Picturing themselves in a storefront in The Avenue tucked between Slyders and Chick-fil-A, owners of Slo Sushi Girl, Nicole Samroung and Scott Cursey, have big plans in mind for their budding sushi company. Now, with new ideas sprouting about developing and branding the company, they may be inching closer.
Samroung, the Slo Sushi Girl, has been providing sushi to Campus Market for seven years. However, the company itself hadn’t been branded until eight months ago when Samroung and Cursey were in Australia, and found a few resources to help fuel the fire.
“We were thinking about how we could increase our sushi sales,” Cursey said. “We really wanted to brand it.”
The two met and stayed with an Australian couple who helped them create their logo.
“We got the logo down, then they helped us to really start the branding of the product,” Cursey said.
So, with the help of business administration senior Jen Richardson, the three have been working to promote and expand the company beyond the shelves of Campus Market. Richardson said she has been writing a business plan to help them develop.
“Right now I’m just finding out their goals and who they want to serve and what customers they want to reach,” Richardson said.
Contrary to most sushi companies one would find downtown, Slo Sushi Girl is not a sushi bar at all — they supplement a storefront with catering, private parties and contracting to grocery stores, such as New Frontiers. This tactic takes away from restaurant expenses and adds to the quality of the product, Richardson said.
“They don’t want to be a sushi bar, so since they don’t have to pay money for waiters and waitresses, you know — all of the money that it takes to being a restaurant — they can put more money into the quality of their product,” Richardson said.
However, Samroung and Cursey do have one ideal place in mind for a storefront — Cal Poly campus.
“That’s our ultimate dream,” Cursey said. “I’m a Cal Poly graduate myself and we really want to give back to the campus.”
With the campus location goal in mind, Samroung said the company needs to undergo fast growth, but in a controlled budget-conscious environment. Samroung, the former owner of Boston Bagel Co, a downtown bagel shop which closed last year, said she doesn’t want to relive the end of a business.
“The last business it hurt me bad. Now I know what to expect,” Samroung said.
Samroung originally bought Boston Bagel Co six years ago in order to have a commercial kitchen to prepare the sushi in. However, Samroung said running the bagel shop cost her the time and energy she could have put into the sushi.
“My main business at the time was the bagel shop, bagel shop, bagel shop,” Samroung said. “So I didn’t have time to promote the sushi at all, and I closed down the bagel shop last year because of the recession and the rent (was) up.”
Now that Samroung and Cursey have the time to fully commit to Slo Sushi Girl, they’ve been promoting nonstop. One thing Samroung and Cursey want to emphasize is the quality of their product.
“When you go to a sushi bar downtown, the reason why you’re paying cheaper prices is because you’re paying for the cheaper grade sushi — which isn’t a bad thing, it’s not a big deal,” Cursey said. “But we pride ourselves on quality, therefore we use the top of the line fish.”
Samroung also said she finds it important to use natural and local products in her sushi.
“We use natural ginger and soy sauce. The avocados are locally grown and the cucumbers are local,” she said. “The only thing that I get in from somewhere else is the sushi because we can’t get it here locally.”
However, keeping the business small and local can be a shortcoming when contracting to larger chain grocery stores, Samroung said.
“It’s really hard because were such a small company right now,” Samroung said. “The grocery stores don’t look at us as a business yet. They’re always looking at corporations.”
For now, the Slo Sushi Girl kitchen resides on Tank Farm Road behind Kennedy Fitness Center, where demonstrations take place and free samples are distributed. This relaxed commercial kitchen allows them to focus on marketing to the students, rather than maintaining a restaurant.
“We love the students. They have built our company to where it is today, so we want to help them in any way we can,” Cursey said. “Without the students, we would not be in business.”