Michael and Sarah Littman are both from Hawaii, and have a passion for Asian food. Along with raising three children, they run Hapa PDX, a delicious ramen food cart in SE Portland on 50th & Division!
Prior to Hapa PDX, Michael worked with 808 Grinds, and helped them grow from a single downtown food cart to one of the larger food operations in Portland.
Sarah has experience working with Japanese restaurants for over a decade, and puts those talents to use with their food cart.
What is your company?
Hapa PDX – A ramen food cart
How did you come up with the idea?
Having Japanese and Filipino ancestry exposed my wife and I to Asian cuisine throughout our lives. Ramen, being one Sarah’s favorite meals, got her thinking of doing the business in Portland. We searched for places that did ramen and there were only a few.
In Japan, there are over 200,000 ramen spots!
Where did you find your first customer?
Our first customers were our investors.
We also had to pass the mom and dad test, which we did with flying colors!
How did you determine your target market?
We live in SE Portland and our children attend Richmond, a Japanese Immersion School. We wanted a business that would be close to our home and school so that we could have the Richmond families enjoy authentic ramen.
What are you currently doing to reach them?
We work with the Oya No Kai, which helps support the Japanese interns with housing stipend and transportation from Japan. Each month we donate .50 cents for each bowl purchased by any JMP family member.
How much did you start up with?
Our budget was approximately $20k.
Did you bring on investors, get loans, or grow naturally?
We raised money through a kick-starter program called FoodStart, and brought in small investors and personal loans through family members.
What’s the best advice someone has given you?
No matter what the circumstances, there is always a way to achieve.
What are your keys to staying productive?
Organization, delegation of work, and constantly improving your product.
When you started, what was one thing you wish you knew?
That I would be doing a ton of dishes!
We knew running a business was hard work: there is no way around it if you want to be successful.
As an owner, you are the one who will do anything and everything required, even dishes.
What resources or books do you refer to regularly?
Has your company experienced any close calls or lucky moments?
We almost relocated to a location that ended up being redeveloped into apartments.
What does success mean to you?
Knowing that my family is healthy and happy.
Where would you like to see your business 5 years from now?
Being the premier ramen spot in Portland.
How can people find you online?