At Chaminade University, we talk a lot about adaptation and change—educating for adaptation and change is one of the five core tenets of a Marianist education. The concept is woven throughout our curricula, and our students learn about the importance of embracing change and adapting to meet it as they move through our programs.
Adapting to change is something that is very familiar to Remi Kohno ‘15. She came to Chaminade University from Pasadena, California to play basketball and major in elementary education. But after her first year, she realized neither of those were the right fit. She didn’t like the competition she found on the basketball court, and teaching wasn’t her passion. So she quit the basketball team and switched her major to communications with a focus in marketing.
Her junior year brought even more change when she joined the Hogan Entrepreneurial Program. It quickly started pushing her out of her comfort bubble, and it altered the way she reacted to pressure.
“I saw all these great people join the Hogan program and I wanted to be just like them,” recalls Kohno. “Hogan definitely pushed my boundaries, which was nice. It really helped me grow as a person, both professionally and personally.”
Students who are accepted into the Hogan Entrepreneurial Program spend one or two years learning what it takes to become a successful entrepreneur. They mingle and network with some of Hawaii’s biggest business leaders, they travel, they participate in internships and they work with industry leaders to design their own business plans and fine tune their public speaking abilities.
The program helped Kohno break out of her shell and become more confident in her abilities to lead and engage.
One moment in particular stands out in her memory. Every Wednesday evening, Hogan participants gather to welcome and learn from a guest speaker from the Hawaii business industry. Guests range from Mattson Davis, the former president and CEO of Kona Brewing Co., to Chuck Cardinal, a former Colonel in the United States Army and the former Chief of Staff to a WWII Commander.
On this particular night, the speaker was Eddie Flores, Jr., the founder of L&L Hawaiian BBQ. Flores has an inspiring story—he’s the son of immigrant parents and the eldest of seven children. His family moved to Hawaii from China when he was a young child. His father worked as a janitor and his mother worked as a restaurant cashier and dishwasher. He himself struggled with a learning disability growing up that kept him behind in school. But as a young man, he worked hard, ultimately earning enough money to buy his mother a restaurant, in what would become the first L&L location. His restaurant chain now has over 200 locations and in 2019 it was ranked as the No. 1 Asian food franchise by Entrepreneur.
Kohno had been designated as the evening’s notetaker, which meant it was her job to document Flores’ speech and at the end of the evening, stand up to present a recap to her classmates while Flores watched on.
She was just a little intimidated. “You’re listening and engaging, but you’re also taking notes so that you can structure it into a recap and presentation,” remembers Kohno. “After [Flores] was done, I had to go up in front of the whole class and do a quick overview of what was most important. It was nerve-wracking. But then I got to give him a lei, which was nice and helped alleviate any tension.”
Kohno’s senior year, right after returning from a semester studying abroad in France, one of her professors recommended her for the American Advertising Federation’s Most Promising Multicultural Student program. She was one of only a handful of students selected from across the nation to participate in the intensive immersion program, designed to connect diverse up-and-coming advertising talent with some of the largest advertisers in the nation. She once again found herself at the airport, ready to embrace the unknown, this time in New York City.
Luckily, she had learned how to network and interact with business leaders through the Hogan program. “We got to meet a ton of people and tour their facilities and headquarters,” says Kohno. “It was an opportunity to connect with businesses and send them your resume, and hopefully get a follow up interview to help jumpstart your career after college.”
Through all of the change and opportunity that came her way at Chaminade, Hogan taught Kohno to remain calm and collected, and cool under pressure. Through Hogan and her professors, she learned to see challenge as opportunity. It’s something that has served her well after college, particularly today.
Before COVID, her family ran a small restaurant stall called Sushi with Attitude at a night market in Los Angeles. While she has a full-time job at NBC during the day, she helps them on the side. When the pandemic shut down the market, they had to completely rethink their strategy and their focus. With Kohno’s help, they converted the business into a cloud kitchen model, meaning they are operating completely on delivery apps without a storefront, and launched a new product: the sushibi. It’s a combination of sushi and musubi.
“We wanted to offer musubi, but a lot of people in Los Angeles don’t know what they are,” says Kohno. “We also wanted to be able to show up in the sushi category on delivery apps—it is one of the most used keywords. So we rebranded our musubi to be sushibi to bridge the gap.”
The business has received a bit of media attention as a result, and Kohno’s Hogan training has come in useful.
“Hogan helped me learn to speak and structure what I’m going to say, which has helped a lot with media interviews,” says Kohno. “I recently interviewed with KTLA news. I was really nervous because it was live, but it was nice to be able to do something that I wasn’t really comfortable with, and Hogan taught me how to do that.”
Kohno attributes much of her recent success to Hogan and the opportunities she had at Chaminade. “Definitely Hogan, all of the professors I had at Chaminade and being part of the American Advertising Federation, they have all helped me grow into this role that I have right now.”
She works full-time as a manager in paid social media at NBC. And only five years after graduating from college, she feels like she’s almost landed her dream job.
“I love what I do at NBC. They’re a really great company,” says Kohno. “I want to continue to grow and become a director, and continue to be knowledgeable about all the various platforms and their nuances and updates. That is my dream goal. I think I’m almost there.”