Hello readers, we are today for an interview with the two founders of Sushito, a chain of Mexican / Hawaiian / Japanese restaurants in Amsterdam. Two years ago they brought the concept of sushi burrito and poke bowls to Amsterdam. It immediately boomed and they opened three (soon four) restaurants in less than 3 years! Do you want to learn about the background of Sven Komijn and Steven Den Heeten and how they managed to be successful? In this interview, we will discuss the steps of Sushito’s development and the problems they encountered. It will give some insight into entrepreneurship and maybe, it will inspire you to become an entrepreneur as well!
How did you come with the idea? What were the steps for the development of your first restaurant?
It started 3 years ago, I saw an Insider video on Facebook of a sushi burrito. Apparently, it was a crazy thing in America, especially in L.A. I knew that Steven also wanted to be an entrepreneur, so I sent him the video saying that it was a cool concept. But Steven just started his job in the real estate industry, so we didn’t do anything about it, it was just an idea. Six months later we decided to do it. We did more in-depth research about the concept and we added the poke bowls to our concept. It was easy to combine because they have the same ingredients as the burritos. Both products didn’t exist in Amsterdam yet. Then we wrote the business plan, went to the bank and they gave us a loan. The next step was to look for a location. We opened our first shop in De Pijp. At first, it was the two of us and my sister. From the second day, there were already customers and the weeks after the opening was crazy. We introduced Deliveroo the second week, and later on Thuisbezorgd and Uber Eats. For the suppliers, we gathered information here and there on the Internet. A friend of ours used to work in a restaurant and helped us a lot. The fish is an important ingredient for our poke bowls. We contacted the three biggest fish suppliers in Amsterdam. They each came to us with an offer and we chose the one who fits us best. The same thing for the other suppliers, we just started and later on negotiated prices and orders.
What education did you get?
Steven: “I did a social study for two years at the Hogeschool but I did not like it that much. I mainly did it to have a degree and please my parents. The only thing I knew is that I did not want to do an office job from 9 to 5. So I began in the real estate field, I never sat on a chair all day but also outside. That was my plan after I finished my degree, even though we always talked with Sven about opening a shot bar or something like that.”
Sven: “I also did HvA in Business Economics, specialized in Entrepreneurship. Before I began my studies I knew I wanted to found (do) something on my own, so it was an extra to do my studies. It definitely helped when I needed to write the business plan, for the rest it didn’t help.
Entrepreneurship is a lot of action, doing things and then if it works its good, if it doesn’t then you try it another way, you have to figure it out a lot.”
What problems did you encounter? How did you get past them?
A problem at the beginning was getting enough staff. For the first summer and winter holidays, we didn’t react well. As we have a lot of international students, they all went back to their home country and we had to close some days because of a staff shortage. Now we plan months ahead and hire seasonal staff if needed. It takes a lot of organization and planning.
Other than that we never really encountered big problems, just small improvements here and there whenever we need, in order to be more efficient. For example, now we want to change our cashier system to one that can provide us with a lot more data: how many daily orders we get from the deliveries app, the ratio of cash and card payments, it is also going to connect the shop cashier to all the tablets for the deliveries. We have a lot of these things, they aren’t problems but it helps us to be more professional.
What advice would you give to students who would like to become entrepreneurs?
Well, it depends on what kind of product you want to sell. You first need to check if there is a market for it. For us, it was fairly easy because the food service industry is booming so we encountered no problems in terms of demand for the product. So we followed the trend and made some adjustments here and there to make it more attractive.
It may sound cliché but you have to keep on going, even when you have doubts. You will make a lot of mistakes, but you will learn from them and become better day by day. Entrepreneurship is a process. You don’t have all the answers at first but the more you do, the more you fail and the more you learn from the mistakes and change.
We hope Sushito’s story inspired you to become an entrepreneur and gave you an insight into the professional world. In case you still don’t know what to do after your studies, check our blog on the options you have after you bachelor here.