Founder of Onigilly
Established: 2008 | Number of employees: 24
Website: onigilly.com | Instagram: @onigilly // Twitter: @onigilly // Facebook: facebook.com/onigilly
“Onigilly provides delicious, healthy, and convenient foods, which help contribute to better eating habits nationwide.
Our signature product Onigiri is Japanese soul food with over 2000 years of history. It is handy, healthy, and delicious, and we believe it can be a healthier option to add to the typical fast food in the U.S.”
Why did you decide to start Onigilly?
Most Japanese people eat onigiri almost everyday, like American people eat sandwiches. Of course we love sushi, but we don't eat it often. Sushi is a food best suited for a special occasion. We simply want to share our love of onigiri, because this is what we eat every day in Japan. We are sure American people will also love onigiri, as we spread easy accessibility to it in the U.S. We believe Onigilly is a delicious alternative to typical fast food, and a healthy choice.
What was your most impactful interaction with ICA and why?
There is a big barrier between mom-and-pop businesses and corporate operations, and we struggled in figuring out how to expand the business. ICA was our first organizational investor. We had angel investments before, but the process was very different. We learned a lot from the process of ICA’s due diligence, and that led to our next bigger investment from an investment firm. They helped us understand how bigger investors think and how they see your business. Our mentors at ICA also taught us the importance of company values and culture.
How do you envision Onigilly contributing to a more equitable small business ecosystem?
There are many big tech companies and many of them contribute in a good way, but at the same time, it increases the living costs. Many small businesses struggle to hire people and pay higher wages and taxes.
If we succeed in achieving our mission as a company, we can inspire other small businesses the way Blue Bottle Coffee inspires and motivates us. We hope to be able to share experiences, invest, and collaborate.
What is your best piece of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
It is not easy to be an entrepreneur and to stay motivated. But if you have a strong passion and reason why you are doing this, it will help you and reward you.