Archive for the ‘Hall of Fame Posts’ Category

[update: Charlie Sheen officially broke the Guiness Book of World Record’s “fastest to 1M followers on Twitter” doing it in only 25 hours. Additionally, it’s been reported that he’s making $25,000 per tweet…that’s $156 per letter. If I was getting paid the same rate, this blog post would be worth $722,000..#winning!]

Have you been swept up in ‘The Sheen’? Whether it’s his radio rants, a 20/20 special, or the Today Show – Charlie Sheen is Winning. Everywhere.

Charlie Sheen is everywhere. Even here.

First, consider these absurd facts

1. At $2,500,000 per episode, Charlie Sheen is the highest paid TV actor…of all time. Oh and by the way, he’s demanding a raise. Now, there is rarely a precedent for this. Not only have his off-screen antics jeopardized the family sitcom’s viability, but he’s asking for a raise to $3M per episode for the “mental and psychological anguish” that this ordeal has caused him. So just to clarify, Charlie Sheen gets hospitalized/arrested for a ridiculous cocaine binge, and then rants on public radio against his boss….then asks for a raise!! Has anyone in the history of human nature been better at the – “I know my crazy actions caused this disastrous situation…but its your fault, you owe me!” than Charlie Sheen?  Oh wait, how could I forget the godfather of this routine, Ronnie from the Jersey Shore.

2. ‘Two and A Half Men’ is a corny show, that causes me to feel embarassed if I happened to be watching the show when someone else walks in the room. – This fact is merely to demonstrate how absurd Fact#1 is. This show is terrible, but it doesn’t matter. The Sheen has become that ridiculous.

3. Charlie Sheen might break the internet. Not since the days of AOL CDs, dial-up connections, and being one accidental telephone pickup away from being disconnected- have I been so worried about the internet’s well-being. This man has unleashed a Lawerence Taylor like blitz on the media over the past 72 hours. As the SHEEN himself said, “drug tests don’t lie, scoreboard don’t lie.’

Absurd Charlie Sheen Internet Dominance Stats

3a. Just hours after saying in an interview “god shoot me the day I’m on twitter”he joined Twitter. was born, and amassed 700,000 followers in the first day…before he even published his first tweet. This begs several questions. First, why was nobody squatting on the domain (and who is squatting on….you jerk.). Secondly, 700,000 people followed the man who had yet to say a word. That’s like me (and 699,999 other people) picking up our phone’s simultaneously with the hope that Charlie Sheen might be on the other line to say a word to us.

3b. At one point in the afternoon, he was responsible for 9 out of the 10 trending topics on Twitter (to most of you good souls who don’t know (or want to know) anything about twitter, this is an unbelievable feat). His phrases #Winning , #Tigerblood , #AdonisDNA , #unemployedwinner, and even his brother (Emilio Estevez, or as I know him, Coach Gordon Bombay from The Mighty Ducks) somehow made the top ten. His charismatic interviews have spawned a whole new set of catchphrases.
Now the question – why am I devoting a whole blog post to Charlie Sheen? Am I just another groupie, swept up in Sheenmania (admittedly, yes)? Or am I simply taking note of the greatest viral internet blitz of all time. A huge mistake that many businesses take, is that they only learn from other businesses. In trying to replicate Apple/Disney/Nike’s success, you end up looking like a second rate-wannabe rather than an original. This is why its necessary to look elsewhere for inspiration, or elements that you can draw from in order to have success in your field.

From Charlie Sheen we learn to harness public attention through the fact that we as a society love to watch trainwrecks. Charlie’s current sober sheenanigans are simply the calm before the storm, as the public can’t wait for his next outburst, or even better (for newsworthiness) a relapse into druguse.

Now what has Charlie done, rather than hide from the spectacle, or retreat in hopes of privacy, he has come forward, and capitalized on this moment.

Think about it – how can an admitted drug user, 3x divorced due to assaulting his wives, known prostitute user (to the tune of 50k a night), and certified mad man have such a rabid following. His popularity has never been higher. He’s crossed the threshold of “everything that’s wrong in society” to “everything that’s entertaining in society”. Imagine the box-office/TV ratings he will draw in his first public appearance. He is somehow driving up his $ value at a time when most celebrities would be crushed by this PR nightmare.

Not only that, but he’s done it using elements that any marketer should appreciate. He’s created his own vocabulary for his followers to harness (winning! Tigerblood! etc..). He’s manufacturing word-of-mouth through these outlandish statements that fans now use as their own inside jokes.

He’s been bold, and passionate in what he believes, and as radical as his opinions are – if he can back them up and lead a successful sober life from here on out, then he’s only added to his mystique. This is what all brands strive to achieve, spreadability, likeablility, known for being bold, and passionate about what they believe. He is a brand whose slogans are “Winning!” and “Defeat is not an option!”, and he is the embodiment of those values –  a public persona that is emblematic of a lifestyle choice, moreso than a particular product. He’s embracing the do what you do mentality. He’s doing his PR his way, and being bold about it – and the results are piling up – his message (as misguided or bizzare as it may be) is being spread with unbelievable effectiveness.

