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Meet Yohei Umezu of San Diego Poke Company in Mission Valley

Today we’d like to introduce you to Yohei Umezu.

Yohei, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I always experimented with cooking and I enjoyed it. when the fad was growing for Hawaiian poke, my friend and I went to go eat it. I loved it, but I knew I can do better.

I have never started a business before, cooked or prepped food for others, the list went on and on. but I knew that I can do it. So I learned as much as I can about opening a restaurant, starting an LLC, etc. Asked many questions, hours of research, went to my local SBA, did everything I can. I frequently visited San Diego and noticed that not many really knew about poke there. So I created a small menu and started to sell poke and sides at the farmer’s markets. It was crazy, we sold out every weekend, the people loved it! They saw that I was enthusiastic and would not shut up about the food, culture and of course the Poke and the business. The customers started to support me very much, helped me spread the word and almost after a year, I opened up my first location. Now I have two and helped open up a Hawaiian restaurant in October. 

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
It was hard work for sure! Since I didn’t know anything about anything. I made a bunch of mistakes. But one thing I didn’t do was give up! I didn’t make excuses, I didn’t cut corners. I wanted to learn everything and do it right the first time. Met many helpful professional people along the way, had people in every department dealing with the city help me, oh and can’t forget about the customers!! They are the nicest people that backed me up and cheered me on non-stop! Raising capital, that was very hard for me since I didn’t have much in the beginning. I had very little savings, didn’t have a clue what to do. Bank loans was not an option, I learned all these things the hard way. I scraped as much as I can, I budgeted everything, sacrificed a lot of things, basically sold everything that I had that was of any value. I did most of the construction, had friends in different fields help me. And here we are!

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about San Diego Poke Company – what should we know?
My business is San Diego Poke Company. I was the first to build your own poke place in San Diego. The sauces are handmade and prepared daily, fusing together flavors from different cultures. I think we are known for the awesome variety of sauces that we offer.

What am I most proud about? I’m proud that we have established a great relationship with our customers. We have a really good number of loyal customers and it makes me happy to know they love us and they always keep coming back for more.

I’m also proud that we have a good solid team as a company and that all the staff, we are like a big family. Our food and customer service sets us apart from the others!

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
I did this because of my parents. They are old school people that always told me to work hard at whatever I do. I learned patience and to always believe in myself. I have mentors that spent time with me with their busy schedule to show me that they are there if I needed to ask questions or need help. Family and friends that showed endless support and always encouraged me when it was hard. (I will take more time on this question because this one was not on the mobile questionnaire.)

Contact Info:

  • Address: San Diego Poke Company
    10387 Friars rd.
    San Diego CA 921203533 Adams Ave.
    San Diego CA 92116
  • Website: sdpokeco.com
  • Phone: 16195844786
  • Email: info@sdpokeco.com

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