to kind of. Work with all of the management team to really set kind of the vision, the values, the core values, right? Examples of what those core values and how we represent them with real life examples that we do every day. Just so everybody could understand in some capacity that, you know, we’re living the vision and values every day and we didn’t have it written down before and you know, some of it, and I was talking to my friend about this yesterday because, you know, I’m just kinda helping him out with his business and. It sounds like corporate fluff, somewhat if you are involved in the process, but once you understand that the vision and values are very important for setting the boundaries of how your business should function. It’s very easy to function within those boundaries afterwards. And so that’s what I wanted to do for the business and as much as possible. Push those values, not even push the values, I would say, uh, make sure the values are exemplified in a natural way. And it wasn’t like aspirational goals. It was existing value that we already had. So it wasn’t saying something that we weren’t, it was just the fighting. What we already were.
Maggie: (00:09:43) I love that. I love it. And it’s also like, you have that basic understanding and, you know, you understand it because it’s her family business. Right. And you already have that foundation laid out. Right.
Bryan: (00:09:54) And you’re so humble, dude. Like that’s, that’s really awesome to hear, like you’re so willing to learn and grow, you know? We probably met a lot of people out there that don’t really have that burning desire if it’s kind of like inherited from their family, but you have like that hustle first-generation mentality, which we love a lot.So I appreciate that. Yeah.
Ryan: (00:10:14) Thank you. I, I appreciate that. I definitely don’t have probably the same experiences that my parents had to go through. They, you know, as immigrant parents and I’m very blessed to have this life for sure. And they’ve always ingrained very similar values in me. So. Yeah, they’ll shut me down. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t really step outside of my boundaries.
Bryan: (00:10:33) Speaking of which, what kind of values that your parents instilled in you as you’re growing up?
Ryan: (00:10:39) The humble part is the biggest one. For me. They’re always stressing to be humble. Don’t get too big headed of yourself, you know?
Bryan: (00:10:47) The wrappers on your cookies and everything. And then do you guys have like the word humble and the rappers and your cookies? I think I’ve seen it somewhere. I’m not too sure. I remember grinding residents were humble a lot if I’m remembering.
Ryan: (00:11:01) Yeah. Yeah. Uh, I, we don’t end personally. I don’t, I’m not sure. Um, but yeah, no, that’s, that’s part of our values for sure. You know? If it’s in there and everybody at our business. And I think part of the Asian culture is humble and like somewhat more reserved, I’d say. And so that’s kind of. You know, as much as possible we want to be, uh, we want to make sure we know where we came from and where our roots are and not always, never get big headed. Our business did well. Um, and that’s, we’re very fortunate to have had that happen, but you know, there’s times like this where it doesn’t do so well. And so it’s, it’s definitely a humbling experience. So once again, showing what we have to do to make sure we continue. And I think a lot of actually touching back on the values. I think a lot of the values that we’ve said and the team that we built without this whole team, we wouldn’t have been able to get this far during COVID and we’ve been able to kind of out last, uh, maybe, uh, you know, other companies that haven’t been able to make it there. But I think because we have a very strong backbone. Uh, as, as a staff and team at Honolua cookie.
Maggie: (00:12:07) Yeah, no, I absolutely agree with you regarding, you know, Asian people being very humble, like oftentimes big corporations that are owned or led or founded by Asian entrepreneurs. We often don’t hear about it because you know, they often stay quiet about it. They don’t want to talk about or brag too much about it, but I love how you are stepping out and talking about this. Family culture within your business and showing the family side of that. And I think that’s what makes customers fall in love with your story even more because they tie in, you know, their own experiences to your background, into your family story as well.
Bryan: (00:12:39) Yeah. We need to hear your story, right?
Ryan: (00:12:42) Yeah, no, this is a great opportunity. So thank you guys for, even letting me share this. This is actually the first time I’ve ever done this. Oh, wow. Uh, yeah, that’ll be interesting to hear back for me.
