Onigilly, a rapidly growing healthy fast food restaurant chain, is the newest addition to the ICA investment portfolio. The investment, a $300,000 convertible note, is the first underwritten by ICA with capital sourced from JPMorgan Chase’s Entrepreneurs of Color Fund.
Onigilly is a fast-casual restaurant chain specializing in Japanese rice balls, called “onigiri.” Koji Kanematsu founded Onigilly in 2007, after noticing a lack of healthy, affordable food options in the United States.
“In Japan, onigiri is everywhere,” says Kanematsu. “I used to eat it every day because it is convenient, healthy, and affordable. Our mission is to spread healthy fast food nationwide and to improve people’s diet lifestyle.”
“This is a powerful opportunity to support business growth, the creation of accessible jobs, and the potential to build wealth for Onigilly employees in San Francisco and across the country
— Sean Daniel Murphy
The company currently has four locations in San Francisco’s Financial District and recently opened a fifth location in Palo Alto.
“It’s been inspiring to watch Onigilly’s journey unfold over the years,” says Sean Daniel Murphy, CEO of ICA Fund Good Jobs. “We first met Koji, his wife Aki, and the Onigilly team through our partnership with La Cocina, the food business incubator in San Francisco. We have supported Onigilly through our Growth Strategies course led by Michael C. Bush, as well as well as through the Good Jobs Accelerator program led by Dianna Tremblay. Now, through the work of Investment Associate Rasheed Mitchell and key consultant Jonathan Mi, as well as the support of Investment Committee Chair, Jim Harris, we are proud to support Onigilly as investors.”
ICA Fund Good Jobs’ investment will allow the company to invest in machine operations and menu development before a Series A investment round and additional geographic expansion next year. According to Kanematsu, the eventual goal is to open 500 Onigilly restaurants in the United States.
That kind of business growth means job growth as well. What started as a food cart is now a rapidly growing company with 35 employees. Kanematsu has worked with ICA for years to scale his business and create a good jobs plan for his employees. He also wants to create opportunities for employees to share in the wealth created by the growing business.
“To grow, we need to spread a new food and food culture to our customers,” Kanematsu says. “That is very challenging, so our team members are very important. A system for treating them well will be Onigilly’s strength.”
The commitment to taking care of Onigilly’s employees is part of what makes this an attractive investment for ICA.
“This is a powerful opportunity to support business growth, the creation of accessible jobs, and the potential to build wealth for Onigilly employees in San Francisco and across the country,” Murphy says.
ICA Fund Good Jobs invests in high potential businesses through tailored investments and hands on support. In early 2018, ICA partnered with JPMorgan Chase’s Entrepreneurs of Color Fund, along with fellow Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Working Solutions and Pacific Community Ventures. The Entrepreneurs of Color Fund provides capital to these community lenders so they can invest in the growth, profitability, and sustainability of companies owned by people of color in San Francisco.