Takeaways from this episode:
Obstacles are Opportunities – When Garry plateaued as a CEO he didn’t pout, he pivoted. When COVID hit 45 days after the doors opened to his new passion project, he didn’t close the Kissaki, he brought Kissaki to everyone who wanted it.
Do it Yourself – As a president during the pandemic, Garry had to sadly let go of employees like many companies. With many contacts but lesser staff, Garry dug deep to figure out the to-go model, sourcing materials and even designing the packaging.
Do it for Others – While one can go at it alone, no one can do it alone. Quickly, Garry realized his ‘why’ was to see his family flourish, his company grow, and his customers enjoy Kissaki from home. Individual drive can only go the distance when the destination is for others to thrive.
Garry Kanfer is not afraid to hustle.
After arriving in America as an immigrant at the tender age of seven, Garry went from having enough to get by in the USSR to having nothing in the States.
Through a relentless drive, Garry grew Big Drop Inc, an award-winning web design firm that works with numerous Fortune 500 companies. Serving as president and a self-made marketing guy, Garry has helped steer clients ranging from Samsung to Citibank.
For years, all was well for Garry as Big Drop was booming, providing his family with a life he could have only dreamed of as a kid. Then suddenly, the momentum slowed, and the passion began to pivot.
“At one point, I kind of plateaued as a CEO of the agency,” recalls Garry. “I was looking for a challenge in my life and I got into the hospitality industry.”
First considering a coffee shop, Garry and his team relentlessly researched the market. In short order, Garry grew to favor his passion for Omakase, opening Kissaki in the Lower East Side.
“It was a success from the start,” shares Garry. “Then COVID happened.”
With no online ordering or to-go model, Garry went from re-impassioned to repositioning.
In a world full of full-time restaurateurs having to figure out the pandemic, how could a newbie to the space possibly survive?
“I consider myself a pro at user experience online,” Garry smiles.
Having little to no experience in the restaurant space but a wealth of knowledge in the digital realm, Garry quickly came to figure out that the only way to survive during the pandemic was to provide the same level of love, hospitality and product with Kissaki online as he had offered in person in the Lower East Side.
Swiftly, Garry began ordering boxes online to perfect packaging his Omakase, offering the same sentiment as the décor of his physical space. He sourced fish from Japan and made an online ordering experience that was easy to navigate and fulfilling.
“You need to think about the person that’s actually your target audience,” notes Garry. “The people that you’re trying to deliver the product to. How are they looking at it? What are they supposed to feel? What’s the competitive analysis?”
By thinking holistically about customer experience, margins, market research and doing the hard work of figuring it all out, Garry was able to thrive through the pandemic even while operating in an industry he was completely new to.
“This is an opportunity,” says Garry on pivoting during the pandemic. “We’re delivering the restaurant; how can we give that same experience to someone at home? It takes a lot of hustle. I went to Alibaba and found packaging companies. I did all the logistics myself. I had no experience on how to get products from China or through customs. I figured out all the logistics and I designed the box.”
In the end, it was the same hustle that sparked him to build an empire in marketing that inspired him to think on his feet and thrive in the food space.
“The first day we opened to go, we had a line out the door,” admits Garry.
From humble beginnings to plateaus to pivots, Garry is living proof that if you do the work and have the ambition any obstacle is an opportunity.
“It’s my drive,” states Garry. “Just thinking about the growth of the company, doing something good for this industry and seeing the growth of my family.”
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