“Our mission statement is to ‘Let our journey begin’, so we want to incorporate everyone and begin a journey together.
My name is Gilbert and I'm with SAGA kitchen. What really inspired me to start the business is that we want to unite the food entrepreneurs in the community. We want to help them try to get a start. I immigrated here from China in 1993, and Alameda is the first place I landed because all my family lives here. I live three blocks away from SAGA kitchen right now, so I'm really familiar with the neighborhood. It's so cool just to drive back here every day; I drive past my old apartment every day, and come back to the community that I'm so familiar with and trust. Being a business owner here I think it makes a whole new sense of pride.
I like to incorporate street fashion into a decoration like we want to share that hypebeast culture with people that are really into that or even people who know nothing about it. There's much deeper culture than just wearing a good t-shirt right in front of your chest. I think the biggest challenge for small businesses is the amount of resources that we have access to. We don't usually have all the talent we need. For example, even though we offer the same competitive compensation package, they don't necessarily want to work for me. I think a lot of people are looking for a bigger brand to work for, so I think the biggest challenge especially during this time is to attract talent.
Only ten percent of restaurants actually made it after two years - that's so slim in California that's probably greater because it has all the high labor. So I said, ‘hey how can we maximize the labor’, and try to share resources so we can create community events where everyone can get their food in the door.
What I'm so proud of my business is my team. We stay resilient. My partners left three months after the business started, but we were able to move forward.
I wanted to do something that's unique. I've been working for small and big companies all my career. I would say I always looked up to small business owners, like entrepreneurs and business founders. I think it's the process that is so cool. What really drives me is that I wanted to create something on my own, I want to call saga my own.
Our best selling product is definitely sushi right now. It features all our fresh ingredients – we fly in the fish every week. We are really fortunate to work with a lot of big vendors. Tuna is flying in every week from Baja and Spain and Japanese fresh fish every week. I think that kind of propelled our brand and our concept since the get-go.”