On a roll for more than 17 years — record growth and new Asian food channel expansion
Written by: Molly Shaw
Produced by: James Logan
With approximately 850 sushi bars in everything from specialty supermarkets to cafes, hospitals, universities, airports, corporate food service locations and more across the country, Hissho Sushi is rounding out its 17th year in business with record success. Based in Charlotte, North Carolina, Hissho’s food service and franchise business has blossomed by more than 72 percent over the last couple of years and the company now ranks No. 4028 on the prestigious Inc. 5000 list for the fifth time.
Founder Philip Maung, who started the business in 1998, is an exemplar of the American Dream. Maung arrived in the U.S. a decade earlier in 1989 with less than $13 to his name. He saw a business opportunity in what was then a relatively nonexistent East Coast sushi market.
Building an empire from the ground up
He picked Charlotte as the city to launch Hissho due to the number of banks, but with little previous business success, they were hesitant to give him financing. But Maung, having grown up in a very impoverished home, is no stranger to adversity and he refused to give up.
He and his wife pooled their resources to launch Hissho out of their home kitchen. “As with any startup company, the first few years were very challenging,” admits Maung. “We finally started making money after our third year in business.”
In Japanese, Hissho means certain victory — a name fitting for the birth and evolution of the family-owned company. A dedication to quality products at affordable price points and detailed service allowed Hissho to quickly acquire new customers with little to no advertising. “We don’t advertise,” says Maung. “Our business was built through word-of-mouth and our success came because we built relationships with one partner at a time and we stand behind our product.”
Maung says by building this solid foundation, as well as investing heavily in infrastructure and employee training, Hissho has been able to achieve many things that were just aspirations in 1989. “Growth starts with a solid foundation,” he says. “We’ve been working really hard over the last couple of years and it has paid off.”
Today, Hissho remains based in Charlotte, operating out of a 51,000-square-foot production facility, but the company’s reach extends well beyond Charlotte. “We now have about 850 locations, including new locations in airport terminals in Charlotte, Nashville, Tennessee, and Portland, Oregon,” notes Maung. “We now have 400 employees, plus an additional 300 franchisees with their own employees.”
A focus on fresh, natural ingredients
Hissho’s home base in Charlotte is the main hub of production and product development. The Hissho motto is: “Made fresh daily, that’s how we roll.”
Since inception, the company’s mission has been to produce the best quality sushi with top-notch ingredients. Whether Hissho’s chefs are crafting a traditional California roll, an eel roll or spicy sriracha-topped sashimi tuna, customers can rest assured the ingredients utilized are the freshest out there. Maung and his team source the best possible ingredients from world markets, guaranteeing the most outstanding seafood, soy, rice and vinegar.
“We also invest heavily in employee training,” says Maung. “All of Hissho’s chefs spend seven to 11 weeks training at our headquarters before being relocated to a Hissho sushi bar in our affiliated marketplaces.”
Hissho’s chefs purchase fruits and vegetables locally from sustainable sources, and the company’s wasabi and ginger are free of artificial colors and dyes. Hissho also offers multigrain and brown rice as an option for nearly all of its rolls.
Beyond the roll
While Hissho has made its name known in fresh, authentic sushi, Maung says the company is looking beyond the roll and to a whole range of new opportunities in the ever-popular Asian foods market. “A lot of people think we’re just a sushi company, but recently we’re doing a lot more than just sushi,” he says.
Hissho has added dishes such as pho, ramen and other Vietnamese noodle soups to its lineup. “We’re also doing traditional bahn mi sandwiches and steamed buns and dumplings,” says Maung. “We’re even doing a take on a Chipotle-style burrito, but made with sushi ingredients such as seaweed and nori. We’re also working on more made-to-order Korean barbecue foods.”
There is room for growth in other channels beyond sushi and Hissho is just getting started. “Last year, 20 percent of our revenue was generated from these additional channels and we expect it to continue to be a growing part of business,” adds Maung.
Holding tight to core values and strong culture
As Hissho adds more locations and more products, Maung says the company is experiencing some growing pains. “Our main challenge is in terms of human resources and finding the talented people we need as the company grows so quickly,” he says. “We also want to make sure we don’t dilute our company culture as expansion occurs.”
Maung says Hissho still has a story to tell and that starts with humble beginnings. “Five years ago we started really focusing on our core company values,” he says. “I thought this was important moving forward and it’s all part of an effort to make us one big, happy family.”
After 17 years in business, Hissho Sushi is poised for further progress that is grounded in family ties and traditions and a dedication to bringing the best sushi and Asian-inspired products to the marketplace.
Charlotte SmartCEO Announces the 2016 Future 50 Award Winners
50 Greater Charlotte companies to be recognized for fast growth in SmartCEO’s Future 50 Awards program
Charlotte, NC (Feb. 18, 2016) — SmartCEO is pleased to announce the 2016 Future 50 Award winners. The program recognizes Greater Charlotte’s 50 fastest-growing mid-sized companies that have experienced outsized growth based on a combined three-year average of revenue and employee growth. The 2016 Future 50 winners collectively generate more than $1.53 billion in annual revenue and employ over 10,300 individuals. This impressive group will be recognized in SmartCEO magazine and celebrated at a black-tie-optional awards ceremony on April 27, 2016 at the Hilton Charlotte Center City.
