Honoree Guest Post: JP Fuji Group gives back to the community

This post was written by JP Fuji Group, the Top 2016 Small Business of the Year. Hear more from JP Fuji at Nailed It: A Conversation with Successful Business Leaders this Thursday, October 6.

“What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun’ (Eccles. 1.9, NIV).” Never has that been more true than today. Consumers have a nearly endless range of products and services to choose from at any given moment. They are increasingly looking at who companies are, rather than just what they do. When Jimmy Liang founded JP Fuji Group he held in mind the powerful mantra of his grandmother—leave every place better than it was when you found it.

After the first Fuji restaurant in Wollaston, MA opened a young girl walked into the 19-seater sushi joint asking for a donation for her High School’s booster club. Although the restaurant had only recently begun to turn a profit, Jimmy saw the child as a symbol of the community that his business was a part of. He didn’t think twice before pulling out his checkbook. Since that day, the benevolence of JP Fuji Group has only continued to grow.

Each year JP Fuji Group contributes significantly to more than fifty charities and organizations. Recently, the group participated in the SSYMCA’s Taste of the South Shore to send underprivileged children to camp. Jimmy co-chaired the event, helping to successfully broaden its appeal by inviting members of the Chinese press as well as celebrity guest stars Kelly Olynyk and Taniya Nayak.

Additionally, JP Fuji Group’s Director of Operations Tony Liang has also served on the board of Quincy Asian Resources, Inc (QARI) for the past six years. Through this organization JP Fuji Group provides its employees with free English as a Second Language (ESL) classes. This is a tremendously beneficial program for the back of the house employees.

CEO Jimmy Liang says “if even one person in a family learns English it positively impacts that family forever.”

learn-at-work_webIn addition to offering ESL classes, JP Fuji Group is a proud participant in the Pathways to Careers program. This program helps individuals with disabilities pursue meaningful careers. In fact, after finding that one of the group’s participants was a huge fan of their restaurants, JP Fuji Group was moved to hire John Raimondi. John has worked tirelessly to one day master the highly specialized skill of sushi making at Fuji 1546 in Quincy, bringing with him a positive attitude. The company prides itself in not only training people but also opening doors for future careers.

One of JP Fuji Group’s favorite ways to give back is competing in what they know best—food. In 2015, Executive Chef Ming Cao defeated his opponents in the Quincy Community Action Programs’ (QCAP) ‘Best Chef’ competition (pictured below), making Chef Ming the first Chinese chef to win this annual Chopped-esque showdown. In the same year, his smoky concoction utilizing locally sourced ingredients also won the Kendall Square Association’s first ever ‘BYTEs’ competition. Bragging rights aside, these competitive events are the most engaging and organic way to draw large crowds to support the cause at hand.

Some of the causes and community groupsJP Fuji Ming Cao - QCAP Presenting to Judges that JP Fuji Group supports include:

  • East End House for Foster Children
  • Cambridge Fire Fighters
  • Somerville Police Department
  • Quincy Police Department
  • Domestic Violence Ended
  • Boston CASA
  • Asian American Civic Association
  •  Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center

…and many more!

JP Fuji Group continues to make valiant strides to change Quincy for the better. Every effort is made to help local charities and organizations whenever possible, regardless of how large or small. The company creates numerous jobs for both the Quincy and Metro Boston communities while positively impacting the lives of their employees through the aforementioned ESL classes and many other benefits and opportunities.

Jimmy Liang believes that “giving back is more than writing a check. He sees the powerful trickle down effect, when the quality of life of employees improve, communities’ needs are met, and small businesses across those communities have a greater opportunity to flourish.”

This post is a part of a series of posts written by the 2016 Small Business of the Year honorees. 

Honoree Guest Post: Who is Gillian from Gillian’s Foods?

Gillian's Foods PhotoThis post was written by Gillian’s Foods, a 2016 Small Business of the Year honoree. Hear more from Gillian’s Foods at Nailed It: A Conversation with Successful Business Leaders this Thursday, October 6.

