My professional journey spans across different industries and companies, but one common denominator has been working with startups or with brands in need of a transformation. Much of my early career surrounded various marketing roles, but I also spent time in publishing and eventually ended up overseeing client growth strategy as a partner at a digital advertising agency. We worked with fast-growing companies such as Chipotle, Red Robin, McDonald’s, Jimmy John’s and more that wanted to utilize tech-facing strategies to create experiential brand relationships with their customers. I then made my way into independent consulting where I helped brands re-invent their business as well as manage the internal change that would be required to grow.
I was first introduced to Bad Ass Coffee of Hawaii in late 2017 as a consultant and became the interim CEO in 2018. I fell in love with the brand, the coffee and its franchisees. I saw its potential and knew what was missing to transform Bad Ass Coffee of Hawaii to new levels of success. With the help of investors, we acquired the assets in July 2019 and immediately went to work on building the right team to create a roadmap to success. We knew from the start that there would be a lot of change to manage in the organization, so leadership alignment around one common vision would be critical. Even after the pandemic started, we maintained our focus on the vision but were still able to execute efficiently and pivot as a team when met with challenges. Within two weeks of major closures due to COVID-19, we were able to quickly create an online ordering solution that enabled our stores to remain open while many of their competitors were closed. Four months later, our sales were higher than they were pre-COVID, and we remained laser-focused on rebuilding our infrastructure for franchise success.
Looking ahead, Bad Ass Coffee of Hawaii is prepped for continued innovation and development. We really are a 32-year-old startup—the past couple years have been about building infrastructure and telling our story through an omnichannel sales strategy. Now, we are gearing up for aggressive, yet smart growth nationwide as a franchise brand. I’m proud of how far we’ve come and confident that this high-growth mode will further increase our brand awareness while honoring our Hawaiian heritage.
What was your first job?
While I was growing up, I worked in my family’s heating/AC business where I learned a lot – from a skilled trade to responsibility. Early on, I understood that you’re always viewed as a reflection of the brand you work for. Post-college, my first job was an internship that turned into a full-time position managing the marketing communications for a multi-hospital brand. Here, I learned self-accountability right out of the gate as I was solely responsible and accountable for one of the hospital marcom efforts while the majority of the team was pulled into a merger project.
What’s your favorite cuisine or coffee choice?
I consider myself to be an “equal opportunity eater” because I love all food. But when it comes to coffee, I’m a bit of traditionalist in that I love my coffee black every day. I love the aroma and enjoyment of freshly roasted and brewed coffee from the first sip to the lingering aftertaste.
Who inspires you as a leader?
Ronald Reagan has always been someone I admired because of his leadership style. He knew how to read a room and adjust his communication style accordingly to fit the audience and to achieve his objectives—it was an art form. Reagan was great at grabbing your attention, but most importantly, he knew how to keep it. He was a compelling speaker, but an even better listener. Being able to understand someone’s frame of reference so you can find commonalities and share a vision is an invaluable skill.
What’s the best piece of advice that other restaurant executives should hear?
Identify your brand’s ownable truth—find what is unique and differentiates you from everyone else. Learning from other brands and emulating what they do best can, in some cases, be a successful strategy. But you need to identify what you do best and is uniquely ownable to you alone to compete. Remain clear on your vision and focus all efforts around managing that while staying open to other frames of reference that can help refine it.
What are some of your interests outside of work?
I really enjoying being on the water. Competitive sailboat racing and cycling are two of my passions—both require a lot of focus which makes for a nice break from work. I really enjoy that sailboat racing is a team sport that requires clear communication, while cycling offers solitude. My wife and I enjoy spending a lot of time together and with our family whether that’s being on the water, traveling or being with friends