Please see below for a complete list of winners and for program details. To share in the excitement leading up to the event, follow us @SmartCEO #Future50.
“Ask any CEO and they’ll tell you that leading a fast-growing company is one of the most challenging and fun things an entrepreneur can do. Whether they’re just starting out or rapidly trying to scale an established operation, this year’s Future 50 winners have executed their growth visions year after year, created job opportunities and made our region a better place to work and live,” says Jaime Nespor-Zawmon, President of SmartCEO Events. “There is nothing these amazing entrepreneurs can’t do if they put their minds to it. We honor them for their unwavering determination to rise above the rest and build the future of our region, our nation, and the world at large.”
More than 500 local business executives and guests are expected to attend this year’s black-tieoptional awards gala at the Hilton Charlotte Center City to celebrate the winners and their achievements. The event will kick off with a cocktail reception and high-energy networking followed by a video-packed awards ceremony and seated dinner. The evening and celebration will culminate with dessert and additional networking.
2016 Future 50 Awards
Date: Wednesday, April 27, 2016
VIP Reception: 5:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.
General Reception: 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Location: Hilton Charlotte Center City 222 E. 3rd St., Charlotte, NC 28202
Attire: Black-tie optional
2016 Future 50 Winners
Alan Simonini Homes LLC
Anointed Flooring, Inc.
Armstrong Transport Group
Artisan Signs and Graphics
Avant Garde Technologies
Barton Contracting Corporation
Boxman Studios, LLC
Carolina’s Home Medical Equipment, Inc.
CCS Construction Staffing
Costner Law Office, PLLC
ettain group Inc.
Fab Fours, Inc.
The Greene Group
ImagineSoftware (Technology Partners, Inc.)
In-Flight Crew Connections
Independent Advisor Alliance
Intelligent Buildings, LLC
Jackrabbit Technologies, Inc.
Lakeside Project Solutions
LBA Haynes Strand, PLLC
Lwin Family Co. (dba Hissho Sushi)
NoDa Brewing Company
Peak 10, Inc.
Red Moon Marketing
Search Solution Group
Something Classic Catering & Cafés
Strategic Power Systems, Inc.
About the Future 50 Awards
The Future 50 Awards program is the largest and most highly anticipated SmartCEO awards program of the year. This program recognizes 50 of the region’s fastest growing mid-sized companies. These companies represent the future of the region’s economy and embody the entrepreneurial spirit critical for leadership and success. The winners, chosen based on a threeyear average of employee and revenue growth, are listed alphabetically, not ranked. The winners are profiled in SmartCEO magazine and celebrated at a black-tie-optional awards ceremony.
SmartCEO’s mission is to educate and inspire the business community through its award winning magazine, connections at C-level events and access to valuable online resources. SmartCEO’s integrated media platforms reach decision makers in the Baltimore, Boston, Charlotte, New York, Philadelphia and Washington, DC, metropolitan areas. To find out more about the 2017 Future 50 Awards nomination process, email us at CharlottePrograms@smartceo.com. For information about sponsorship opportunities, email us at Charlotte@smartceo.com.
Hissho continually brings in new Franchisees to our Headquarters in Charlotte, NC for weeks of extensive training. Some come with experience, and some not. However, at the end of the training period, all leave with the skills in place to operate a healthy, functioning, profitable business which they will own. Hissho offers this cost effective opportunity to motivated individuals. This week, Hissho is training 9 new individuals who will be running their own sushi bars across the country, from California to New York. The nice part about their training is that for one week, we get to purchase the sushi they make for $2. All of the money made from both our sushi and/or hot bar, goes to our Hissho Foundation fund.
Where else could you pay only $2 for such a delicious, healthy, fabulous lunch or dinner; and contribute to a Foundation Fund at the same time. A win-win all around! If you’d like to be part of our Hissho team, please contact us for more information:
https://hisshosushi.com/becomefranchisee/ & https://hisshosushi.com/careers/
Hissho wishes each of you a very Happy New Year for 2016! Our 2015 was overflowing with growth and many blessings, which we expect to continue through 2016. With our growth comes a demand for sushi and hot bar chefs, so if any of our readers would like to join our “family” then please let us know, and pass the word.
Each month, Hissho sends out Birthday Cards to our Franchisees and Employees, and this year I noticed that we have a total of 19 birthdays on January 1. In a company of our size, this is highly unusual and fortuitous at the same time. So with a bit of searching, I’ve compiled a bit of trivia for these special “babies.” What is astounding is how everything seems to fit perfectly with our own model.
“Being born on the 1st day of the month means that it is likely that you are independent, loyal and energetic. The numerology number for people born on January 1 is considered to be 1. People born under this numerology number usually have leadership qualities, great will power and a unique approach to life, together with a charming personality. Those Capricorn people should be happy of the association with the number 1 in numerology, as this is the number of the people who have many achievements in life, of those who have the skills to deal with the bigger picture and are set to follow their goals no matter what.”
