The Keys To Tofu Success
Wednesday - April 14, 2010
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By Paul Uyehara
President for Aloha Tofu
Hawaii has many family owned and operated businesses. We are proud to be one of those that has been fortunate to last through three generations and we are looking forward to continuing indefinitely into the future. In celebrating our 60th year in Hawaii, we have to give a big mahalo to all of our loyal customers and especially to our hardworking employees!
The business started in 1950 when my grandparents agreed to take over a small tofu factory from their friend. Although they didn’t have any real experience in making tofu, they felt this was a good opportunity to own their own company. Like many small businesses, they were able to succeed through hard work and a clear focus: make the best, freshest tofu available!
This dedication and commitment to the company is what helped them to establish the building blocks on which to grow the business. As their six adult children joined the company, it continued to grow and prosper. This solid foundation has allowed us to become the largest local tofu manufacturer in the Islands.
Looking to the future, we hope to continue to serve our customers and support our employees for years to come. We’re always seeking the balance between operating a sound business and giving to our employees and community. I have been doing this by learning about different approaches to management such as “Servant Leadership” and especially through my involvement with a business study group called “Seiwa Jyuku Hawaii,” which studies the philosophy of Dr. Kazuo Inamori, chairman of JAL.
One key is to control operating expenses. Utility costs that increase annually, susceptibility to changes in freight costs and increases in the cost of employee benefits are just a small portion of the challenge of running a factory in Hawaii. In 2009, thanks to our efforts in cutting energy use while increasing efficiencies, we were one of 47 manufacturing plants recognized nationwide by the Department of Energy as an “Energy Champion.”
In transitioning to the third generation, my focus has been on how Aloha Tofu Factory can remain as a vital part of the community. To this end we are now changing our focus from supporting the family to securing quality employment for our employees and quality products for our customers. My grandparents, as well as the second generation, all emphasized the importance of taking care of employees like they were family.
Like many local kamaaina businesses, we depend on the loyalty of our customers and the dedication of our employees. We no longer see the company as supporting one family, but many members of a larger statewide ohana. We want to continue adding to the building blocks that came before us!
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