One reason we started this immi blog was to share what goes on behind the scenes in getting a food company and better-for-you product off the ground.
In today's world, everyone focuses on the polished end product and the edited social media highlights.
Meanwhile, KChan and I have always wished that the brands behind the products we love would share more about the early days 💪 of their company building journeys.
Everyone makes mistakes and no one is perfect.
Our goal is to always be transparent with all of you who have taken a leap of faith to trust us and be a part of our immi journey.
We'll be regularly sharing posts like this so that you can see all the 🤩 highlights (as well as the lowlights 😭) of our journey to get immi into your hands.
An Unexpected Message
A few weeks ago, we received an unexpected text message in the late afternoon.
The text came from KLee's friend, Hiro, who used to be a food entrepreneur in Japan and now runs a food delivery company in the U.S.
Hiro said that his friend, Kohey, was visiting town and was looking to meet with young food companies and entrepreneurs.
Kohey would only be in town for the next morning before returning back to Japan.
We always trust Hiro's referrals, so we accepted the introduction request without much hesitation and scheduled a meeting with Kohey for the next morning.
But to be 100% honest, KChan and I hadn't heard of Kohey before and we weren't really sure what to expect 🤷♂️.
We went about our day as usual and later that night, we decided it was probably best to do some last minute research 🧐 to prep for our meeting.
Needless to say, we were completely mind blown 🤯 with what we found out.....
Who Is This Guy?
It turns out that Kohey is the Co-Founder and CEO of the publicly traded Japanese conglomerate, Oisix.
Oisix is the first and largest Internet-based food retailer and organic vegetable delivery company in Japan 🇯🇵 with 6 subsidiary companies.
Kohey and his co-founders started Oisix back in 2000 and pioneered the idea of food e-commerce and subscription delivery services in Japan.
If you're reading this and based in the U.S., think of them as the original Blue Apron and Imperfect Produce concept before that was even a thing.
Oisix works directly with thousands of local farmers 👩🌾👨🌾 to source the best possible produce.
In the early days, they were so desperate to earn the trust of produce farmers that Kohey and his co-founders even ate some of the soil 🌱 from one of the farmer's fields!
Oisix then uses their online meal and vegetable delivery service to send this fresh produce to people's homes. This makes it easy and convenient for people to eat and maintain healthier diets 🌱🍏🥑🌽🥕.
We loved that Oisix was so committed to building a more sustainable food system and enabling access to more nutritious food.
Kohey worked with his founding team over 20 years of blood, sweat, and tears 😢💦 to build Oisix into the giant that it is today.
Apart from his incredible work as the founder and CEO, Kohey has also been an Executive Board Member of Table for Two, a non-profit organization which simultaneously addresses hunger in the developing world and lifestyle-related diseases in the developed world.
His own desire to solve social issues around food has translated through Oisix's initiatives.
Oisix has provided 4 million free healthy school lunches 🍱 for children in developing countries. They've supported thousands of local farmers to build a more sustainable ecosystem. They've also been instrumental in sending food aid and emergency relief to parts of Japan that were affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake.
As we read more about him and his company, we realized how much our immi mission tied closely to Oisix's philosophies and values.
Preparing For the Meeting
The next day, KChan and I met together at 5:30AM.
We scrambled over the next few hours to prepare some fresh immi ramen 🍜 for Kohey and his team member, Jimmy, who would also be joining the meeting.
We rushed everything down to the wire, and had our samples ready minutes ⏰ before we had to drive to our meeting spot.
We arrived at the meeting location, the top floor dome of San Francisco's largest mall.
After grabbing a nearby table to set up our sampling, we saw Kohey and Jimmy approach.
They were friendly, but serious, and after a few pleasantries, we jumped straight into business.
We spent the full hour sharing more about our backgrounds, passion for delicious Asian-American food that could enrich lives, and our vision for immi.
Afterwards, we took out our thermos of boiling hot water and prepared two ramen servings for the tasting.
As you might imagine, it was insanely nerve-wracking to share our immi ramen with native-born Japanese citizens.
Kohey and Jimmy have grown up with ramen shops and stalls within walking distance.
And as a famous food entrepreneur, Kohey has probably eaten at some of the world's best ramen restaurants.
Kohey (CEO) and Jimmy tasting immi ramen
The whole time they ate, they were slurping, nodding and talking to each other, and commenting to each other in Japanese.
We don't use traditional ingredients that other ramen noodles use and were curious how these two would respond.
KChan and I have been pushing to innovate👨🍳👩🍳 since day 0 and have used ingredients that people aren't familiar with to achieve a next level nutritional profile.
We could tell this was the first time they were experiencing ramen noodles with this kind of texture and flavor.
We held our breath for the next 2 minutes and kept exchanging nervous glances with each other 😲😳😵 while they ate.
After a few bites, they looked up and a huge smile broke over both their faces.
We could tell they were pleased 😇.
They both went back for final bites to polish off all the noodles and drank the soup broth. They even asked if we had more ramen noodles for them to eat!
Kohey and Jimmy gave us some feedback and it was strongly positive.
They loved the taste and couldn't believe that they had just eaten low-carb and high protein ramen noodles.
They also told us they identified strongly with our vision and social mission for immi.
Lastly, they wanted to set up some time to follow-up and discuss ways they might like to help us out 🤝🙌.
KChan and I have been through some brutal times throughout this journey but it's the moments like this that remind us why we started immi in the first place.
With immi, we have an opportunity to share a meal with people from various cultures.
We get to see the smiles on people's faces and their eyes light up when they eat our products.
We get to help solve some of the world's biggest chronic health conditions through our food.
Lastly, we get to share our story as third culture citizens, raised between our immigrant and American cultures.
All of these reasons and more drive us to continue pushing forward 🏃♂️ and bring immi to life against all odds.
If you're still reading, we can't express our appreciation enough that you're here with us - 🙏 Thank you all for being a part of this.