All these traits of course bode well for Hissho, since our positions require these traits for anyone to be successful.
“Those born in January are ambitious and hardworking. January 1 Zodiac people are organized and enthusiastic. Those born on January 1 can be characterized as resourceful and practical and there are very few activities in which they do not involve all the discipline they possess.”
Again, these are positive traits for our Hissho Chefs, either in sushi, or hot bar.
“They are active and are rapid to take on new tasks but they do prefer to know something about the subject and often do research before starting something. They put a great price on education and awareness and also have a forceful sense of justice. Caring a lot about what others think, they try to be naturally helpful to those around.”
Hissho has an extensive training program for every employee or franchisee, to make sure they are comfortable in their respective roles, and then our team continues to follow up for on-going training. The photo below reflects our new trainees that started the year off right by joining our Hissho family……….. and we welcome them!
Hisshonians celebrate Christmas morning at Rescue Mission! With 70o F weather outside, and the sun shining, it seemed more like spring than Christmas Day in December. Nine of our team gathered in the kitchen to help prepare the lunch for residents, guests, and family for the 11:30 AM meal.
Our CEO Philip Maung brought his wife and two sons to join in, and the daughter of another co-worker, filled the ranks to cut and place desserts, prepare rolls for warming, and any other duties assigned.
While we manned the kitchen, an army of other volunteers donned black bow ties on white shirts, with black slacks, to individually serve each guests as if they were in an expensive establishment. Director Tony Marciano says Charlotte is the only facility of its kind in the country that has the volunteers wear a black tie. In turn, Marciano says “that the guests not only come for the meal, but for the conversation, and are so appreciative that they are treated as an equal, and not a homeless person.”
Usually Hissho volunteers on Thanksgiving and Easter, but this year we added Christmas! What a wonderful way to give back to the community. We have been blessed to be a part of such a great organization as Rescue Mission.
‘Twas the week before Christmas, when all through our house
Every creature was stirring, even the Hissho elves
The presents were all stacked on the table with care
In hopes that their gift would be one they would keep
The employees were nestled, all snug in their chairs
While visions of splendor danced in the heads
And the moderators in their PJs & Christmas attire
Had just settled in to start the affair
As the numbers were called, each picked his gift
And hoped it was something they liked
But not one to be stolen, because
Only when it made 3 stops could it be claimed
The hilarity was rampant as new numbers perused the crowd
To see what gift they could pick, or might be stolen from the
Gifts that were hidden underneath tables, chairs or behind legs
As the robbers stealthily roamed the crowd
Some got to select more gifts than others
As their prizes became someone else’s
So again and again, they got a new gift
Until finally no one else wanted theirs
Hissho’s Yankee Swap is always full of fun
As the employees munched on snacks, savory and sweet
Eggnog, hot chocolate, soda or water
Until tummies were full of Christmas fare
And each one laughed until they cried
Until every person had their gift
Including the compact power bank
That Hissho gave each of us
So as we wait for Christmas Day
Then New Year, the Year of the Monkey
We wish each of you a fabulous holiday
From each of us at Hissho
Hissho continues to expand – horizontally, vertically and dimensionally. I say this because it seems someone is always pregnant at Hissho, and we wonder if maybe it couldn’t be “in the sushi” itself!
We have dedicated parking spaces for “Mothers-to-be,” but after adding 2 additional handmade signs on sticks for this same purpose, we finally decided to add VIP spaces. After all, mothers-to-be are Very Important Persons indeed. Our Core Values committee made quick work of getting it done.
Hissho has a reputation for “blowing it out” on Halloween each year. Our creative staff goes to all lengths to surprise, shock and cause howls of laughter each year. 2015 was NO EXCEPTION! Hope you enjoy the following photos as much as we do!
Our pumpkin decorating contest made it really hard to pick 3 winners! Which ones would you haven chosen?
Hissho Sushi was #15 among 38 privately owned companies in North Carolina touted for their revenue and employment growth at an Awards luncheon held in Pinehurst, NC on Monday, October 19, 2015.
Business North Carolina and Cherry Bekaert LLP partnered to honor these top businesses which will be featured in the upcoming November issue of Business NC magazine.
Two years ago, Hissho was #1 in this prestigious group, and very honored to still be in the running after explosive growth over these past two years. Hissho was the only food business represented, as most were in IT, construction, or service industries.
Hissho Sushi has just learned that the Company has been named as one of the Top 100 privately held businesses in North Carolina as recognized by the 2015 Grant Thornton North Carolina 100® (NC100).
The October 2015 issue of Business North Carolina magazine has all of the 100 companies listed by rank, and Hissho is #80. Given the list, Hissho is very proud to be among these giants of industry.
In a congratulatory note, Grant Thornton states that, “Dynamic companies share five traits: innovation, expansion, talent, culture and agility.” Since 1984, the Grant Thornton North Carolina 100© (NC100) has celebrated the substantial impact of private companies in North Carolina.