Charlie Sheen, you may be self-destructing as a human, but as a  brand, you sure are winning.



The Flash Fashion Show

Posted: February 23, 2011 in Hall of Fame Posts

Remember how I said we were planning on doing a flash fashion show (click to read WHY we did it..) in the middle of a crowded lecture hall on campus at CU?

20 Models, 11 camera men, 1 stylist, 1 professor, 1 store (The Buffalo Exchange), and 200 stunned students later – WE PULLED IT OFF! Huge thanks to all of you guys, I still can’t believe it all came together.

Now, my friends, you know what to do. SPREAD THIS VIDEO! Comment on the youtube page, like it, stumble upon it, post it on facebook, email it, talk loudly about it while in crowded public places….do what you do – we said we were going to get to a million views, now lets get it!!

Thanks again, to everyone involved. There are too many people to name that made this possible, you guys are unbelievable.

The Men of Sabi

The live blog continues as you scroll down: a look inside the life of a Start-Up for a full 24hrs.

Since the restaurant isn’t open yet a lot of people ask us what we do all day… So, we decided to start the first ever 24 hr Live Blog (with hourly updates) that will give you a look into our everyday grind.

6:59 a.m

Trev is still asleep. Not for long. It's one minute till go time.

7:00 a.m

We like to start the day off with some yoga led by Shaan.


After yoga Trev takes us through a p90x ab workout. Too bad he's not as entertaining as The Tony Horton.

8:00 a.m

Breakfast and strategy time. While we eat breakfast we like to plan our strategy for the main project or goal of the day. Today we have a big a call with someone interested in locking down the next Sabi location. Needless to say we need to kill it…


Trev is the self-proclaimed Dr. of Omelets. Check out those flipping skills.

Breakfast of Champions










Shaan outlines our plan on the whiteboard.

9:00 a.m

Everyone’s moved to their individual stations, working on their division of the company.

Trevor’s in design mode, headphones on, and working his Photoshop magic to get the website pages done. He’ll post a few sample pages later to show you what he’s working on.

Dan’s been working the phone with the accountants all morning. I’ll say this, the man knows how to stretch one free-consultation with an accountant into an hour long Q&A session. He’s speaking a language I don’t understand, purely acronyms. An LLC taxed as an S-Corp? W2’s and 1099’s??  Dan “The Numbers Guy” Certner in action.

I’m putting together a package for our meeting in T-Minus 2hrs. My division of the company is Business Dev. and Marketing. It’s crazy how much overlap they have. If you want to make a partnership proposal, you have to remember how busy everyone else is – my general rule is : By default, nobody gives a shit about your great idea. Its up to you to engage, entertain, and earn their attention. Marketing isn’t something you do in flyers and advertisements, it’s adding personality to every single thing you do.

– shaan


Shaan just got off the phone with a girl he met at the bank who happens to be the founder of the Colorado University CEO club. Looks like we’ll get a great opportunity to meet a lot of young entrepreneurs around Boulder.

Dan is making our first DO WHAT YOU DO video. I can’t tell you much more about it, but it includes lions, Certners and a man named Makinda… Should be up real soon.

I’m still grinding away on this website. Things are really coming along since the last time I showed where I was at. Since then we’ve got some awesome pictures taken by the official Sabi Photographer, Jen Kozin. These have really brought the designs to a new level. Check em out:



Food Section. How We Roll page








Team Section. Founders page.

Team Section. Stephen page. He's the man.









These are just a couple of examples. It’s still a work in progress, but we are really happy with the direction that it is headed. If you guys have any feedback leave a little comment for me.

Back in an hour,



Shaan just finished preparing a packet for our upcoming meeting, and is now e-mailing one of the members of our Board of Advisors some questions we had about our lease negotiations.

Trevor is still designing the website – he recently started flipping through a book called “Sushi” that Shaan picked up from the library…maybe for some picture ideas? I’m not really sure…

I took a break from the video to send out a few e-mails. We are always trying to talk to as many people as we can because you never know where one connection can lead. I just spoke with someone from The Denver Founders Network who found us after he overheard my girlfriend Stacy talking about Sabi on a plane ride from Denver to Chicago!

Meeting in 15 – see you at noon…



Conference Call

Just got done with our call. Wow, What a cool lady. There is nothing like talking to someone who has the same vision of DO WHAT YOU DO as we do. I can’t wait to see what’s in store…That couldn’t have gone better.

At noon everyday we try to do something active. Usually we go lift weights but on Wednesdays we like to go for a quick hike up in the mountains. We’ll be back in an hour with some sweet pictures.



Now as you may have noticed, our apartment/Sabi Headquarters isn’t the most sophisticated environment, but it works for us. We work in close proximity, bouncing ideas off each other, and every wall is covered with whiteboards so we can plan things out easily. Still, its always good to get out, so right before lunch we try to do something active in the Boulder community to get fresh air and meet some cool people.

