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Key Idea: Do What You Know

Wing Lee was taught how to cook by his parents who own a Chinese restaurant.    More...

Key Question:


The parents of Wing, Ed and Mingo are entrepreneurs themselves. They know how tough it can be. They hoped and expected their sons would graduate from college and go to work for big American companies.

They all achieved their parent's dreams. They graduated from college and got jobs in big American companies, but they just didn't feel good wearing those suits. The parents were also hopeful that someday at least one of their sons would take over their successful Chinese restaurant located on the charming Balboa Island (Newport Beach, California). We learned that the younger generation felt that if they took over their parent's business, the current employees would not respect them.

This was great insight on the part of Wing, Ed and Mingo.

The boys did not want what their parents had built from scratch because they did not think they deserved it. They believed they should build their vision from scratch, too.

Q: How did growing up as, "help" in their parent's restaurant prepare the boys to start their own food establishment?

First and foremost, they knew the work would be 24x7 at the beginning. They knew it would be hard with long hours which is one of the reasons they envisioned very small places rather than the many-tabled, rather upscale place their parents own. If you have never worked in a small business, or been around the owner of a small business, it is impossible to imagine the number of hours it takes to get a company off the ground and to keep it growing.

Second, they had enormous confidence. They saw no obstacles to cooking something that surfers would eat. They knew what they liked personally to eat after surfing for hours so they just pleased themselves. Of course, the driving item on the menu was to be fish tacos like they enjoyed so much on surfing trips to Mexico. At the time of Wahoo's launch, fish tacos were hard to find in Southern California!

Third, they knew the suppliers. Their parents cook commercially nearby. They may even have been able to order on credit because of their parent's fine reputation.

Fourth, they knew how to find and keep good employees.

Fifth, they knew as much about what they did not want as what they wanted.

Think about it

Are you learning everyday? Are you applying new lessons learned to your business? What do you need to learn to grow your business? What new life experiences would fuel your business growth? Should you take a trip? Climb a mountain? Learn to surf?

Clip from: Wahoo Fish Taco

Mingo Leo, CEO, the youngest of the three brothers

California, Hawaii, Colorado: Something truly special is happening here. The founders of this business are immigrants from Brazil, whose parents are from China.   New Americans continue to introduce new insights and fresh ideas. A beacon to creative people around the world, the USA, more than any other place in the world,  is a place to actualize dreams.

Meet surfers who are building a chain of surfer food joints, Wahoo's Fish Taco. They started from nothing and now have over 40 highly-successful restaurants. They are loved by their communities and respected by their industry. Wherever they go, they have an instant family, an immediate bond with anyone who owns a surfboard, skateboard or snowboard.  Brothers Wing Lam Lee, Ed Lee and Mingo Lee launched the business in 1988.  They adopted a fourth partner as a brother, Steve Karfaridis, a Greek immigrant who managed five-star restaurants in his homeland. He's the systems guru.

Follow the insights of these people and you and your business will prosper.

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Wahoo's Fish Tacos

Mingo Lee, CEO

2855 Pullman Street
Santa Ana, CA 92705

Visit our web site:

Office: 949-222-0670

Business Classification:

Year Founded: 1991

Do What You Know

HATTIE: How did you come up with what you serve today? Did the three of you talk about what you like to eat? Argue? Discuss? Create in your own kitchens? Try things? How did the recipes come to what they are today?

WING: We actually just talked about it... never did anything other than, hey, we like this kind and this kind... from all of our parties and all of our friends outings and the restaurants we liked. Literally, the day before we opened, I actually sat in the kitchen and wrote things down, and tried a couple of things, and said, "We're opening tomorrow."

MINGO: All of us grew up in this type of business, we lived and breathed the restaurant business. And so, I think a lot of it for us comes second nature. We are not thinking consciously about the decisions we're making. We just go because instinctually we know what's going on, we have a feel for the business. I mean, in Brazil, we literally grew up over the restaurant. We lived on the third floor over our restaurant. From the day you're able to walk, you knew what was going on in the operation. We stood on Coke crates peeling shrimp and washing dishes.

WING: When you cook all your life, you just know what goes with what. And the next day was the very first batch of beans I've ever made, the very first batch of rice I've ever made, the very first fish we've ever made and after lunch we look at each other and "Hey that was okay."

HATTIE: And people bought it?

WING: People bought it. And they kept coming back and coming back.

MINGO: I think our parents gave us the tools by sending us to sc hool. They have given us the extra edge that they didn't have growing up. So, I venture to say that it looks easy on the outside only because, a lot of this, we like to think that we can still do it in our sleep without thinking too much about it.

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