Dec 11, 2019
My guest today took his love of food
and faith one step further to start a business that impacts his
community on a greater scale. Lawrence Yoo is the owner of Sushioki, a local sushi burrito restaurant in
Durham, North Carolina. Sushioki is a restaurant with so much
purpose and passion for people and the local community. Not only do
they focus on sustainable, fresh, healthy ingredients, they also
hire immigrants and refugees coming from vulnerable situations. No
matter where you’re listening from today, I know you’ll be inspired
by the work of Lawrence and his team to bring opportunities for
families to build their lives in a new place. Join me as I sit down
to chat with Lawrence, and if you’re local to Durham, get ready to
run, not walk to Sushioki!
4:07 - The Lawrence 101
- Lawrence has been around
entrepreneurship his entire life. His father has owned a sandwich
shop, construction company, market and restaurant. He’s the
first-born son of a first-born son in an immigrant family and there
was always a lot of pressure on him to succeed.
- In high school Lawrence’s life was
radically changed when he first heard the gospel and ever since,
this life has been driven by the call God put on his
- Lawrence had a desire to see new
things come to life and see the community lifted up. About five
years ago, he became a pastor and planted a church called Waypoint
church. In the same year, he and his wife Gina had a baby and
started Mebane Pediatric Dentistry.
- You don’t have to have lots of
special skills, education, or success to be faithful in the call
God has put on your life. You only have to be obedient. That is the
key to contentment.
- Lawrence uses the entrepreneurial
heart God has given him to better the community around him and
believes the local church is called to look out for the welfare of
the community to the glory of God.
- One day the idea just came upon
Lawrence to start a restaurant. He immediately found an elder in
the church named Jeff Carter and shared his vision. Lawrence
thought Jeff and his family would be a great team to start a
restaurant with, even though Jeff already had a career in
8:45 - Sushioki for the
- Being on the board of World Relief
and Samaritan’s Health, Lawrence recognized that the biggest needs
for refugees are sustainable, flexible jobs that pay a living
- Often refugee families come here
with four or more children. Buses and public transpiration are
difficult to navigate, affordable childcare is hard to find,
children get sick, and school schedules fluctuate.
- Lawrence wanted to build a company
that would understand these difficulties of caring for a family in
a new place; a company full of understanding, grace, and assistance
while providing a sustainable, living wage.
- While Lawrence recognized that
restaurant industry can be tough, he thought it was the best entry
point to help workers learn new skills in America. A twist on a
traditional Korean sushi roll called Kimbop gave Lawrence an idea
to create large, hand-held sushi rolls.
- Jeff and Lawrence moved forward
with their idea and brought on Jeff’s son Joey who had a lot of
- When they first began, they
employed mostly refugees, but as the number of refugees coming to
America has decreased, Sushioki has also hired immigrant and local
families in vulnerable situations.
11:43 – An Opportunity to Provide
For Their Own
- Most refugee families don’t plan
on coming to America. They don’t want to leave their homes, but are
forced to leave due to persecution, genocide, war, violence,
- When they arrive, they are so far
away from home where they don’t know anyone or the language. It’s a
- When it comes to refugees, It’s
not an us an them situation. We would all hope and pray that if we
ever found ourselves in a situation where we had to up and leave
our home at a moment’s notice and travel to an unknown place where
we don’t speak the language, that we would be welcomed with open
arms; that people we find along the way and upon arrival would be
willing to give us a chance and a little help.
- This is what it means to be a
neighbor. Jesus said the most important commandment is to love God
and to love your neighbor as yourself.
- Sustainable, flexible employment
allows people the opportunity to self-support and provide for their
families while they build a new life.
18:25 – Challenges and
- Lawrence is an ultimate optimist.
If he had a theme song, it would be “Everything is Awesome” from
The Leggo Movie. Tempering expectations has been difficult and
while things have gone well, there is a delicate balance of running
a business, using better ingredients, paying people well, being
well-staffed, and treating people well.
- This has forced Lawrence and his
team to be longer sighted rather than short-minded. They believe
that building a business this way is better in the long
- Success usually doesn’t happen
overnight, even though it often looks that way. Treating people
well and using quality ingredients builds trust and loyalty if
you’re patient enough to stick with your mission.
- If you want to be excellent as an
entrepreneur, be prepared to spend more money initially to do it
well, knowing you’ll reap the benefits of that strong foundation in
the end. Be prepared and know what to expect, and then prepare for
a little bit more.
26:19 - Molly’s Menu
- The RD Yoo - Poke marinated tuna, lettuce,
pickled red onion, pickled ginger, cucumber wasabi sauce. They take
the full tuna loin and filet it themselves instead of using
leftover ground pieces of tuna.
- Veggie Bender (vegan and
gluten-free) - Mushrooms, lettuce, charred cabbage, shredded carrots, pickled
red onion, green onion jam.
- Oh My Gashi Bowl
- Chicken katsu, lettuce, pickled cucumber, kimchi
slaw, gochujang sauce. In bowl form you can get it on a bed of rice
or greens or a half and half! This one is named after Jeff Carter!
His grandkids call him “Gah,” hence the “Oh My Gahshi.”
- Bull City Bulgogi (GF) is John’s
favorite –Korean beef BBQ (marinated
overnight), kimchi slaw, pickled daikon, boom sauce. If you don’t
know, you need to know about boom sauce and G sauce.
I don’t know about you, but I’m
hungry. If you live in Durham, you can find out more about Sushioki
here. They’re open Monday-Saturday, 11am-8pm. If you
just want to come visit for the day, Sushioki is a destination
You can find out more about Lawrence
and his work with World Relief and Samaritan’s Health by visiting
Waypoint Church’s website. or the Sushioki
35:20 - Getting to Know Our
Find out what Lawrence is reading
(which also includes a nerdy guilty pleasure), what his walk up
song would be (and some debate over the correct lyrics), a dream
he’s yet to achieve, and of course, what it means to Lawrence to
run a business with purpose.
“We do the same things over and over
again when it comes to social care but when it comes to business,
we’re so innovative. Let’s do both and start being creative with
how we’re helping the community.”
“How can we be intentional about
thinking differently about how we serve the community?”
Lawrence Yoo has been lead
pastor of Waypoint Church since it started in 2014. He and his
wife, Jina, are raising two cute children, Josiah and Hudson.
Lawrence, a Florida native, received his Master of Divinity from
Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, and attended the
University of Florida for his undergraduate degree (Go Gators!).
Lawrence desires to see this world changed from a “dog eat dog”
world to a “doggie dog world” (click here to read about what this
means) through the ministry of the local
and global church. He has a passion for business as mission and has
partnered with one of the elders at Waypoint to start Sushioki
(click here to learn more), a sushi burrito restaurant whose mission is to make
good food and hire refugees at a living wage. He is equally happy
playing basketball as he is singing along to Hamilton.
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