Today we went for a hike in the Chautauqua Mountains which are about 5 minutes from our apartment. I’ve never experienced anything like this, having the mountains right in your backyard. It was too good of a photo-op to pass up…

Mountain Men

Training like Rocky





You may wonder why we’re working out so much. Aside from operation get-swole-by-opening-day, we’re training for a competition called Tough Mudder – an intense out-door competition of manliness. Part of Sabi is the willingness to embrace challenge, take pride in preparing for it, and then seeing if you can rise to the occassion. For us, that’s what Tough Mudder is about. For all our Boulder followers out there, if you’re down for a little challenge, join our Tough Mudder team – and lets do this when they come to Boulder in June.

Lunchtime – We’ll see you at 2pm

– Us

2:00 p.m

A few sandwiches scarfed down, and we got back to work.  Quick update about what everyone’s up to:

Dan’s on the phone with a restaurant insurance company. Did you know that if someone gets robbed in the parking lot, we could be sued for not having enough outdoor lighting? Or if an older employee hurts his back while picking up a cup- we are on the hook for his surgery, even if it wasn’t caused by the restaurant?

All these worst-case scenarios make me nervous. There’s only one answer here, I’ll be personally checking every employees health. I’m talking about how they do it in elementary, checking the little kids for lice, scoliosis and dirty fingernails.

On the bright side, just got an email from the boys over at PoPChips (they make their chips with the same process people make popcorn, which means its healthier than frying or baking the chips). They’re interested in talking partnership – which is good news for me because I’m addicted to those things. PoPchips are going to blow up, they just began being distributed in a few major channels, Whole Foods, Jamba Juice etc…and they go great with our sushi during lunch times. Looking forward to the possibilities of working with them.

Time for Me and Trev to go to our day jobs – basketball coaching at local Boulder schools. Dan will hold down the fort until we get back.



Trevor and Shaan left a little while ago so I’m on my own at Sabi HQ…

Trevor just called to let me know he called Phil during his drive to practice – said they had a great conversation about our menu options so hopefully we’ll hear more about that later.

After I got off the phone with the insurance agent I’ve been trying to learn more about the types of insurance we need. Not the most interesting thing in the world – but probably more fun than the tax books I was reading this morning.

I have a meeting at 4pm so the next post will have to come a little early – I’ll be prepping for the meeting between now and then…got that Duke game at 5pm to look forward to!



Early post since I have a meeting in a few minutes:

Just got an e-mail back from the Manager of Non-Traditional Marketing at Qdoba! Met him randomly a few weeks ago and I’ve been trying to arrange some time to meet since he is based in Denver.

Funny story about how we met him actually – the conversation went something like this… (true story, I swear)

Him: “Nice to meet you guys, what brings you to Denver?”

Us: “We are creating a fast-casual sushi concept in Boulder. Think of a Chipotle-style sushi restaurant…so what do you do?”

Him: “I work for Qdoba…”

Glad he didn’t hold that one against us. Duke game in an hour vs. Alabama-Birmingham…check it out on ESPN2.


5:00 p.m

I just got home from basketball practice. When we first moved out to Boulder, we knew we needed a job that would be flexible, fun, and allow us to commit our time to Sabi. Enter the Range School (name has been changed for confidentiality), 2 days a week, 4 hours a day, $40 an hour? Sign me up.

Its funny how what started off as a way to make money on the side, ends up making a huge impact on the way you perceive life. The majority of students at the Range School are fully functional Autistic/Aspergers students, making this one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. These kids come in to the gym, and I try to make it as fun as possible, but also coach them so they can get better at a game they love to play. You would never know they are different, except for the fact that they are exceptionally smart and easy-going.

I wanted to post a team picture today, but my star player James (name changed for confidentiality) informed me that today wasn’t a good hair day for him. So James, I’ll honor your request, since you did kick my butt in a free throw contest – no pictures that wouldn’t do the hair justice.

I do leave you with my point guard in action – Kobe’s got nothing on him.

back at 6pm.

6:00 p.m
We’re kicking back, eating an early dinner while watching the Duke Basketball game. Duke basketball is by far the most loved and hated program in the entire country. There’s a variety of theories about this, our Caucasian heavy roster, Coach K’s looks, the elitist private school that has a great sports program in addition to its academics. Others make comparisons to the Yankees, but its not like Duke out-spends its opponents (actually that would be John Calipari’s Kentucky squad).

Winning breeds loyalty, as well as jealousy/hatred – but Duke isn’t the winningest program. UCLA, and Kentucky, Indiana, and UNC all have more championships- and while they have loyal fans, they have much less hatred.

Whether you love/hate Duke, you feel a strong way about it, showing why Duke is a bigger brand than any other program. As a start-up, this is interesting. Especially because my theory on why they are such a strong brand is that they follow our motto : do what you do.

