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Meet Phillip and Karen Hang of SushiMe Roll’n in West Covina

Today we’d like to introduce you to Phillip and Karen Hang.

As best friends, we always dreamed about running a business together. We enjoyed each others presence and had the same drive and determination into bringing something to life and making something out of nothing. Karen spent five years in the hospitality industry while Phillip spent a number of years in the legal industry.

As soon as we started dating, we both sat down and started planning our next career move. I ultimately left the legal industry and started working for Shopify, a multi-channel commerce company where I had the opportunity to talk to business owners and leaders from all over the world. This took my determination of running a business to a whole new level. While Karen was busy gaining a whole host of experience in restaurant management and taking a vibrant brand into multiple new locations, I was busy building out business plans and searching for opportunities in all industries including, retail, import/export, and even health/beauty.

One day in November 2018, as we were checking our social media outlets, we were presented with an opportunity to buy out/take over a restaurant that was in operations for only seven months — but failed. We thought to ourselves, “wow, do you think we could we do this?” Karen was obviously really familiar with the day to day operations and management of a restaurant, and I fully trusted her ability in this. Within just a week, we fully took over the restaurant and started scrambling trying to hire servers, kitchen cooks and sushi chefs. Remember, both of us have 0 experience in running a kitchen, yet alone knowing all the different types of fish, preparation, storage, and a whole laundry list of other things.

We spent the next few weeks putting things together, from creating a website, designing and getting our storefront sign installed, creating socials, putting together a menu, hiring, training, registering and filing the trademark, getting incorporated, setting up bank accounts, working with the city and its required permits, and most importantly, together, we were learning along the way.

As we were hiring sushi chefs, it was almost like us having to pitch our business model. We ultimately hired two chefs to start with us, and one of them became our head chef. As the days went on, I learned everything I could from this chef – rolling sushi, prepping, cutting, and storing fish, creating sauces, and plating. After one full year of just absorbing everything I could, I can now comfortably train new staff at the sushi bar.

After weeks of scrambling and working 14 hour days, we opened our doors December 8, 2018. We were able to drive in customers through our social and had a full house every weekend since then (except now obviously because of COVID-19). As customers poured through our doors, I made it a requirement that I make the effort to talk to every customer that dine’s in with us. The smile on their faces of a new restaurant they’ve discovered in their area, as well as their compliments on the food makes me smile and look forward to coming in everyday.

We were coming off a really strong and profitable first year (not to brag, but unheard of in first-year businesses), and ready to take on and do even better in 2020, but we were hit with COVID. We had to change our whole business model because we could no longer offer all-you-can-eat dine in. What did we do? We created nice, beautiful all-you-can-eat platters that you could order and take home to feed your family of 4-6, or 6-8. A mix of rolls and nigiri, perfectly sauced and ready to eat as soon as you get home.

It’s such a scary topic to think back on, opening a full operations restaurant with little to no experience, but to see the smiles on each of our customer’s faces each time, brings joy back into the stressful days we have.

Has it been a smooth road?
Definitely hasn’t been a smooth road. When we first opened our doors to the public, we were still trying to figure out how to fully make our operations smooth and efficient.

Finding the right people was always a struggle. A lot of people think the back-end stuff is tough; things like inventory, accounting, bookkeeping, looking at profit/loss, keeping up with local/state laws, etc., but that stuff is easy — the challenging thing is people-leading. We went through so many different staff in our first month, I can’t even count them with my ten fingers. With restaurants though, it’s always a high turnover but things have much settled down now and we have a great team behind us making the best decisions for the business.

I’m not going to sit here and say that running the business is easy. There were many long nights, headaches, and even times where we wanted to give up. If you aren’t dealing with one thing, another thing arises.

Obstacles and challenges are what make running a business fun. As humans, we only grow and develop when we face challenges, not when things are easy.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with SushiMe Roll’n – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
When we thought about what we really wanted when we eat out, we realized it was personal service. Amazing food is expected, but it’s the service that really brings the good vibes to life. We started customizing our dishes, adding a little extra sauce, sprinkling on a little more flavor, and doing everything in between to make sure we could put a smile on every face.

We are most known for our good vibes and exquisite tasting rolls. Many all-you-can-eat places have a lot of rolls using similar bases, like your generic Cali or spicy tuna base, where we really have a wide selection of different bases to ensure that we are satisfying everyone’s taste buds. If it’s not something we have on our menu, we’re always available to customize it to any way you like, whether that’s adding or removing something, adding extra sauce or substituting for a different sauce, we do it all.

I won’t go into too much detail about the vibes, because there’s no better way to experience it until you get in here. Come with a group of friends to celebrate anything, and we’d make sure you leave happy. And if you aren’t ready to leave, we have a huge patio with fire pits, sports, and surround sound music to continue your celebratory festivities!

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
Definitely love the all diversity in Los Angeles County. You can literally get any type of cuisine you are craving for. What’s not to like? Los Angeles is the place to be!

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