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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Business is in the blood

 •  Listen to your parents

By Catherine E. Toth
Advertiser Staff Writer

For the past four years, Tom Park has been steadily planning a way to do what his mother had done more than 20 years earlier:

Tom Park shows his mother, Seung Hui "Jan" Park, some of the exclusive men's footwear in his Leather Soul store in the TOPA Financial Center. His mother owns a floral shop in the same building.

Bruce Asato • The Honolulu Advertiser

Start his own business.

"It's always been a dream of mine to be my own boss," said Park, 26. "I've basically grown up seeing my parents doing that themselves. It's just something I've become accustomed to."

His mother, Seung Hui, runs Flowers For You, a small florist shop in the lobby of the TOPA Financial Center downtown. And just a few doors down, Park is getting his shoe store — Leather Soul — ready for its Monday opening.

Park is an example of the second generation of small-business owners who have decided, despite their parents' hardships and challenges, to start their own companies, taking what they've learned from their parents and applying it to their own business plans.

This bucks the trend of children who, after seeing their parents dedicate their lives to their businesses without taking much time off and not turning a huge profit, decline to carry on the family tradition and find different careers.

But not Park.

"I want to be my own boss, make my own hours," Park said. "I've seen my parents do it ... I've worked for big companies, and that was a good experience. But the bottom line is I want to live my life, I want to be my own boss."

Park never had any plans — or desire — to take over his mother's flower shop, opting to develop his own interest. After working at a high-end shoe store in college, he decided he wanted to open an intimate, upscale shop that catered to businessmen who loved shoes as much as he did.

So while he worked as a financial adviser, then a sales consultant at a luxury car dealership, Park kept focused on his ultimate goal. He made connections with shoe company representatives, saved his money and, six months ago, began putting together a business plan.

"If you told me I'd be running my parents' florist (shop), I'd say, 'Hell, no,' " he said, laughing. "I'm doing something I love. If you find something you love, no matter how hard the work is, you'll do it. You'll enjoy doing it."

Keeping it in The family

Sean Kimizuka has been working in his parents' framing shop for most of his life. And he has no problem taking over the 38-year-old business when his parents are ready to retire.

"I definitely want to continue the business," said Kimizuka, 32, who does everything from framing to sales at the store. "We provide a unique service, it's a family tradition. You want to keep that kind of quality and that kind of tradition going."

His parents opened Pacific Gallery & Frames in 1966, providing framing and restoration services. Over almost four decades, they have built up a loyal clientele through word-of-mouth advertising. And that, Kimizuka said, is what makes taking over the family business so attractive.

"It's an established business," he said. "All I need to do is continue that tradition or make it better. But the solid foundation is already there."

Best of both worlds

Lara Stanton continues to work at her family's salon while working on plans to run her own business soon.

She never thought about running her own business until she saw her mom and stepdad do it.

"What's attractive is the whole independence factor," said Stanton, 28. "Not having to answer to anyone else, being my own boss. I like the freedom."

As retail manager of Image Beauty Emporium & Salon, she has learned everything from buying products to tracking inventory, while working the register and recommending hair conditioners to clients.

These skills, some of which she might not have learned working for someone else, will come in handy when she starts her own fashion-related business with her husband, Ben. Even if that means putting in more than 40 hours a week like her parents do.

"It will be my own business, so that's OK," Stanton said. "I'm totally willing to give out 110 percent if I'm going to have my business succeed."

Good to have backup

Just a week away from opening, Park is busy getting his shop ready. He has most of his inventory of Alden and Johnston & Murphy shoes in, and the retail space, which features a plasma TV and a leather couch, is just waiting for customers.

He'll be the only one running the store when it opens. But he's already got a plan if the rush becomes too much.

"If something happens, if I'm drilled or slammed, Dad can always come and help out," Park said. "It's definitely good to be located near my parents. It's a good situation."

Reach Catherine E. Toth at 535-8103 or ctoth@honoluluadvertiser.com.

• • •

Listen to your parents

Here's what three budding business owners have learned from their business-savvy parents:

Focus on quality: "My parents never cut corners," said Sean Kimizuka, whose parents own Pacific Gallery & Frames. Quality, Kimizuka said, is what has kept them in business for 38 years.

Be good to your customers: "Customer service is really important to my parents," said Lara Stanton, whose family salon boasts many repeat customers. "Customers come first, and they appreciate that."

Know your products: Being aware of new products and making educated recommendations for clients have garnered loyal customers to Image Beauty Emporium & Salon, said Stanton, whose mother and stepfather started the salon six years ago. "If you recommend something and they like it, they'll keep coming back," she said.

Accept longer hours: Running your own business may require more than 40 hours a week. And you have to get used to that, said Kimizuka. "Most of the time you're working harder than if you had a 9-to-5 job," he said. "But then again, if I need (time off), I have the flexibility to do that."

Love what you do: That's the key to success, according to Tom Park, whose mom runs a downtown flower shop. "If my mom didn't love what she did, she wouldn't have done it for so long," he said. "You have to love what you do, or you'll go crazy."

— Catherine E. Toth