Duke plays its way. It draws charges. It slaps the floor as its signature defensive call. They run to and from every timeout. They never talk back to their coach. They tuck in their shirts even when they are in practice. They never have facial hair (Brian Zoubek excluded, he was the first ever) and never have long hair. In short – Duke has created a culture, an aura, a uniform, a way of life – A Brand.

I think that to be a successful entrepreneur, you can never take a moment off. That doens’t mean being a work-a-holic, but even when you’re just kicking back, eating dinner and watching a basketball game – keep your mind working. I learned more about building a brand in the last 30 minutes observing Duke’s basketball program than I could have out of any book or class.

more to come at 7pm



Just got back from basketball. I got this job about a month ago and it just might be the most fun I’ve ever had in my life. I seriously love everything about it. But, the thing I like most is working with all of the different girls and learning the most effective ways to teach, motivate and get the most out of them.

So far the most important lesson that I have learned is there is no one formula for teaching. I have seen a lot of coaches and teachers that will always stick to their style, treat everyone the same, and never make adjustments for different situations. They have a formula and they stick with it. But how can one formula or style connect with all of the different people or students you are trying to connect with? …It cant.

All of the great leaders I have seen in my life have one thing in common: They take the time to get to know everyone they are working with. By doing this they are able to create a deeper connection and bond with that person which allows them to find the best way to motivate and teach that person as an individual. I have taken this same approach in coaching these girls and so far it’s working perfect. I’ve learned that some respond to praise while others get tougher with criticism, some like attention, others would rather just hang back. By recognizing these things I am able to make a more meaningful connection with each of the players and it is allowing me to motivate and get the most out of them each day in practice.

I truly believe that this is a lesson that can be transferred across all fields. And it will absolutely be something I think about within our restaurant as we start to hire and train our employees.

We’ll be back at 8.


8:00 p.m

The do what you do initiative was supposed to be launched closer to the restaurant opening, but the number of passionate and talented people that we’ve met already has forced our hand.

In the coming weeks you’ll see why our motto isn’t about fresh ingredients. tastetastic! mouthful of heaven or other similarly corny restaurant slogans. Explaining do what you do is for another day. For now, just know that our mission will include finding a way to harness the talents of young people just like ourselves, that just need an opportunity, a platform, a chance to show the world what they’ve got.

The other night, another future do what you do’er came our way, as I stumbled on this video of Lucia Sosa – a young aspiring singer out of California.

I asked a friend what she thought about Lucia’s video above, and she goes “she’s got a great voice, but a lot of people can sing”. And you know what? That’s true. A lot of people can sing.


For a singer to write/produce their own song of this quality, shows that not only does she have vocals/musical chops, but she’s got heart. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned running a start-up, through trial and error during the hiring/firing process, its that you don’t let a talented person with this kind of heart go by unnoticed.

I’m excited to see what she does, not only in collaboration with us, but as she takes on the music industry. I’m sure she’s heard the naysayers talk about the long-shot odds of making it in the music industry, just as we’ve heard millions of times that 90% of restaurants fail.

Well you know what? There may be a lot of people that can sing, but I’ll take my chances on her.

EDIT: by popular demand, here’s a link to her blog



I was sitting here working on putting together a short proposal when a Kid Cudi interview came on my itunes. I was zoning out through most of it but there was a part where he was explaining why he calls himself The Man on the Moon. He explained that he stole the name from the famous movie staring Jim Carrey and how the movie meant so much to him because of one simple message: “The Comedian in the movie made it to the top because he did everything his way, no matter what.”

Kid Cudi was so inspired by this simple notion because he feels the same way about the music that he makes: “I don’t like to do the same shit that everyone else does…I do it my way. I make songs that I think are awesome and that I am passionate about. That’s my style, I do what I do.”

After hearing this interview Shaan and Dan headed for the library to check out the movie for the night. I can’t wait to see what we can take away from it. It seems like the notion of Do What You Do is everywhere.

I’ll let you know how the movie goes.


10:00 p.m
The workday is coming to a close – today was especially intense. We didn’t pre-plan doing this blog, just decided today might be a good day for it. It was fun to share our daily grind with you guys, and the texts/calls of support were great, thanks for that! Everyday is full of ups and downs – we just try to keep our hard work our source of consistency.

Many of the things we do seem silly, but we do them with a purpose. We wake-up at 7 a.m because it sucks. Because we hate it. Because its a way of giving ourselves and our comforts up for the success of our team and venture. I make my bed in the morning (something I’ve always thought of as pointless) for that exact reason. Doing something pointless, but with passion, gives it meaning. It’s a mental commitment to doing whatever it takes to get the job done – not just doing things that have obvious and instant rewards attached to them.

In the restaurant we will have to do things that go unnoticed. We must do them consistently, without being results oriented. Because those little touches are the details that add up to make a great product.

