Drawn back to Chaminade University out of gratitude, the proud alumnus Juno Chung, B.A. Business ’07, accepted the invitation to participate in the Hogan Entrepreneurs Program Speaker Series this spring. “As an entrepreneur, you always have the freedom to do what makes you happy,” shared Juno, who during the last 10 years since his graduation has acquired much wisdom and experience.
Juno took over his family’s business on September 10, 2014, seven years after graduating from Chaminade University with a bachelor’s degree in Business. He will always remember that day. His parents held a company party and announced to all the employees of the six Koa Pancake House restaurants in operation that they were retiring and turning over the business to Juno.
For many, it seemed like an automatic given, but in reality that Rubicon moment came after years of grooming, struggles, pushbacks, and challenges. Juno grew up in the restaurant business from a very early age. He remembered being nine or 10 sitting in the back of the cash register with his calculator. People would come up to pay. Always good with math, he would figure out the costs, take their money and give them their change.
In high school, he had liked cars and wanted to work as a valet. Dad nixed that idea and told him firmly that if he were going to work anywhere other than at one of the Koa Pancake House restaurants, it would have to be at another restaurant. So Juno took a job at Zippy’s.
Juno’s parents Il Man and Sam Soon Chung were immigrants from Korea who did not graduate from college, and Juno was their only son. Therefore, he was expected to carry on the name and take over their business. Mr. Chung did not think that college was necessary and wanted Juno to work full time at the restaurants so that he could teach his son everything he knew. Juno thought that at least he could go to Kapi’olani or Windward Community College. However, Mrs. Chung, adamant on a four-year college for her son, stepped in and settled the discussion.
So after graduating from Maryknoll High School, Juno chose Chaminade University with its rolling enrollment. Both schools were small and had small class sizes. Chaminade was a small enough university that everyone seemed to know his name (in fact, he still stays connected to Chaminade classmates and faculty members). The teacher to student ratio fitted him well. Juno admitted to not being the best of students, but the faculty found ways to bring the best out of him. With the family business always top of mind, Juno tuned into everything taught in class that he thought would be relevant for the restaurants. He remembered fondly on how his accounting professor, Wayne Tanna, reached out to his students. Tanna was the one to first bring up issues of second-generation businesses including tax challenges and the need for a business plan. Juno appreciated Tanna’s business law and ethics classes.
As Juno moved forward, graduating in 2007, he sought his own way in the world. His parents had their very traditional ways, and he had new ideas and new approaches. As the conflict peaked, Juno realized that it was time to strike out on his own and moved to New York.
Juno’s love and respect for his parents were clearly evident as he shared his story. “I valued the relationship I have with them so much. Moving away was an opportunity to save that relationship,” he said.
In New York, he would develop his successful product and clothing brand MyOutlet, which grew out of life’s frustrations. He included a non-profit aspect to his line and strived to be socially responsible in his business decisions and his profits. He also cofounded JCBL Products.It was a good enough life.
Then his sisters called him with their concerns about their parents’ health. They asked that he try to get their parents to sell the business and retire. Juno reached out to his aging parents and found that they were both having health issues. He asked them what they wanted to do. They shared that they had always meant to hand the business over to him.
Juno thought carefully about his decision. His sisters did not want the restaurant business. Juno, who identified with the character Neo from the Matrix film series, felt that like Neo, he was “the one.” He accepted his destiny with one major stipulation. Though his parents would be welcomed advisors, Juno would be in full control. Happily and full-heartedly, they accepted their son’s leadership. Since then, Juno has added two Koa Cafes and continues to run the other six Koa Pancake Houses.
Juno, like Neo, has moved through a personal metamorphosis that draws him back to the Matrix. He has wrestled with his destiny and has won. This is not to say that business did not have its ups and downs, or that Juno did not have doubts about whether he belonged in the restaurant business or not. “‘Money doesn’t come easy. If it did, everyone would be rich. When you make mistakes, recognize them early,’ my dad used to tell me,” Juno recalled as he was going through a particularly tough business loss. “My mistakes are like I’m earning my master’s degree at an Ivy League school. This is part of the journey,” he said with inner resilience.
Juno’s parents and his fiancée are foundational reminders that he is where he was supposed to be. His parents are available as sage advisors, and his fiancée reminds him to be grateful. The relationships are strong and loving. He has also found that noticing the small successes along the way to the big goal makes him happy and gives him encouragement for the long haul.
His enthusiasm for his alma mater continued to be unfettered. He humbly shared that Chaminade contributed to making him who he was.
If there was anything he would tell students, it would be to take advantage of the opportunities available to them at the school. “Enjoy the friends and the faculty mentors along the way,” he said.
Chaminade’s School of Business and Communication offers a Master of Business Administration degree. Undergraduate degrees are available in Accounting, Business Administration, Communication and International Trade, along with a minor in Computer Information Systems. The school also offers undergraduate degrees in Management and Business Administration through the Professional and Continuing Education (PACE) online program.