Profiles of Innovation
"An entrepreneur is somebody that has a vision of what the future is before it exists… and then has the drive, need and desire to make that vision a reality," says Yuen Yung, CEO and co-founder of How Do You Roll? sushi company.
Remarkably, Yuen's vision for a "fast-casual," custom sushi shop was strong enough to see its inception through the financial crisis of 2008. Yuen, rising in the ranks at a comfortable corporate job, often found himself lamenting the lack of healthy, quick lunch options to his brother Peter, a sushi chef at a fine dining restaurant in Houston, when they realized a risky but exciting restaurant opportunity lie at their feet — HDYR?.
Together, the Yungs became accustomed to overcoming adversity in the name of establishing HDYR?, including a particularly devastating draining of financial resources. "We knew it was going to be tough — all the banks ran away [in 2008]" explains Yuen. "So when that happened, we had to come up with our own capital. It was not an easy time. I still remember very vividly the afternoon I told my wife, 'Hey honey, I just cashed out our final IRA.'"
The enormous risk paid off due to the Yungs' innovative concept to rethink sushi ("When we first started, people said we were blasphemous to traditional sushi," Yuen says, referring to unique menu items like fruit or cooked meats), as well as their steadfast commitment to honoring their values as much as their business plan.
"In business you have to stay humble, because it's definitely survival of the fittest," says Yuen. "How I stay grounded is really more of an understanding of who I am as a person and what are my values. So I spend a lot of time working on myself with my own family mission, my family core values — first and foremost I have to be a good husband, son, father, brother."
In other words, the business is simply another avenue by which to build the unwavering character Yuen says his family is made of.
"I do spend a lot of time thinking about the sacrifices made from my family's perspective [in] coming to this country, being first generation, and what it takes to live the American dream. My sense of responsibility really comes from that," he explains
So what's the favorite custom sushi roll of a man with such a varied history and unique fusion of personal tastes? Traditional seaweed on white rice with traditional California Roll ingredients — with a smattering of fresh fruit and a sprinkling of hot chili powder, of course.