Today’s blog was another example. It seems goofy or counter-productive to spend so much time blogging, but its important for us. We love the support we get, and want to give them as much real insight to the business as possible, even if it means showing us embarrassingly doing team-Yoga in the mornings. We want you all to be a part of that journey. We tried to offer insight to our goals, to what inspires us, and to our general business philosophies.

We broke our record for views-in-a-day, but that’s not the point. Some day when we’re asked why we were successful, we can point to days like this. Blogs like this.

Work hard when no-one’s watching, and maybe some day they will.

– Shaan

Big thanks to the Ragan Family for all the good times in Wyoming! And to our families in Jersey and Australia, you were missed.

-next year we feast in our first location!

-the boys

Aug. 20, 2010 will go down as being one of the most important days in the Sabi Sushi adventure. Let’s take it from the top…

10:00am: We picked Shaan up at the airport. It was the first time the whole team would be together in 15 days. Dan was fresh off his Hawaii vacation, I just got back from Memphis and Shaan had just finished his LA session with Phillip. The drive back to Aunt Patti’s basement was hilarious as we all compared our Sushi Central experiences and how differently Phillip had treated us all. Looking back, its crazy that we had planned our lives around opening a restaurant, and just now we finally knew what the hell the sushi side of things was really about…ends up Phillip’s bootcamp was a little more useful than reading Sushi for Dummies…

11:15am: We arrived back at Aunt Patti’s and headed to our basement to continue our discussion. Things were going too good, we all had different insights about what we had learned from Sushi Central and how we could bring these ideas to life in Sabi. We’d rolled rolls, cut fish, chopped veggies…Sushi wasn’t such a mystery anymore…It was like discovering that girls really don’t have cooties.

12:45pm: The discussion moved towards our location search. For the past month we had convinced ourselves that Boulder was our perfect spot…But then Shaan asked a question that would prove to be the turning point of  our day: What happens if we can’t get into either of the spaces in Boulder, what happens then? Nobody had an answer. Up to this point we realized that we had fallen in love with Boulder as a town, and had just assumed that we could make it work, but like Shaan said, what if it doesn’t?

1:15pm: Silence

1:25pm: Trevor: “shit”

1:30pm: More silence

1:32pm: Dan: “lets go grab some food.” We jumped on the opportunity to get out of this basement of gloom. However, leaving the basement didn’t help anything. The car ride was different from our typical laughing, joking and jamming to Mike Posner haha…this one was silent. For the first time during this whole venture I felt lost. What was our backup plan? We have been across the nation looking for spots and decided Boulder was perfect, but if it doesn’t happen, what do we do. We have all of our guns in place to make this restaurant fly. We have been planning on a January opening to coincide with the start of the Spring Semester for CU students, and to pull this off we needed to get in a spot in the next month. If we missed the January opening we were looking at having to wait all the way until next August to open up shop, and frankly I don’t think I have the patience for that kind of wait, especially when I feel so confident in our knowledge, team and concept. Damn.

2:15pm: We tried to talk about our options at lunch but our usual confidence and energy was missing. More and more questions started to come up: What happens if we have to wait another year to make this happen? Where will we get the money to live another year without a real job? And the scariest one of them all… Are we really doing the right thing? We’d worked too damn hard to go back home with our tail between our legs. Everything just needed to work out. It had to. Right? With each question the pit in my stomach grew.

3:00pm: We had an appointment to look at an apartment. Even this seemed pointless, why the hell would we get an apartment with a year-long lease if we don’t even know if we’ll be able to open up our restaurant here?

4:30pm: Back to the basement. At this point we hit rock bottom and resorted to watching shows on our lap tops. We all had the headphones in so we sat in silence. Dan chose to drown his sorrows with How I met Your Mother. Shaan escaped to the fakeness of the Real World and I decided to watch Weeds so I could stare at Mary-Louise Parker for long periods of time.

5:30pm: We were all still watching our shows but I knew that each one of us was thinking about the situation we were in. We had just graduated from Duke University, all of our friends are all doing amazing things and even have jobs and stuff! And here we were sitting in a basement watching tv on our laptops…sweet.

7:30pm: Shaan: “We have to get out of here! Let’s go to Fridays get some food and figure our shit out.” (I’m pretty sure that’s what Steve Jobs said right before he invented the ipod)

8:00pm: We get to Fridays, and plan on having a serious conversation about the business. We take our seats and all of a sudden I feel a huge hand slap me on my slouched back. It’s Demetrius The Bartender who asks, “Happy Hour Brotha’s! How many long islands can I get ya!?” Little did we know this would prove to be one of the answers to our problems.

9:00pm: We were all a few strong islands deep and feeling better about life, there was a dude dancing on the bar and we had a spread of buffalo wings and ranch. Ok ok.

10:00pm: We decided it was time to head to another bar. We hadn’t said a word about Sabi, but instead talked to each other about some of the hardest times we’d ever had in our lives. Family problems, adventures in Costa Rica and more came out of the woodwork…four years living together, and I’d never heard any of these stories…who knew? We finally decided it was time to leave Fridays, so we asked some of the girls we met where we should go. “WHISKEY RIVVVVER!” was the popular answer. We hopped in a cab and headed there.