When entrepreneurs are creating concepts and brands, the majority of the time, there are underlying questions: What is the driving factor? Why are they are doing it? Does it exist yet? Will it fit in the demographics? Is it a popular trend? The answer to these questions are all valid and proven reasons to start a company, but none of these reasons are why Bob and Susan Otolo started Gillian’s Foods over 20 years ago. Bob and Susan created Gillian’s Foods to keep their daughter, Gillian, alive, and ultimately to do the same for thousands more.

When Gillian Sideri was diagnosed with Celiac Disease at Boston’s Children’s Hospital, it became her father Bob’s obligation to cook food for his daughter that her body would accept and to create food options that would help her feel like a normal child. For the last 20 years, this family-owned and operated business has provide a this life-changing service to our valued customers. Gillian’s Foods will always remember how and where we started. We frequently donate our services, products, and facility to Boston Children’s Hospital. Gillian’s even started the Boston Children’s Celiac Support Group, which has now grown to over 400 families.

Gillian’s Foods has grown into a national brand with a portfolio of over 30 different gluten-free items. Even though we have grown and expanded, we have not changed our philosophy of high-quality, made-from-scratch, gluten-free manufacturing. As awareness spreads about Celiac disease, Gillian’s will be there to provide an easy, safe, trusted solution to a life-changing disease.

This post is a part of a series of posts written by the 2016 Small Business of the Year honorees. Stay tuned for more insights from our honorees leading up to Thursday’s event.

HUBweek Demo Day: A Festival for the Future

HubWeek Demo Day

On Friday, September 30, 2016, the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce and HUBweek presented Demo Day, a snapshot into Boston’s cutting-edge start-ups and innovation. Over 100 Boston-based start-ups convened at Hynes Convention Center to showcase their developments in industries including: health care, technology, clean tech, biotech, social enterprise, food, consumer & retail, and hardware.

I have had the privilege of interning with the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce in the Communications department for the past four weeks, and was lucky enough to snag a VIP pass to this event (well… no, not VIP, but I did get myself a free t-shirt).

My first impression of the event was that the energy in the Demo Day room was inexplicable; I witnessed moments of brilliance, kindness, passion, support, innovation, and more. After spending the day observing and assisting with the production of the event, here are my top three takeaways from HUBweek’s Demo Day:

1. Boston’s innovation community is revolutionary

When referring to the innovation community, I’m tempted to use the word “dreamers,” but that is just not the case. The innovation community in Boston does so much more than dream, they truly make it happen. Greater than the ideas pitched at this event, was the passion that served as the keystone to these companies. I witnessed a young female-entrepreneur present her fashion line for patients of terminal illness, stemming from her experience with Lyme disease and low confidence during this time. In Denise Kaigler’s breakout workshop, she discussed the importance of defining your “why” or purpose. Many other companies brought passion and enthusiasm for their service or product making their “whys” very evident. These are the types of companies that are going to impact the world, but first, they’re going to revolutionize the lives of individuals.

2. When it comes to events, it’s all hands on deck

If you’ve ever been involved in the production or organization of an event, you know that you have to be prepared for when things don’t always go as planned. The event production staff from the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce as well as HUBweek deserves a huge round of applause for the time, energy, and creativity that went into the development and execution of this event. Special shout out to Celia Richa for recently joining the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce as the Programs Director, and for doing a wonderful job with the production of Demo Day.

3. Boston is THE place to be

Having left my small hometown in Pennsylvania to pursue my education at Boston College, I can confidently state that this particular decision was the best decision I could have made. Having seen the innovation and ideas presented at Demo Day, I am reassured that Boston is prepared to tackle whatever obstacles tumble into its future. Boston cultivates growth and it promotes powerful discussions and potential solutions. Participants in Demo Day ranged from young professionals to executives in need of a new path, yet all of them shared two commonalities: a love for the city of Boston and an enthusiasm to positively impact the future. Throughout my experience at Demo Day, it was quite evident that Boston’s future is going to be special and there is no better place to be at this present moment.

Honoree Guest Post: Fancypants Baking Co. Talks Online Influence

Fancypants Team PhotoThis post was written by Maura Duggan, President of Fancypants Baking Co., a 2016 Small Business of the Year honoree. Hear more from Fancypants Baking Co. at Nailed It: A Conversation with Successful Business Leaders this Thursday, October 6.