Maggie: (00:12:57) I’m very curious, you know, you were at USC and you also worked in advertising for a little bit. Did you have like a point in time where you knew like, okay, this is the time that I want to go back home because it seemed like. Our family was very, um, open to you, you know, pursuing your passion, whatever it may be, if it wasn’t the family business. And they were okay with that too. But for you to make that decision, like, Hey, I’m going to go back home and help my family with this. But was that point in time? Like,
Ryan: (00:13:26) yeah. So, um, they actually. They had somebody managing the business. They, I think they were a little bit more removed at that time when they called me back. Um, they’re thinking about the succession part of it in some sense, uh, who was going to carry on the family business, uh, their, their, their, their business that they grew over time. So. The person managing the business, you know, he introduced some structure at our company and he introduced kind of that professionalism that kind of took us to more, I say more corporate, but not so much corporate, just adding the more corporate structure to a business that was growing. And that was necessary in order to make sure we could grow at the pace we were growing and in a sustainable way. And so when they called me back, it was more so, Hey, do you want to, you know, have the, you know, do you want to learn the business? We want to be able to, you know, not really grim you, but show you the ins and outs of it, start to train. And, you know, my parents specifically said that, you know, start flying back, start to come to these financial meetings with us, see what the business is like from that sense. And, you know, and just get to just get a baseline, understanding that I was doing this. All while working too. So I’d fly home on the weekends every now and then just to kind of attend like a meeting here, here, or there for whatever quarterly meetings they had. And so my mom, uh, mentioned to me specifically, she was like, you know, at the end of the day, if you don’t. Like it, you don’t have to do this. You don’t have to take on this business from us. Um, it’s up to you, you know, whatever you want to do, it’s, it’s fine. But I think this would be a good opportunity and that’s in resonated with me. And that, that was always such a. Such a mature thing, I guess, to say. And so it was, it, it didn’t put too much pressure on me. So it really was my decision at the end of the day after that, if I wanted to do it. And so, you know, like I said, well, I’m thinking about it. And if I could succeed, I knew that there would be an opportunity that I would talk to coworkers that had family businesses, like older coworkers back at my old job. And one of them mentioned that, you know, He regrets. He didn’t do it at his family business and you know, his mid business grew and he was, it was already too late for him to come back any anyways. And so that kinda, you know, during that time, I was asking for a lot of advice once again. And so that’s kinda. It’s helped me push me to getting to that point. But the first two years, man, that was crazy high. I was not sure if I liked it or not. Um, and it was more so just like constantly doubted like imposter syndrome. Everybody has it, no matter what job you work, but there is a load of imposter syndrome. I had, um, working with a company that large. So it was pretty scary.
Bryan: (00:16:07) Yeah, that’s crazy to hear like all your experiences too. Then when you finally took the reigns in 2018 as general manager, what was going through your mind?
Ryan: (00:16:16) Yeah. So that, that call, um, I think I went back in 2016, right. So two years kind of train and worked at the retail stores, um, for a couple months. And so I rotated through every department as best as possible. Like I said, there was no formal training program. So some of the departments I worked in were, you know, it, wasn’t probably a fully vetted training and it was just kind of like, Oh, well, can we find for Ryan, I’d say working at the retail stores was. I w I really, really value that experience. Being able to work with the customers, having the exact same schedule as everybody else, just being a retail associate, um, doing everything they had to do, um, opening, closing the store, all that kind of stuff, and being customer facing and understanding what was going on at the retail level of that retail, the retail stores are kind of our bread and butter of our business. And so once I got that experience under my belt, I’d say that was the most. Well plan part of my training and the rest is kind of like, Oh, what can we do here? And here and there, what would be good for Ryan to do now? Um, And so it wasn’t like the total priority and there wasn’t a ton of structure and this is where it would be important for the next generation of if, you know, whenever this business gets passed on to whoever else, um, in my family or whoever it might be to set some type of more structured program and some type of constitution, family, business constitution to kind of develop. A more structured way to, to succeed businesses, to make sure that next generation has the most chance to be successful. Um, and so once I kind of got the general manager, that was more so a call where. Okay. Ryan is going to have to figure out how to do this anyways. And so there’s no point in like putting him as like marketing director, because he worked at an advertising before and like, see what he can do there. You know, I’ll be at, I had to like actually function as marketing director for like a very short period of time. Um, but that was just because we were short-staffed and I just kind of have to hop in and that was fun. But, you know, there, there was, um, there was just this underlying kind of feeling that okay. From our management team. If Ryan is going to eventually succeed to be kind of a manager, you might as well just make a manager, see how it works and then kind of like trial by fire. Right. So just get thrown in and see what happens and try to like work. In my best ability to become general manager, essentially. Um, and so that was that particular promotion quote unquote, um, where, you know, at this point in time, you know, COVID has taught me truly what it’s meant to kind of help the business where we can. And during certain times, and like I said, I have a lot of support from our management team too, and they helped mentor me as much as possible. And so, um, during this COVID time, it’s. Gave me the confidence to make decisions where I need to make it, um, and have an understanding of what the business has looked like in the prior four years, I worked in it and use those experiences to make my decisions in the future and know there’s nothing that could have prepared anybody for COVID. So a lot of us are just trying to make the best decision at any given time, and that’s all we can do at the end of the day. And you know, you’re right. And, you know, we just have to deal with the consequences, but as long as it sits within our values, once again, You know, it is the best decision that we can make at any given time.