10:15pm: Arrive at big barn with cars parked all around it. Hmmmm probably not our style but we decided to give it a shot. We walked in decked out in our shorts, Air-Force 1’s, and v-necks and were greeted with a barn full of cowboys dancing to a Big and Rich cover band. The last time I had felt this out of place was when we were at the NY Stock Exchange. Everyone turned to see who the hell these three idiots were coming to their bar.

10:20pm: We decide not to stick around and get branded by the cowboys. Back in the cab and heading for another bar.

10:30pm: Arrive at our new bar, The Penalty Box. Michael Jackson (r.i.p.) was playing on the jukebox. Order a few rounds and take our seats at the bar. 11:30pm: Meet a Tina Fey look alike and her Swedish friend.

12:00am: See another dude dancing on the bar. Greeley is a strange strange place.

1:00am: Convince Tina Fey and her friend that they should buy us drinks because we are homeless.

1:30am: Last call, music turns off and they begin to clear the place out. Why does that always happen when things just start to get fun?

2:00am: Finally listen to the bouncer and leave to the parking lot. Tina and the friend stuck around outside for a bit but ended up leaving cause the “friend” was “tired”…Thanks friend. Good friends like her are hard to find…and harder to get rid of…

2:15am: The three of us found a bench on the side of the road and sat there like a bunch of hobos and started to talk about Sabi. We started things off talking about the most important things we had learned from Phillip. We all agreed that the experience was one of the most rewarding things we’ve ever done in our life and it was more than just learning about sushi, but about becoming a man. As Shaan explained a few posts ago, Phillip is one of the most amazing people you’ll ever meet, and he found a way to test us all and make us grow up in the short time we lived with him and worked in his restaurant. We all talked about how we had opened up to Phillip but had never really opened up to one and other. Yeah, we had been best friends for the past 4 years, but were we acting like it?

3:00am: For the next 4 hours we talked about everything. For the first time we laid everything out on the table, we called one and other out for certain things. We praised one and other for what they bring to the team. We admitted that each one of us brought both unique strengths and weaknesses to our team. We talked about what we wanted to get from this venture and the reasons we thought that we had made it to this point. The three of us on paper couldn’t be more different; Shaan was born in Oklahoma, lived in Texas, Denver, China, London and Indonesia he went to Duke to someday become a Sports Medicine Dr., Dan was from New Jersey and had dreamed about becoming a stock trader in NYC is whole life, and I was from a small town in Wyoming and went to Duke to try and play basketball. But despite our different backgrounds we had met and now we were here in this moment, in the middle of Greeley, CO sitting on a curb together growing up as each hour passed. In the end it was obvious, this project was exactly what we needed to be doing with our lives and no matter what happens if the three of us can trust each other, not get flustered by anything and keep our foot on the pedal, it’s going to work.

6:30am: The sun started to rise. But it didn’t matter. Our “problems” of earlier in the day didn’t matter. I have never felt so confident about this venture than I did at that moment. And I know that Shaan and Dan felt the same. The day had been a gut check. But in the end it brought us together. It forced us to re-commit ourselves to this mission, and get back to what had got us to this point.

Even when things get stressful and the situation looks hopeless, sometimes business plans and financial models won’t help you.  Sometimes you’ve got to get out, meet some people, and have some drinks with your boys. Now if you’re lucky, your boys are also your business partners, and you’ll realize that getting drunk in the middle of Greeley, CO, and watching the sun rise with two guys is the right business move to get your swag back.

6:45am: We drove home laughing and joking, at how random the night was. Looking back on this day I realized that it wouldn’t have happened without Phillip’s influence in our lives. He had taught us the importance of a team and how to open up to somebody and absolutely trust them. Yeah, that man was instrumental in giving us the opportunity to learn from his sushi knowledge, but even more importantly he made each one of us into a better person than we were before we met him. For that we’d like to thank you Phillip, you’re the man!


– Dr. Phil –

This blog post was supposed to be an update. A story of all the sushi skills I’m learning, or a funny story about rolling sushi for the celebrities that visit the restaurant here in LA (Hurley from LOST!) But after what happened today, things have changed.

For me, this blog has been just another way to promote ourselves. Tell our story. Expand our fanbase. I spent less time thinking about what to write, and more time counting our growing number of website hits.

Today? I want that number to be high. Today, I’ve got a story to tell. Today, I saw a car salesman walk in to sell a car, and leave with a new lease on life.

Onto the story…

It’s Monday, and things were slow, just a few customers dropping in during the lunch hour, and then a long break until a scattered dinner. As a restaurant owner, this is your biggest fear. You’re Nocustomerphobic. After you order fresh food, and have your whole staff waiting behind the counter ready to go…no customers.

