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Key Idea: Give it Away; Don't Discount

Launching a business with zero marketing budget forced Wing to be creative.

Key Question:


Find smart ways to give your product away.

Q: How did Wing initially attract his tribe and why does he keep doing this even though he owns the market?

A: He gave and continues to give food away. Anyplace surfers gather for competitions or meetings or lessons, you'll find some free food from Wahoo's Fish Taco. Wing is convinced if people taste his food, they will want it on a regular basis. It's like Mrs. Field's chocolate chip cookie or Auntie Anne's Pretzels. People get addicted to a certain food item and when that happens they will find it and pay the asking price for it.

Sampling is a much-used and effective marketing technique. Wing mastered this and nurtures his image as the friend to hungry surfers by continuing to give food away. He is looking to please and impress the new wave of surfers and skateboarders and he has seen competition come into the market. He wants to preserve and grow his market share. He also helps other companies in Southern California who are making products for his tribe. For example, he created an event for a new rock climbing gym in Costa Mesa. Of course, Wing supplied the free food.

He does not believe in discounting as he says, "you cheapen the image that you have built." Besides, his food is already priced low. 

Think about it

How would you go about giving away products or services to create the right goodwill that would build your company's image?

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

Give it Away; Don't Discount

HATTIE: Here's Wing doing his thing; he gives tons of food away at events such as this. The U.S. Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach. Held every year just spitting distance from a Wahoo's. Wahoo's customers, the boarding tribe, flock to this where we see young men compete and the legends of surfing gather.

HATTIE: How did you then move out to create, what I would call this wonderful marketing machine that you have around this culture of surfing and snowboarding and skateboarding?

WING: When they opened the very first rock climbing gym in Costa Mesa, I was there with those guys and said, "Hey, we need to do a really cool event here to promote your business and I'm willing to help you." They looked at me and goes "Really?" And I said, "Yeah. I have nothing to do with rock climbing other than every once and a while I like to come and play, but I would be willing to come out here once a year and help you promote your business." And thus promoting their business, we benefited because all of the rock climbers go, "Hey this guy is okay; he is one of us."

HATTIE: What do you say, "If we do this event, I'll bring all the food?"

WING: Pretty much! You say,"I'm willing to give you a day of my life to help you guys promote your business." And as they grow, I grow. You don't do it because you want something; you do it because you can make a difference.

HATTIE: Okay. But, the small business owner is looking at this and saying, "But where am I going to get the time? Where am I going to get the money? Where am I going to get the product to give away to this cause?"

WING: The alternative side would be to try to go out and market your company which is a lot more expensive. If you go out there and they sample your product; that's the cheapest way. Because once they taste it, they see it, they smell it, they touch it, and they connect it to you. Everybody wants to support a local businessman as opposed to a big corporate entity that they are not attached to. So as they see you being a part of the community, they want to interact with you. They want to support you back because you are supporting the community. So, the giving comes back ten fold.

ED: I said, "You know Wing can't tie his shoes, he can't barely get his hair combed out or anything; he is disorganized, but he is a great marketing man." The one thing that he does, he does better than any one alive.

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