Maggie: (00:19:41) Yeah. Yeah. That’s amazing. I love how you always tie it back to your company values and family values.
Bryan: (00:19:45) Yeah, I think it was also crazy too, that this is a common thing that we’ve been hearing a lot in our podcast too, is regardless of what type of experience you have in the past, by the time you step into a leadership position, you draw each of these experiences as a point of reference to make your decisions. You know, and your point of view, it’s like, you know, use the work in marketing. Now it all plays back into how you make your decisions. Now, people out there listening right now, you may think that you work at a job that you’re not going to get any value from it. You’re always going to draw some sort of experience that you learned good or bad to make your decisions in the future.
Ryan: (00:20:20) Yeah, definitely. I actually, one thing I want to touch on on that. So I actually didn’t study business. Like I mentioned, I was a kinesiology major at USC. I was a kinesiology major. I worked in advertising and now I do operations management, marketing, branding, all that kind of stuff. I draw on the kinesiology part of my major with the, I guess the more analytical background of that kind of major, where you have to digest data, study, do labs and all that kind of stuff. So, you know, The marketing advertising side was more like the salesmanship being able to speak publicly and whatnot. And so it’s kinda evolved and just like transferable skills over time. Well, taken me here. Right?
Maggie: (00:21:03) Yeah. Amazing. So since COVID has happened, how has that affected Holland Honolulu, cookie company? And what did you guys have to do in order to pivot during those times?
Ryan: (00:21:12) Yeah, since COVID man, that was scary. Um, it’s, it’s scary actually still, so back in March, I think I’m going, looking at a calendar right now. I think we shut down our stores March 18th. That was the call. Uh, the week prior to that, we were kind of knowing that other States in the mainland were starting to begin their rolling shutdowns. And so we saw it coming when it was going to happen. Um, we wanted to get ahead of it a little bit, as much as possible, and because a lot of the customers, um, that come to Hawaii are. No tourists. We knew that people were potentially bringing in from the outside. So the 18th is when we made the call to shut everything down. Retail stores, operations, the offices, everybody worked from home scrambling as much as possible. Um, the 23rd, the week in the Monday after that, they think it was a Wednesday. The 23rd was when our governor. Basically shut down the state. And so we got ahead of it by five days, you know, those days in between where like, did we make the right decision? You know, we’re basically zeroed out on sales and all this stuff, but. Ultimately, it goes back to making sure our, our team and our staff was safe. And so we were able to do that. Everybody kind of like, you know, we continuing to pay them. We didn’t know how long this was going to be. And I think everybody has a very similar story that they thought this is going to be like a couple of weeks and turned into whatever eight months now. And so we started to plan as much as possible every day planning we had to implement some COVID strategies we had to implement. What we’re gonna do with, uh, payroll, what, what we’re going to do with staffing. Um, you know, what, what do we do, um, with the employees now that they’re just, it’s kind of sitting, um, waiting for direction. Uh, we should continue to pay them and make sure their, their medical expenses were covered. But we knew that if we continued to do that, it wouldn’t bode well for our business. So we had long-term strategy sessions every day. We were just sitting together as a management team, trying to plan as much as possible for what we had to do to survive during all of this. Um, we stayed shut down for, I think pretty much a month and a half. Um, And then we decided to open up our e-commerce business. At least retail still stayed shut down. Uh, we knew without tourists, retail, there would be no point to open it. Um, all of our leases, they still required us to pay all that kind of stuff. Um, PPP came around, I think in April too luckily. And so we got some PPP funds, but you know, at that point we were downsizing staff. We had to, you know, lay off. Uh, at the end of all of this, we laid off over 200 people, right? So our business strength dramatically, we’ve been down over 90%, pretty much every month, you know, over 95%, it’s probably close to a hundred pounds. And at the beginning, um, we’ve been down every month since that, since we, when we first shut down in March. So it’s been extremely difficult. Luckily we were a business that. You know, we were healthy, but we always reinvested our, our, our profits back into our business. So it’s not like we were sitting on a ton of cash or anything like that to continue our business. And so it was just a matter of time until we exhausted everything and make sure we had tapped into other routes of financing and whatnot, but still a very, very long game ahead of us. And so. The planning has given us the clarity to make sure we know how to spend what money we do have, um, to take us the farthest possible.