Imagine sitting in your living room with a goofy cone hat on, balloons all filled with helium, and a huge cake on the table…but nobody shows up for your party.

You watch the clock. You wipe tables and re-organize utensils…the only cure for your anxiety.

Now the business side of me fears this outcome for Sabi. Becoming just an average Joe. Taking our great idea, and all of our excitement and energy, and having it turn out to be a dud.

But today I saw that its not all about the numbers and dollars.

The day started off with our waitress smiling cheerfully as she brought donuts to work. She was really excited that her night of heavy drinking didn’t cause her to be hungover today…

(fast forward about 15 minutes) ….we realized that she was just still drunk,

(1 hour later) Hangover kicks in.

Her pain was compounded due to a recent breakup with her longtime boyfriend.

Now Sushi Central is less of a sushi restaurant and more of a laundry mat inside an airport…I’ll explain.

The employees and customers all bring in their dirty laundry and emotional baggage to this tiny Sushi sanctuary in West L.A.  In just one slow Monday shift, Phillip coached our waitress, our chef, myself, our intern’s mother, and now a man named James, through all of our emotional distress. He wasn’t just Chef Phillip Yi. He’s the boss, Dr. Phil.  And apparently there’s no shoulder like a chef’s to cry on. (I bet its because of the delicious comfort food).

As I sat in the corner of the restaurant, jotting down notes on my journal while the dinner rush was slow, a Korean man walked through the door.

The day before, Phillip had gone to visit his sister in Orange County, who then dragged him car shopping with her. In the end, he helped her with the actual purchase of the car. However, due to a typo, the car salesman had made a 1-hour drive to the restaurant to get Phillip to re-sign the corrected papers. As Phil welcomed the stranger, he noticed that something was weighing heavily on the salesman’s mind. He offered him a seat and began talking with him. Phillip thanked him for driving all the way to the restaurant for the signatures, and asked a simple question about the car he was driving.

This is Phillip’s art. Asking questions and giving people space to open themselves up to him. The salesman immediately broke down, talking about how he had to borrow the car from a friend to drive here because he had lost his in his divorce. He soon revealed that he had hit rock bottom. He had no car, no money, 3 kids, a crappy job, and he was over 40 years old with nothing to show for it. He asked what he should do. Why was god punishing him over and over again?

When he was younger he had a good job (selling semi-conductors), getting a fat salary with bonuses, and a beautiful girlfriend. He loved her, tried to do a noble deed, paying for her entire college education for 4 years straight. As soon as she graduated, and had depleted all of his savings, she dumped him.

He was 30 years old, broke, single, and depressed. He attempted to hang himself twice and failed. He couldn’t even kill himself properly.

Now here he was, 40 years old, and in the same situation, expect with 3 kids to support.

Phillip listened. And I mean, really listened. Not the type of nodding and smiling and spending all your time thinking of what your response is going to be as soon as the other person shuts up. But really absorbing it. Listening.

He then gave the man some advice. That his happiness in life can’t depend on money. Or his job. Or his car. Or his girlfriend. Or anyone else but himself. He had to be a man, understand that things might be tough for a while, but to have courage, strength, and above all else: have hope.

“as long as there is hope. Hope. There is life.”- Dr. Phil(lip Yi)

You stay alive. You stay young. You maintain energy. Energy to turn your life around. To take responsibility for yourself and understand that your current state is a result of your past actions. Phillip’s then amended this Buddhist principle to connect with our Christian car salesman. He told him, “James. If you believe in God. Then this path he’s creating for you, is for the purpose of giving you the courage, and the strength, to do God’s work….Now, in order for you to help others, as I’m helping you today, you must have these trials, these experiences…Without experiencing difficulties and overcoming them, how can you help others? To truly guide them based on your own experiences, otherwise advice is just talk. Hot Air.

James repeated intently, “hot….air” his english was good, but he had never heard this phrase. Still he was grasping to every syllable Phillip was saying. He continued listening to Dr. Phillip: “There’s no meaning behind it. So if your path is to help others, then you must rise to this challenge and overcome it. Experience it fully.”

James sat and listened. He nodded. His English was poor, but his need for advice was so great that it transcended language. He understood the message. To stop asking God or the universe “why??” and start asking How can I change. What can I do. Where can I go. Who can help me.  And use rock bottom as a solid foundation to build an empire upon.

James tried to explain how he could feel his life change in that moment. From the time when he walked into Sushi Central, to the time that he would leave, he had changed his outlook on life.  He came in down, but not out. He was searching for help somewhere and Phillip was there to offer not just a helping hand, but also the tools for James to rejuvenate his life. He had given him hope.

James mentioned how he had hoped today would be a better day, but it started off by him losing two big car commissions. Now he may have lost two commissions, but he gained two friends in myself and Phillip.

