My Library and Courses
Last Update: Sunday April 11, 2021

Key Idea: Pay Your Debts Cheerfully

Wing Lam and his brothers were happy to pay back their parents for a startup loan.

Key Question:


Borrow from family because the banks just won't loan you money to start a business.  Then you must pay back the loan. 

Q: Who was smiling at the end of this story?

A: Wing, Mingo and Ed's Mom and Dad. Most companies in America today are started with loans from the founders or from the founder's friends and familes. Banks aren't around in the beginning because they can't be. Banks simply can't afford to take big risks and every startup is a big risk.

Mr. and Mrs. Lee never expected to get their money back. They don't need the $30,000 they loaned their sons and they were happy to jump start the business venture. They remembered back when they had no one to fund their startup and they wanted to get the boys going so they wouldn't have the struggle they had faced.

The boys paid back the loan because it was the right thing to do. They don't want to feel like pampered children. They each want to stand on their own two feet.

Think about it

Think about what promises you have made. Have you kept them?

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.

Go to all the key ideas and videos of this episode...
Go to the homepage for this episode...

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

Pay Your Debts Cheerfully

HATTIE: Mr. and Mrs. Lee fled communist China to Brazil in the late 40's where the boys were born. Then the family immigrated to Southern California in 1975 where they opened a Chinese restaurant on Balboa Island. Years later the parents were ready to retire.

WING: They were getting out of the restaurant business and they asked us if we wanted to take it over. And we were like, we had no desire to put on the white shirt, black pants and the bow tie. So I said, "Hey, maybe we can just take a little bit of money and you guys can lease out your restaurant to the people that are working for you now, they're interested in taking it over anyway and keeping it going (and it is still going today), and we wanted to start something different. And they all thought we were a little bit off. But, I know we wouldn't have the respect from the people that would be working for us because they would look at us as kids.

ED: Wahoo's came along as pretty much our last shot. Mom and Dad said, "If you guys can't do it, it's time to move on and get a real job, get paychecks and come back and pay us back."

STEVE: A few years later... the beautiful surprise came along. We'll take you in and be a part of the family. By then we had spent most of the holidays together, it was like the family... I was adopted by Mr. Lee pretty much.

HATTIE: So are you happy to see your sons so successful? Mr. Lee: (answers in Chinese) ED: (translating from Chinese) He is just happiest that we've been able to follow (our dreams)... and it's more of the hard work ethic that he taught and he's seeing the fruits that we "talk the talk and we can also do the walk." (laughter)

WING: I think the fact that we truly believe in what we do... and in other words... when you love something you're not selling it... because people get it.

HATTIE: Did they pay you you're thirty thousand dollars back?

ED: (Chinese translation of question)

PARENTS: yeah, yeah, yeah... (laughter)

ED: of course!

HATTIE: Wing was named Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst and Young and this publication says he is one of the eight chefs who, in the last decade, has changed the way we all eat.

HATTIE: Why are new Americans often so successful?

STEVE: I think it is the work ethic and the knowledge that this place lets you do what you wish.

HATTIE: We are forever championing the small and privately-held companies and Wahoo's is a great slice of restaurant life. While the restaurant industry is the nation's largest private-sector employer, providing 11.3 million jobs, most restaurants, 7 out of 10, employ fewer than 20 people. Small and privately held businesses dominate this industry. While many fail in the restaurant business, Wahoo's succeeds by creating an experience for their own tribe. Usually what appears to be chaos can not be duplicated but these guys are doing it.

We'll see you next time.

Not a member yet? Learn!  Be empowered! Join us!