Um, so our business can pretty much survive all of this during all this time. Once we got through all the COVID plans and all the protocols and set all that. Stuff up and changing, you know, the changing regulations every week. It seemed like waiting for tourism to open back up during all of this, you know, we’ve done so much since March and as a team to implement what we need, you get to do. Pivoting was part of it. Um, sure. We put more focus on e-commerce. Um, and then figuring out how to get our products outside of Hawaii was very unfortunate because people weren’t coming into Hawaii anymore. And so that’s kind of where that, you know, Costco. That plan started probably in may around there, uh, quickly pivoted to Costco, Hawaii. And we had a local grocery food land help us out too. So some of the local businesses helped get some of our product offloaded. And then that kind of just. Snowballed into potentially an eventually Costco made land, um, helping us out too. Um, it is taken with a grain of salt though. And, you know, Costco mainland has been such a great partner. Uh, even the Costco Hawaiian coffee in general has been a great partner. And so they’ve been able to help us during this hard time where. You know, luckily our brand, it’s giving us some hope where our brand has some type of a way to survive in our e-commerce business. People are, you know, supporting us through that route. But, you know, with the amount of retail stores that we have, it’s still extremely difficult to make sure we can cover those costs and continue to operate. And any retail stores that we have open, you know, to be totally transparent, it’s not covering their expenses. It’s just kind of keeping them open at a very baseline and. Limited hours and, uh, not all of them are open either. So there’s constantly. We’re constantly thinking of ways to change to make sure we can kind of make it through all of this. And we have a long road ahead of us. 2021 is going to kind of be a very pivotal year for making sure all of our plants continue to go, um, to how we strategize in the beginning of the year and kind of we’re, we’re making sure we keep a very close eye on what’s going on.
Bryan: (00:27:02) Well, I mean, listen to your story, very inspirational. Uh, what I can sense from this is like, you’re very positive. You know, you’re always looking for solutions, even though things are not looking well, you know? And that I, that I think that mindset makes one heck of a difference too, to deal with your challenges to appreciate that.
Maggie: (00:27:24) Yeah, that’s something that’s definitely 20, 21 is going definitely going to be a pivotal year, but I’m glad that you guys are able to. You know, see your, you know, just plan ahead and really take those steps for the next year.
Bryan: (00:27:38) Yeah. I’m kind of curious too. Right. But what does a day in your life like running this company and out of curiosity too, like how do you source your different ingredients for your product?
Ryan: (00:27:49) Yeah. Uh, you might have to ask you to enter the asset. So second question again, later if I forget it. But day in, day in the life, um, day in the life for me is, you know, um, At the end of life for everyone, I try as much as possible. And we all, as a management team, try to stress. This is everybody needs breaks for their mental health too. We were working at and pretty, feverously not. Unsustainable pace. And so taking a day off on Fridays here and there, you know, taking two days off their day, Friday, making a long weekend is very important. Um, there’s no travel involved. So, um, that’s kind of first and foremost to make sure that people get to enjoy their weekends. You know, we don’t want anyone to be working on their weekends certain times. Obviously we’re going to have to push a little more hours, but making sure that we find the balance eventually. And so the day in our life and my life at least is. You know, on Mondays, we, you know, always have a status meeting. I try not to have too many meetings and it’s, it’s a time suck. You know, everybody is very. Has a good understanding of what has to be done. So just kind of regrouping following up on what happened last week and looking forward to what’s going on and just kind of setting the tone for the week after that. Um, everything, because, you know, I basically manage the, the team, um, all the executive staff, uh, everything essentially flows as much as possible, and this is the kind of structure we wanted to flow through me. So I can communicate to my parents afterwards. So we don’t have this, have a separate meeting with them either. Um, and so on Tuesdays that’s when that happens. And so after that, those are the pretty much the only two set meetings. I have. Everything else is, you know, meeting with landlords to discuss rent relief. Um, me meeting with Costco buyers to coordinate, um, whatever their purchases are, meeting with the team to develop products for what we’re trying to do in P. Part of our pivot strategy, making sure you know, where we’re making the right decisions for, you know, whatever’s going on for it right now, the fire drill is we’re shorting products. And thank God we’re luckily enough to have some type of volume for holidays, but it wasn’t, it couldn’t have been planned for because of COVID. So now we’re just kinda. Scrambling to fulfill orders as, as quick as possible. And then typically after the holiday season ends, it somewhat is a natural progression that they go downwards again. And so just making sure, uh, as much as possible for me, at least my job is creating as many opportunities, making it easy for people to work and function and keeping their sanity as best as possible. Um, and so I’m not trying to inundate them with random projects here and there. It’s always making sure that it has the ultimate goal of as much as possible for our business to, you know, Have some type of revenue generated and there’s some potential in the future when we foresee something that, um, might.
