When I was little, I always wanted to be a teacher. Teachers are the backbone of our nation, educating and inspiring our future generations to reach new heights.
My love❤️ of teachers and teaching began in kindergarten. I remember my teacher, Mrs. Ruth Payne, would stay everyday after school to teach me English. I saw in her green eyes such delicate patience. It had only been a little over a year since my parents had migrated from Vietnam before I came into the world. So we spoke only Vietnamese at home. So when I started school, I knew almost no English.
I began the painstaking journey of learning a second language with the help of my teachers. I was made fun of almost everyday because of my limited English. I still pushed forward. And before you knew it, when I reached second grade I was allowed to skip one grade due to my grades. I began to be enrolled in the highest English classes that were offered. My love of writing never wavered even after college.
When my husband, Kang, told me he wanted to pursue his lifelong passion of food with others I went along for the ride and helped any way I could. Since I knew nothing about the kitchen (poor Kang, lucky Mary), I was confined to IT, bookkeeping, and marketing. It was when I wrote press releases and designing online and in-store marketing materials that I found time would fly by. I picked up a gig writing a column for a local newspaper. And this past summer, I helped my son write his first book. This achievement has made me the proudest of all my learning English endeavors.
The process was slow, but I succeeded.
When Kang and I opened our very first restaurant, Kang’s. We worked 16 hour days, seven days a week for a whole year until we felt confident the restaurant could operate without us at least for a few hours. Our family and friends discouraged us from doing it. Mostly out of love and fear of failure for us. Many criticized us. We dug our heels in and persevered. It was literally sweat equity that made it work.
A couple of years later, we decided to open a second location and expand our concept with a partner. When personalities and visions clashed, we decided to part ways and amicably leave the business we loved and nurtured like our on baby. At this point, we could have given up. But we didn’t though. We opened Crawdaddyz which was an initial success but as fate would have it due to certain circumstances and our chosen partner, this concept would only live for 1.5 years. We were $240,000 in the hole and devastated. Many people said, ‘I told you so’. It felt like we failed, but it was only God’s way of saying, ‘I have bigger plans for you.'
It wasn’t until one evening when we were dining with our small, loud, rambunctious boys at Kang’s in our sushi lounge, an idea dawned on us. We need a place where we can eat high-quality sushi several times a week, have fun, and get out of there QUICK! At that moment, Nhinja Sushi was born. Now, Nhinja has 5 locations and growing! Failure after failure taught us valuable lessons and we never let it discouraged us. We pushed on with grit and great passion even in the face of adversity.
The process was slow, but we succeeded.
I wanted to share my story of perseverance and grit because you never know who may need to hear it. Hope and positivity is something we need more of.