Rendezvous with Fen Reyes CEO of Uncle Sharkii

Poke bars are trending all over the world as people are choosing healthy eating habits. Moreover, from the business point of view if you are looking for a food concept which requires no expensive kitchen equipment, Uncle Sharkii Poke Bar is the optimal franchise with low-start up costs and lightning-fast returns on their return of investments. They offer Signature Hawaiian™ Poke Bowls, Boba Milk-Teas, & Tropical Flavored Desserts. In our Rendezvous with Fen Reyes CEO of Uncle Sharkii Poke Bar, she shares her wonderful and inspiring story on how she started her franchising journey.

1. How did you enter in the franchise business?

Uncle Sharkii started off like any other small business in the United States. It started as a “Mom & Pop” business operated by a husband and wife duo. The last week of May 2019 was when we had our grand opening for our business. Soon thereafter our little poke & boba tea shop was making huge gains in its first weeks open. So much in gains, that we began thinking expansion! We scoured the internet on how to expand our business. From expanding through real estate, to co-packing our signature sauces, to co-branding with other brands. However, it was by chance that we were looking to begin franchising our brand and concept which at the time had only one store open.

Then it hit us! We wanted to expand and grow our business but be able to spend more time with our young family. In late August 2019 we attended a Small Business Expo being held in San Francisco. We walked the grounds of the expo and listened to various vendors and suppliers as well as seminars, but nothing really struck our minds. But when we returned to our store, we decided to book the very next Franchise Expo. That is when by chance we booked tickets to fly out to Chicago for the Franchise Expo Midwest 2019. There was much on our minds, for me and my husband. However, this was the turning point for us! Immediately, we were hooked, and we began networking passing business cards, talking with other franchise brands at the expo and started getting a better picture.

Excited about beginning our franchise journey we booked additional expos to exhibit are extremely young and emerging brand. We booked the Franchise Expo Houston & Franchise Expo West Long Beach. When we returned home to California, it was almost apparent to us! There was no turning back when it came to franchising. Almost immediately when we exhibited at both expos, we were a hit! We sampled our poke cubes and sauces at both expos and enjoyed retrieving leads and inquiries of potential franchisees. It was extremely exciting for us to see our proof of concept come alive. People loved the taste of the Poke, the sauces, the business concept, the ease of operations, but most importantly they loved the overall cost of the investment which started at $75,000. Which was unheard of in our industry. Most competitors in our space, have initial investments starting well into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. But our concept was well in reach of the “Mom & Pop”, the multi-unit, and the master franchisee investors. We saw potential leads spanning all these spectrums. In such a short time we became a franchisor just like that, just in a matter of a few months. This is our story of how we entered the franchise business as, Uncle Sharkii Poke Bar®.

Uncle Sharkii

2. Where and how did the idea of your concept come from?

Uncle Sharkii’s story began in February 2018, during a family gathering, a little girl named Melody, was gifted a plush toy shark by her Uncle she never met. Melody and the “Uncle” became instant family! They celebrated by having snacks and drinking boba milk tea. The bonding of family resulted in the creation of the brand and name of UNCLE SHARKII…

3. What inspired the brand name?

An intimate scene of family bonding over food was a memory that I could not shake from my head. That’s when I realized that we should frame our business around this memory of my daughter Melody & the Uncle. Uncle Sharkii is the bond between a girl named Melody and her Uncle sharing the love of food, family, and of course, the gift of a plush shark!

4. What is the story behind the brand’s logo?

The brand name and logo are all tied into each other. When my husband and I discussed what the brand logo should be like. We simply turned to our daughter Melody. She had brought home the plush shark that her beloved Uncle gifted to her. And, just like a present that was gifted to her. The Shark would eventually become the Uncle Sharkii sitting on top a beige ribbon. The ribbon resembles the gift of family that brought Melody and the Uncle together. This is how Uncle Sharkii and ribbon came about to create the loved brand logo we know as, Uncle Sharkii.

5.What makes your brand different from your competitors?

We think CREATIVE!

Uncle Sharkii rises above the competition by combining the simplicity of our SIGNATURE HAWAIIAN™ Poke Bowls with the customizability of today’s modern concepts. Born and raised in Hawaii, Co-Founder of Uncle Sharkii – Raymond Reyes, stays true to his Hawaiian upbringings through its mission, “Poke Bowls Made Simple®.” The most important question customers ask is: “How much fish is in my bowl?” By using fewer ingredients than our competitors, we ensure that each Uncle Sharkii Poke Bowls are jam-packed with your favorite proteins! UNCLE SHARKII POKE BAR® strives for value and quantity of its meals to reach the masses.

6. What are the essential qualities that you look for in a franchisee?

We are family-oriented franchise concept. One of the main reasons we began this journey was to spend more time with the family and help other “Mom & Pops” realize their dreams of owning a business. Because, of this the qualities that we look for in a franchisee are of course family values, growth potential, drive, passion, and overall profile of an entrepreneur. Most are turned down at an early start. By either friends, family, or peers. Entrepreneurs’ are a special breed, and it takes a lot to be an entrepreneur. If it weren’t entrepreneur in us all then most businesses would never come to life. Most people can be a businessperson but not everyone can be an Entrepreneur because of their ultimate drive to succeed in something no matter what it is. Or what hurdle they must conquer. These are the types of like-minded people we look for in a franchisee.

