Kids’ sports, it’s so competitive. When our son was in middle school it wasn’t a guarantee that he was going to get in the volleyball game. Sure, he went to practice, but that wasn’t enough. It didn’t matter that it was a small private school. Nope, parents held their breath until they saw their child on the court. Then, our son decided to play club volleyball. That was a whole other story. If we thought school sports was competitive, club sports took on a whole other level. You see our team had some of the best players from other high schools from around the island.
Although it was a bit challenging this segued to where we are today as Ju-Mui Hawaiian Li-Hing Ice Pops. You see while in club volleyball our son got to travel as part of a men’s volleyball team to compete in the Haili Tournament in Hilo. During this tournament many people were enjoying this particular ice pop. So of course we were interested and tasted it ourselves.
Upon returning home to Oahu we decided to experiment and make our own recipe. We kept tweaking it and added our own ingredients. Initially we sold ice pops to our own club as a fundraiser. And, as word got out, we expanded to other teams, and individual customers. We really didn’t have any business experience but customers started calling us with their orders. So, here we were with our little ladle, funnel, and bags, making everyone by hand one at a time in our little kitchen. This was back in 2006. Our business grew to quite a bit of sales for many years.
Then, in late September, 2012, I received an email from Russell Ishimoto, who at that time was the frozen department’s buyer at 7-Eleven. He stated that he heard of our frozen pops and if we were interested in coming in for a meeting. At first, I thought, “Nah, this must be a joke or something. Why would 7-Eleven be interested in us?” But, then I thought, “Eh, what do we have to lose?” So, I emailed him. We met and, yes, he was interested in our product!! Russ patiently led us through the entire process of how to get our products in his stores. He gave us the number for a meeting with our distributor, Mike Sakamoto from Eight Point Distributors. (We want to also give credit to Eight Point for getting out products into other stores such as Longs Drugs Hawaii, Times Supermarkets, and other smaller grocery stores).
Russ was also patient when we told him that we didn’t have a commercial kitchen when we met. Fortunately, the commercial kitchen (Pacific Gateway) came through before we were to go into production. By the way we also needed to get all the business and banking paperwork done. The amount of work seemed endless!
As Christian business owners we know for a fact that none of this could have happened if it was not for the Lord Jesus! From the time Russ Ishimoto asked us about our product in September, 2012, to when our ice pops were sold in 7-Eleven by the end of 2012 was literally a miracle.
Russ, Mike, thank you for trusting, believing in us and for giving us the break that we needed!