I asked Phillip if it was draining. Being Dr. Phil, giving advice to our waitress in the morning, our chef in the afternoon, an employee’s mother during dinner, myself in our break time, and now James just before we closed, but he shook his head. He said it gave him energy. This is his gift, understanding human nature, connecting with people, penetrating their hearts. Whether he’s wearing the Sushi Central hat, being a father to his three kids, or adopting Me/Trev/Dan to go on this crazy sushi adventure, it’s his ability to connect with people that allows him to be successful. It’s the same reason that the Food Network picked him over the thousands of sushi chefs in America, and the same reason that we felt compelled to call Phillip after seeing him just once on TV.

As for me? Today was a new life lesson. That even though we’re starting a business, it’s not about the food, it’s about the people. The people you employ that feel like your family, and the people you serve, who make time in their crazy schedule of their crazy day, in their crazier lives to come eat at your restaurant.

You work for them. You can affect them.

I used to want to be a doctor so that I could save lives.

Tomorrow night, James is coming in for dinner. And I bet he’ll be standing a little taller, walking a little prouder, and living. Because we gave him hope.

Maybe I don’t have to be a doctor to save lives.

This is the best god damn Monday I’ve ever had.


During my time at “Sushi Headquarters” in LA, I’ve been living and training with our Chef, Phillip Yi. Sushi’s just a small part of what I’ve learned in my time here. In order to prevent some awkwardness (Phillip has discovered the blog), I’ve been handwriting my daily recaps, and now that enough time has passed, I can release them one by one. This has been one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my life. Now kick back, pick your poison, read, and enjoy.  – Shaan

Day 1: My Hollywood Ending

Phillip picked me up from the airport and took me straight to the restaurant. Goodbye Hollywood, hello back of the kitchen.

It was a bit weird being the last one to come train in LA. As much as Phillip wanted each of us to have our own individual experience in LA, I had already heard Trev and Dan’s stories, experiences, and new perspective on our mission.

Because of this knowledge, I already knew to get ready for hours of scraping tuna off their fibers. I knew Jesua is the man. I knew the hours are draining. I knew that Filipino Chef Dino Severino lives up to the epicness of his name. I knew of Trevor’s immediate successes and Dan’s early struggles to get the hang of the technique. But I had to wipe that all away, because I can’t live their experiences, have to create my own.

After meeting the crew, I got settled in and they told me they had saved me a treat, time to make Wasabi. As we remember from Dan’s Tears for Sabi post, mixing the wasabi paste is a painful (clears out the ole’ sinuses) but necessary task. In the US, very few restaurants use the real wasabi root (which only grows in the mountain river valley’s of Japan) since it goes for about $100/pound. For a reference, Gold is trading at about $83/pound*.

Luckily, they told me the trick was to mix it under the stove’s fume hood, and it’s a piece of cake (sorry Dan!). Already I was off to a good start. I watched as they rolled their Sushi Rolls. Interesting how different their technique was than our first time. Instead of taking notes, I observed their moves, noting in my mind step-by-step how they made a simple roll. Sure enough, a California Roll order came up and Phil turned to me, “That’s you Shaan, lets go.” And these are the moments you live for right? Heart’s pounding, and you’re called upon. It’s your time to shine, you can just feel those moments. So you take it step-by-step.

Step 1: The spread. –Grab a ball of rice, just a little bit smaller than a tennis ball as I had been observing. I tossed it in between my hands for a moment like a seasoned veteran, ready to spread it on the seaweed.

Step 2: Immediately realize you now have “sticky hand syndrome” with sushi rice stuck to every inch of your palms. Proceed to look like an idiot trying to rub the grains off your hands (in effect, transferring sticky rice from one hand to the other) and wishing that this scene had stuck to the script.

Step 3: Be humbled, and realize there is a lot to learn.

Everyone was cracking up, someone poured me a beer, another clapped their hand on my shoulder reassuringly that, although I didn’t even get past Step 1 of the Sushi rolling process, it was just that, a process.  We decided to start with the basics. I wasn’t a sushi natural, and this wasn’t going to be a Hollywood ending for Day 1.

And you know what? I wouldn’t have it any other way. These are the moments that we’re actually enjoying during this process. Stumbling. Making mistakes. Being put in a situation where we might fail. Getting our butts kicked, and then picking ourselves up off the floor. Smirking at the world with a bloody lip, “is that all you’ve got?”

It’s not just a business venture for us, it’s a business adventure.

I finished the day learning the basics. How to make sushi rice.  How to keep your fish fresh. How to mop a floor. It’s not glamorous, but its key.  Every bit of deliciousness that a customer tastes when they take a bite of your food can be traced back to your preparation, your technique, attention to detail and refusal to take short cuts in the cleanliness and freshness of your restaurant. This is what we came here to learn…the technique and glamour of sharp knives, exotic flavors and sushi rolling, those things will all come later, once we learn what it means to own a restaurant that you are proud of. A restaurant that stands for something.

For now, I’m just taking it all in. Tomorrow begins the attack, my journey towards earning my sushi stripes and learning from Phillip. One step at a time.


*Price fluctuates depending on popularity of CASH-4-GOLD commercials