The New Stuff


An Entrepreneur and Doesn’t Even Know it

When I sat down to interview James at his Wasabi restaurant in Lake Forest I had expected stores of success and plans for growth. As a business owner with two restaurants there should be plenty of inspiration and advice to share. That is why I was a bit surprised when Mr. Che sat down and

humbly explained that he was just a business owner trying to survive, and that he was motivated by others that have survived great adversity, and overcome unbelievable odds. He did not talk about profits, finance, or material wealth. Instead, he shared his concerns for his future in a struggling economy and his worries about how to resolve some of the difficult situations within his company. As the interview continued, I kept thinking to myself, yeah, I can relate to that, or yep, I’ve experienced that feeling too. What I soon realized was that James Che is an entrepreneur and doesn’t even know it. Here is his story.

James’ journey started as most business ventures do. He had a desire to be his own boss and he found a passion that was strong enough to inspire him to follow his dreams. After twenty five years in a good career in IT, James was finally ready to take the leap to the other side of the business world. He was ready to become the employer, instead of an employee. James had spent a lot of time in Japan and was consistently impressed with the quality of the food in the restaurants he visited. Their customer service was always top notch, and he truly enjoyed dining in the intimate settings typical of the Japanese style. It was these memories that would become the inspiration for his future.

With enough money acquired, James was ready to become a business owner. He did everything right. He did thorough research, he explored different opportunities, and he took his time with the decision. Those factors, mixed with his passion for the Japanese way, lead him to the Sushi Wave in Costa Mesa. It was an established restaurant with a good reputation and a solid customer base. What more can you ask for? So James became a business owner.

It was an incredible experience and James thrived. He enjoyed sharing his passion for the food that he remembered from his travels to Japan. Being able to share this joy and give his customers a positive experience was everything he imagined. With those feelings of success, it was time to expand. Within six months he purchased Wasabi restaurant in Lake Forest and had plans for owning three locations in all. Dreams, expansion, and growth are all part of the entrepreneurial journey – but then so are obstacles, complications and unforeseen problems.

Everything seemed to be going according to plan, but there are hundreds of tiny details that occur every day and it is very difficult for a new business owner to comprehend the entire system. No matter how thorough the research, there are things that numbers and figures can not predict; the personality of a chef, the quality of the products delivered, a competitor down the street, or even a poor economy. And don’t forget all of the laws, regulations and tax codes that the person at the top is expected to know.

“As a business owner you are responsible to make it happen, and if you don’t have past experience to learn from, you can easily inherit bad habits without realizing the consequences,” James explains. “New business owners often understand the way but not necessarily the why.”

This was the case for James. The previous owner had taught James a system, but the labor board did not agree with the process. As a result the company was hit with a huge fine. It was a tremendous blow to the restaurants, but more importantly it took a toll on the entrepreneur himself. “The government should help business owners improve and grow their businesses. They need to educate and reward instead of fine and punish,” James said. “Big penalties on small business owners only make it harder for the economy to prosper and grow.” The penalties were hard to take, but the bigger price was the damage done James’ morale.

Huge obstacles are common to an entrepreneur. Yet whatever the problem is, very often it turns out to be a major turning points on the path to success. Government laws and regulations are that road block for James. He may feel like he is on a long journey all on his own, but his experiences follow the same path that most entrepreneurs have traveled before him. The path is well worn and paved with sweat, worry, failure, and success. The lessons he has learned from running his two restaurants has given him knowledge that only an entrepreneur can fully understand. James is standing at a cross road and I believe wherever he is heading next, James will find success. Entrepreneurs usually do.


About the Author

Susan Sherbert

Making people smile is Susan Sherbert’s greatest achievement. She is a sliver award winning humor columnist and a corny joke expert. Susan is an avid golfer, an entrepreneur, and was once a banana slug (the UC Santa Cruz mascot). More humor and corny jokes at

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