7. How long does it take, on average, for your franchisee to realize their investment?

On typical since our initial investment costs are fairly low our franchisees can realize their investment in as little as a year in business. We have several models of our franchise concept for a franchisee to choose from. From a Kiosk, Quick Service Restaurant (QSR), Full Service Restaurant (FSR), or Food Truck / Trailer. Uncle Sharkii has an investment for every level of entrepreneur out there. Sometimes, our franchisees are able to realize a much faster return on their investment and they can see a complete return within six months of them opening for business.

8. What was the major challenge you faced in your career, and how did you overcome it?

As an emerging brand one of the most major challenges we’ve faced during our short time in growth is that there is a stigma involved. Some people tend to shy away from new brands on the market. And, then there are people who don’t want to spend a second with you and turn away from emerging brands. Sometimes it’s a huge misconception when it comes to emerging brands that they aren’t so mature or ready to meet the challenge. Nowadays, younger, and newer brands and concepts are coming out daily. Much of which have surpassed their predecessors. And, the times when the market was dominated by huge older brands of the past have been long replaced with the so-called emerging brands.

However, there are some ways to overcome this and simply this is plain grit and determination. Having prior experience in the Financial Industry gave me the extra edge on overcoming these challenges. Financial becomes over tedious at times and a lot of times is over scrutinized for the smallest of things. In addition, the oversight and guidance we equally received from our, Co-Founder & COO – Raymond Reyes helped push us over the hump. Raymond has had 13 years of Federal Law Enforcement experience. In a chaotic world that can change in a matter of seconds, especially in Raymond’s prior experiences gives Uncle Sharkii that steady foreground to make sound decisions where they count. There must be a firm level of oversight when it comes to franchising both on what is legal and what is justified. Having a nice balance between the two allows the Franchisor to operate well within a legal boundary but at the same time gives flexibility when trying to vet more complex situations that may arise.

8.1. What is your best achievement?

The best achievement I would think is making the plunge and taking the dive into the Franchisor role. My husband and I always thought we had a knack of networking and gathering like minded people together under one roof. This brings the best in all people to correspond into a highly productive machine that outputs the best in creative thoughts and human ingenuity has to provide.

9. How does your business day start?

As humans we are creatures of habit. Typically, I start my mornings early around 5am with a little exercise. Soon thereafter I tend to my family obligations where I join the office at 9am. There, I setup the daily and weekly tasks such as reviewing franchise leads, suppliers, quality control of vendors, and later outreach. I believe strongly in networking and will continue to network in many ways as possible. Even after I’m away from the office I continue to engage my network and contacts to reach as many people as I can. In today’s environment it’s as easy as making a call to that loved one, or sending a message to that friend, or video chatting with your next best partner in business. Opportunity is always just waiting for you to come and seize it and carry it away.

10. What was your best moment throughout your franchise career?

Some of the best moments in my short emerging career as CEO of Uncle Sharkii are by far the times when we award a franchisee. The feeling is equally important and as exuberant as the first. It’s exciting that the next “Mom & Pop” are taking the leap of faith and chance to invest in our brand and concept. At the same time it’s a sense of relief when a franchisee is looking towards us for guidance. I’d like to say we have seen it all or at least we experienced a lot in franchising. Although, there is always something new to learn I can never say that I know everything. Instead I’d rather say that my biggest moments in franchising is when I feel the excitement of awarding our franchisees the opportunity to start a new segment in their lives as a business partner who has the same if not similar goals as oneself. At the end of the day we are one big franchise family and we are always here for each other through thick and thin.

11. Where do you see your brand in the next 5 years?

About 5 years ago, we started our lives as a family and I just became a new mother. Fast forward to these life changing events of becoming a Franchisor in one of the newest and exciting health fast food trends has become an amazing outcome for me. With the advancements of our industry of Hawaiian Poke, I only see the horizon ever so bright. According to September 2019 Data essential research, poke is the top trending seafood dish in the U.S., with 17% growth over the last year and 187% growth over the last four years. With the pandemic in mind I still feel confident that when business resumes to a sense of normalcy the consumer will be even more health conscious. Consumers will be more likely to seek healthier options in their meals and foods they eat, and Poke will satisfy this niche. I see our franchise to be one of the leading mainstream Poke Franchises that not only offers Hawaiian Poke, but also Boba Milk Teas, and Tropical Flavored Desserts as well. We are a full-service Poke concept with various offerings to increase revenue over the bottom line. And, seek to expand globally as well as domestically in the United States. Expanding in the markets that complement our brand and offerings are what I envision for the future. With hopes in branching into Asia, Southeast Asia, Europe, Middle East, South America, and North America. With an all-inclusive that can be easily converted into a more palatable for the local customs or to appeal to the greater demand in a certain region. Uncle Sharkii is positioned for enormous growth and that is what I see in the future for our brand.

12. Any tip for the reader who wants to be in franchisee business?

If you have a dream to be something or dream of becoming somebody in business, never give up. Always re engage the negative connotations in life and make them positive ones. Never, regret past interactions or sour relationships, things really do happen for a reason even when you don’t understand it immediately. Try to not burn bridges, grow larger and stronger bridges to each other. Seek ways to bridge the gaps and find a common goal amongst each other. Sometimes you will find out that there is more to business then burning one’s relationship. As you will never know if it comes back to you in one shape or form. Continue to make new relationships in business and surround yourself with like-minded individuals. Shed the unwanted, negative, and toxic relationships. Removing the negativity around you will give you better success in your business career.

Uncle Sharkii

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