Some type of partnership might end, or some products might rotate out of being merchandised as any given partner, um, having the next steps to what we’re going to do at that given time. And so it’s constantly just thinking along those lines and, you know, just checking in. Beyond those meetings, just checking in, um, just on one-on-one calls of giving everybody rings each other up. I think we’re pretty efficient now using zoom, Microsoft teams and our phone text. And so it’s, we’re a lot more accessible actually, and more efficient than meeting in person all the time and having unnecessary meetings. So kind of my day in the life and dealing with fire Joel’s here and there as best as I can, but. Like I said with my team is amazing. Um, and so they’ve been able to carry on what they need to do and their specific departments and just kind of keep me in the loop and, you know, and therefore I keep my parents in the loop on what’s going on. And for me, I just try to as much as possible create the opportunities, uh, network as much as possible still during this time to make sure that I can, you know, find the right context at some point when I need to tap into my network, which is. What happened during COVID actually tapping into my network has been extremely important. And, and critical for our business to, um, ingredients. I got that question now. Um, ingredient sourcing. So Hawaii doesn’t grow much of anything. Right. We have pineapples and coffee sourcing. Obviously it comes from, you know, whatever distributors have the flour. Uh, butter, eggs. And so they all get shipped in, um, but everything is made in Hawaii. So, um, what we need to do is just, uh, make sure that our distributors have quality ingredients, that whatnot. And so we also have a partner in LA that actually helps us make some of our products. Um, and so that’s helped us during this Costco kind of transition, but during that whole time, you know, making sure I work with that partner it’s same ingredients and all that kind of stuff. Quality the same. So I had to fly back and forth up to LA during this time when I wrote that, uh, Asian hustle network post, I was actually in California. Um, and that was part of the making sure it rolled out at Costco correctly. And so. I mean, all of that labeling is on the packaging. So it’s not like I’m trying to see if anybody that’s like in Hawaii, but like, yeah. But I definitely want it everybody to know that. Yeah, for sure. I’ve I personally have been part of that kind of partnership and making sure that every cookie that comes off of our, our partners facilities are being baked up to our standards and, and whatnot. And so it’s same ingredients, same everything, same quality. And that’s kind of first and foremost for us.
Maggie: (00:33:17) And when you guys were first starting out, was there like food scientists that you brought on board or is it mostly like you guys taste testing?
Ryan: (00:33:26) Yeah. Whose scientists were probably us? Um, me and my fifth year of my, anybody that worked at the company had to keep on pasting cookies. Yeah. And so a lot of people want that job I’m sure. But, um, you know, I, I feel you could use all the time. Probably not as much anymore just because I don’t sit in the office. Um, I did eat a lot of cookies when I was going back and forth to California to make sure everything tasted spot on. So, um, now we have, you know, definitely structured, um, Quality and kind of R and D people in place to make sure that we can help development. We use outside consultants here and there to make sure that, you know, for something that we’re not able to do and create a flavor or something that, you know, we, we draw on the expertise of other people and, you know, we’ve had long standing relationships over the past 22 years of being in business now that where we are able to kind of tap into different experts, um, to help us develop anything that we might need. Um, but it’s always tweaked. We always get the final, say we all are pacing and we’re like, Hey, you know, it needs a little more flavor. It mean it’s not as sweet, you know, our whatnot needs more math, nuts. Um, so it’s a constant kind of development and R and D, but. I think we do flavors very well and kind of that Hawaiian inspired theme. And then on top of that, the season seasonal flavors of like lemon, peppermint, pumpkin, ginger, splice, all that kind of stuff. It turns out so well.
