Q&A with Tomoko Omori
Tomoko Omori is the president of Go! Go! Curry USA Inc., a fast-casual specializing in authentic, professionally-made Japanese comfort food. She is passionate about sharing her home culture and cuisine with those in the United States who are unfamiliar with Japanese comfort food. In her role, Omori directs the company’s growth plans and future vision and epitomizes what it means to be a leader.
Can you tell our readers about your background?
I was born and raised in Japan and moved to California to become an actress. I went to Monterey Peninsula College Majoring Drama, but first I need to learn English. I made myself not speak Japanese for 2 years and become fluent. When we were about to graduate, all the classmates auditioned for an acting school in NYC. I was accepted and even received a scholarship. I landed in NYC in 1991 and studied before classes and after the classes. When we graduated the school, I performed on an off-Broadway show.
In 1997, my apartment building got burned down by a fire and I became homeless. I need to work to make money since I lost everything to the fire. I got a job at a Japanese TV station to broadcast MLB to Japan live, traveling half of the month to cover the games. I met my husband and became a housewife for three months. We decided that it would be best for me to return to work so I started working again to sell advertising for the local community paper. I became the top saleswomen for three years and the created a magazine called Chopsticks NY to introduce Japanese culture and food to English speaking individuals in New York.
After the magazine launched, the recession hit, but we survived and made a profit in three years. However, the president of the company of the publishing company never agreed to go online so I left and was recruited to be a president of the USA branch of fast-casual Japanese Chain restaurant called Go! Go! Curry in 2012. They opened the first store in 2007 and sounded like they were doing great and wanted to develop the brand nationwide. I didn’t know how to read the financial statements then, so I didn’t know how the company was doing. I found that the company was not in great financial shape. I promised to open five stores in five years and the first store would be open by May 5th, 2012, which was in five months at the time! I saw 100 of the candidate stores and decided to open the store near NYU. I spent all my personal credit card since the company had no credit history and did not have a company credit card or loan. At the same time, I took a seminar to invest myself to learning business and mindsets to run a business. We opened five stores within three years and turned a profit. The founder allowed me to be a master franchise of the brand in USA and Canada by promising 55 stores to be open by 2022. Currently, we run seven corporate stores and our sales are growing. We were now registered to franchise the restaurant since Aug. 2017.
What inspired you to start your business?
I always had a passion for the food business. However, what drives me now is to make my employees’ lives better, both professionally and spiritually.
Where is your business based?
In New York City
How did you start your business? What were the first steps you took?
I said yes without thinking too much to see if I can do it.
What has been the most effective way of raising awareness for your business?
Expanding the number of the stores near landmarks in New York City like Times Square, Washington Square Park, World Trade Center, Chelsea, Midtown East and Harlem has been effective as it pulls in high foot traffic for our business.
What have been your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?
When we opened the first store outside of New York City, it was a big challenge. We didn’t know anyone, we didn’t have the system developed, and the different state was almost like a different country. I chose a young and eager woman to be a manager there because I saw the potential she had. She did a great job being independent and strong yet patient.
How do you stay focused?
Maintaining the passion for the work and being responsible with what I promised to do.
How do you differentiate your business from the competition?
We survived 10 years in New York City, the toughest city in the world. I, without the business or food background, made it, and anyone can make it happen at anywhere!
What has been your most effective marketing strategy to grow your business?
Constant promotion: we have Go Go day to give away a free topping coupon for next use every 5, 15, and 25th of the month. Utilizing Yelp’s high rating is also effective.
What's your best piece of advice for aspiring and new entrepreneurs?
How to think is the most effective. Think how to make it happen instead of thinking the reasons or excuses you can’t do. Possible or impossible is just an opinion. If you believe you can do it, yes, you can!!
What's your favorite app, blog, and book? Why?
Books about the leadership and philosophy to become a better person while we are top of any business.
What's your favorite business tool or resource? Why?
Peter Drucker is a great marketing tool. Columbia Business School can help you learn more about business.
Who is your business role model? Why?
Dr. Kazuo Inamori, who is the founder of Kyosera, KDDI and remodeled Japan Airline. I learn so much from his philosophy.
What do you have planned for the next six months?
Signed 10 franchise contracts and open two franchise stores. Develop our support system to the corporate stores and franchise stores.
How can our readers connect with you?