Business inspiration comes in all shapes and sizes, say entrepreneurs Evan, 33, and Kari Leong, 32.
The couple’s life changed in 2001, when they discovered a sweet tea drink with small, textured tapioca balls in the bottom.Kari estimates that they were spending a small fortune, at least $4 per drink several times a day, at their favorite tea shop.
“When we asked the owners how to make the drink they started speaking to us in Chinese,” Kari says. Unable to understand the shop owners, curiosity fueled the Leong’s idea to start their own Bubble Tea Supply business.
Five years later they are one of the largest suppliers of bubble tea in North America, Hawaii, Guam, and Saipan.
The labor-intensive distribution side of the business was the catalyst for the couple’s second venture, eTreo, a web-based company that streamlines and systematizes by automating inventory, shipping and customer service.
Yet even with two successful businesses and two young children ages 3 and 11 months, the Leongs still felt that something was missing.
In 2005, after receiving his Executive Master Degree in Business Administration from the University of Hawaii, the Leongs launched the Greater Good Radio Show, which airs on AM 1420 every Wednesday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 8 a.m., and www.greatergoodradio.com
On the show, Evan and Kari interview Hawaii’s top business owners and executives. Instead of focusing on the figures in the executives’ salary, the show opts to invite interviewees based on the social good they’ve accomplished in their community.
“We want to change the way people do business all over the world,” Evan said. “People are fascinated by Hawaii, so hopefully we can be a model for other places.”
The first Greater Good Radio Show aired in September 2005. The accompanying website, www.greatergoodradio.com, has already attracted users from over 81 different countries. The couple has accumulated almost 100 hours of audio interviews and thousands of pages of transcript since the show’s inception.
Along with transcribing their interviews and merely posting them on the web, the Leongs have plans to publish a book by the end of the year. The book will cover insights from Hawaii’s top professionals on how they make community involvement a top business priority. The couple also has plans for a television show in the near future, which will air on network television.
“We take away a small part from each person we interview,” says Kari. “It’s Inspiring and rejuvenating.”
Evan explains that the show is very unadulterated. “It’s an opportunity to spend personal time with business leaders that most people will never have a chance to sit down and talk with.”
“The radio show also allows us to use leverage in terms of media, because we’re involved in radio, print, internet and we have books and television coming out,” Evan adds.
Evan learned about the concept of leverage from local business leader Duane Kurisu, owner of Honolulu Magazine, Hawaii Business Magazine, Downtown Planet, Watermark Publishing, Punaluu Bakery, and part-owner of the Star Bulletin, MidWeek, and the San Francisco Giants professional baseball team.
“When I talked to Duane he told me how he only becomes involved in a business if it will benefit the community,” Evan says. Evan came to a realization that Duane’s message would have more impact if it was shared with the world.
By focusing less on the bottom line and more on community stewardship, the Leongs are convinced that a better generation of business professionals will emerge.
Kari says, “We want to inspire people who have started businesses or who currently own businesses. Our message is that people don’t need to wait to make all the money in the world to give back to the community, their effort and time can make a real difference now.”
Evan and Kari Leong are the owners of Greater Good Radio and Bubble Tea Supply. Evan & Kari can be reached at 808.945.1111. Visit them at www.greatergoodradio.com and www.bubbleteasupply.com.