Bryan: (00:34:51) Well, he needs someone to eat your cookies for you too. It takes to volunteer as tribute.
Maggie: (00:34:55) I have a funny story, Brian and I went to Hawaii. We were, um, . And we bought boxes and boxes of Honolulu cookies. Obviously they’re supposed to be for our friends and family. Right. I normally buy them for my family. We were on the airplane. His Brian was like, let’s just take some out out of our backpack just to eat, you know? So he took most of them out and he finished it during the whole plane ride. I’m like, these are supposed to be her friends. And so we ended up with like, Barely anything, but
Ryan: (00:35:28) there were no gifts left.
Maggie: (00:35:34) And so I’m very curious. What would be in your opinion, what is the greatest thing about working so closely with your family?
Ryan: (00:35:43) Uh, I think for me, it’s having this experience that, you know, a lot of people don’t get to work as closely with their family on a daily basis. A lot of people have jobs, they work for other people. Um, and so, you know, I know I’ll look back on Kennedy’s memories, you know, later on in life when, you know, At some point where I can kind of look back and, you know, I’ve had all these experiences with my parents where I’ve been able to work alongside them and kind of help them through these times and whatnot. So I think I’m super fortunate in that way. And it didn’t turn out to be a horror story. Luckily, where I like hate my parents and like, I can’t work with them. Um, I hear a lot of stories like that. And so I’m on the flip side, obviously that it’s difficult to work with my family at times, but, um, No half cup, half full it’s, you know, it’s very meaningful and the difficulties of intricacy intricacies that happen with working with a family business, it’s worth it at the end of the day. And I think I’m very fortunate because my, my parents are, they’re not so traditional and like, I think most Asian family business is if their dad started it, they’re usually like an operator. They like to bake the cookies on the floor and stuff like that. My kids, like he likes to, he’s an art major. He likes to like design the packaging and like, he doesn’t like the operations, the management side of things. So. It’s like interesting. Cause then I get to do that side of the business where, you know, I think most family business operators are actually like baking the cookies day in, day out. They know how it should be. They know that those should feel like. Um, I’m just fortunate that in my family business, my, my parents give me somewhat a lot of free them to make decisions on what I need to. I just got to loop them in and, you know, my dad is focused on what he likes to do, which, you know, he’s really good at it. Mom is like, definitely taking, has taken a step back where, you know, she just wants to be in the loop and she knows the value of me kind of being able to. To make decisions on my own, um, as much as possible. So, um, it’s not so traditional where. No, they make the shots and I just have to listen. Um, it’s, it’s a very collaborative, uh, kind of effort between all of us.
Maggie: (00:38:10) It’s amazing. And so, um, for your family business, what are your goals for the next five to 10 years?
Ryan: (00:38:16) Five to 10 years. I don’t know. We had a five to 10 year plan originally, but now it’s like we got to survive 20, 21 is the plan. Um, and then, you know, I think so, but you know, in all seriousness, uh, I think. Our original five to 10 year plan was to build a additional facility to make sure we can keep up with our production for our retail stores, um, and whatever else, business. We, we, you know, we wanted to grow a wholesale business such as Costco like this. This is actually what was part of our plan and just have to be implemented and pushed up way in advance. We had a lot more capacity once COVID hit to try to do stuff like this. And so, you know, I think my five to 10 year plan. Probably changed a little more where, you know, we see the risk in having too many retail locations or no, we see the risk. Uh, maybe not too many retail locations. We see the risk in having. Too much eggs in one basket. So developing other parts of the business at the same time as developing a retail and wholesale and e-commerce and kind of stuff like that. So my five to 10 year plan, I’d say in five years, I hope we get to a more kind of even, um, distribution of, you know, revenue and whatnot. And then. You know, my more short-term plan. I can’t, I can’t plan for 10 years, but my short term plan is more so making sure our business recovers, um, we can get all of the, you know, the benefits that we’ve had to kind of remove from, uh, you know, the, our employee perspective back on board, you know, bonuses, all that kind of stuff, um, where we become, you know, profitable again, and we’re able to function and we’re safeguarded from recessions like this and, you know, black sheep events where. If we did have like this type of wholesale business in place that was, you know, a major contributor, it would help us ride out the storm a little more rather than kind of scrambling to figure all this kind of stuff out. And so. For me, the ideal business in moving forward is making sure we have more balance across all departments, um, and how they contribute to, to the overall business.
Bryan: (00:40:25) Yeah. Well, that’s amazing. Yeah. So I guess our final question is, what advice do you have for S for an inspiring entrepreneur? Just starting out right now?
Ryan: (00:40:35) Hmm. I don’t know. Um, I’m not really an entrepreneur, that’s the thing. I think I’m more so been fortunate to be placed in a business that already has structure. And so, you know, I, I wish I had more of the entrepreneur experience. I’d say during COVID, maybe it’s a little bit more like that, but we definitely still had a management team. Um, But I’d say, you know, for me, I guess if I had to give some advice, I’m probably not qualified to do this, but if I have to give some advice, definitely just start and see where it goes. Kind of thing. That seems to be pretty important. It’s like you can have ideas for days, but if you don’t actually. You know, I have an actionable plan to do it, then you’re not going to learn anything at the end of the day. And so a lot of this kind of pivots that we’ve done and basically starting other businesses within our business itself, um, Eventually, I think starting a business, also setting the vision and values early on is very important once again, and touching on that, just so you don’t have to kind of make decisions that are outside of your comfort zone and you could always refer back to them at some point. Um, and that’s what I was mentioning about with, when I talked to my friend yesterday, that’s starting to kind of a business with, yeah, like this is how we did it on a Lula cookie, and this is why it’s important. And you know, this is what I recommend for everybody, honestly. Um, if you, if it takes a lot of time, but. Once it’s kind of set, you don’t have to think about it again. Um, and it could kind of be tweaked in the future anyways. Um, so yeah, those are the kind of the two big points I think for me, um, And, uh, I think just having, Oh, networking, networking is probably the last one. Oh my God. Networking has helped us so much. Anytime I need a contact because I spent a lot of time trying to network in the beginning, um, and joining organizations where I can, um, tapping into those organizations where people. Are willing to help each other. That’s super important. Obviously Asian hospital network is one of them, right. Um, I’m in another organization called young presidents organization, YPO, um, and it’s just a group of basically business owners and, um, slash president level, um, CEO type level. Um, uh, basically positions in that, in any given organization and tapping into that, that work is always super helpful. Um, and having like a small group of business professionals is kind of the benefit of that, um, to, to bounce ideas off of, to have like small group forums and, and have conversations. And so networking has been huge, I think for us, um, for myself actually, and just developing my leadership personally, and then also just being able to reach out to them for advice and. And so three things. Those are my three things.
Maggie: (00:43:25) Yeah. That’s amazing. Well, thank you so much, Ryan. It has been so enlightening, just listening to your story and we can’t wait to hear more about how to look like a company through Asian hustle network. Um, how can our listeners learn more about you online? And I have to ask this question. Okay. What is your favorite cookie?
Ryan: (00:43:42) What is my favorite cookie? Uh, I think seasonally, my favorite cookie is probably the dark chocolate peppermint cookie. Um, yeah, I liked thin mints, so I really think that tastes. Not similar to same, it’s more buttery for sure, but it reminds me of that.Um, outside of that, I’m more of a plain kind of cookie guy. So I like chocolate chip cookies. Um, in general, the, any the chocolate chip mini bites or the chocolate, the full-sized chocolate chip cookie, uh, it just tastes really good to me. Um, everything else is also good, but those are my two favorites. Um, Oh, Dan, to your question, find out more about me. I dunno. There’s all my, all my Instagrams would probably be my favorite. You can find out about me. Um, I mean, for anybody there, I’m, I’m happy, you know, I’m on Asian Haldol network. They can reach out to me on that network. Uh, shoot me a Facebook message. A lot of people have, um, when, after I posted that post and so. I am going to post another post at some point in the near future. And that’s for, you know, everything, all the success that we’ve had. And, uh, Los Angeles kind of Costco region has helped us kind of scale out to other regions along the West coast. So it, for everybody asking about, if they’re going to get it at their local, Costco’s at least on the West coast you are. And then we’ll see what we can do for the other regions, uh, as time moves on. But, you know, we just need to keep the momentum up. Keep it going. So, you know, this is a huge help for our business during such a dark time
Bryan: (00:45:14) when you guys in the Midwest and East coast.
Ryan: (00:45:17) Yeah, I hope so.
Maggie: (00:45:21s) So, so excited. Well, thank you so much for just being on the show and sharing your story, Ryan. It was incredible.
Bryan: (00:45:26) Yeah. Thank you so much.
Ryan: (00:45:28) Thank you guys so much. Have a good, uh, have a good rest of the week
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