My morning starts early. I run, bike or swim before the sun comes up. Once that’s done, my work day starts. I go online – and stay connected in some form or another all day. My colleagues tease that I’m online at work on my desktop and my phone, simultaneously! There are so many different ways to be engaged via the internet and social media – and they all play a critical role in how we do business. I both love and hate the endless opportunities and possibilities that the internet and social media offer. But since they are here to stay, I’ve chosen to dive in, get involved, learn all I can, and excel wherever possible.

Because we run a manufacturing company, it’s easy for us to get consumed by the processes involved in baking our products and moving them out the door. Getting online is a fast and direct way to interact with the rest of the world. So, for starters, there is email. I communicate with everyone I work with via email. Each time I glance at my inbox, it is full of new emails that have trickled in since I last hit refresh. There are questions related to artwork and packaging design; tradeshow planning; sales meeting, cookie donations, and facility tours. No two emails are alike! These are the nuts and bolts that I attend to much of the time. I tend to do business with people who are very responsive to emails – I love quick response times!

But beyond email, I am always working on improving our content for our website, blog, and social media platforms that include Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook. The interactions we have online have enormous impact on our business growth. Without the large marketing budget that large, national companies have, we have to rely on our own creativity, word of mouth, and content created by our cookies fans to tell our story, share news about the company, and engage with our customers. For example, I recently designed custom Snapchat cookies for a large group of social media bloggers in the Boston area. They got to see our work and see our social media handles, all while eating a delicious cookie! It was a lot of fun to see people talking live about the cookies.

Overall, for just about every decision we make at Fancypants, we consider the impact of online and social media marketing. Whether it’s packaging design or copy on our website, everything today is related to online presence and how it will translate to our fans and customers on the internet and social media.

This post is a part of a series of posts written by the 2016 Small Business of the Year honorees. Stay tuned for more insights from our honorees leading up to Thursday’s event.


Honoree Guest Post: CTP, Embracing the Human Spirit

CTP-photoThis post was written by Fred Conover, President of CTP, a Small Business of the Year honoree. Hear more from CTP at Nailed It: A Conversation with Successful Business Leaders on Thursday, October 6.

We’re in the midst of one of the most exciting times in marketing, thanks to advances in digital media, social channels, analytics and ad technologies. But even as the tools have evolved, smart marketing comes down to something more basic – building relationships with people. In fact, at CTP, we like to say that we “unleash the human spirit for brands that want to live out loud.”

For our agency, that human spirit lives well beyond marketing. We apply it to supporting organizations that inspire us.

Under our “CTP Cares” program, we support causes in our community with an estimated 10% of our year-end profit in charitable contributions, along with pro bono services and volunteer hours valued at more than $250,000. In fact, our staff volunteered close to 1,000 hours last year alone.

But beyond the numbers it really is the human interaction that moves our team.

Our people spend every Wednesday reading to children in the Boston Public Schools through the Read to a Child program, regularly serve lunch at St. Francis House and help sort toys and clothes at Cradles to Crayons. We also support the Boston Red Sox Scholars program, New England Shelter for Homeless Veterans, ALS One, uAspire and MENTOR.

Our program of social responsibility works because it doesn’t feel like a responsibility to anyone in our office. As trite as it may sound, it feels like a privilege to work with the amazing people who make those organizations tick and a joy to serve the people who benefit.

There are times our client work and our community involvement mesh perfectly.

Even as the longtime advertising agency for the Red Sox, we never tire of the experience of visiting Fenway Park with the perfectly manicured outfield grass, the Green Monster and the sea of red seats. Whether we’re working or taking in a game, it’s always special. But what we love most is being able to introduce the experience to someone who has never been to the park.

That was especially true during the waning days of last season. As part of our relationship with the Red Sox, we have access to a Fenway suite for a couple of games each year. When we were talking about how to best use the suite last year we decided to share the experience with people who might not otherwise ever get that opportunity.

We knew the perfect group. The United Teen Equality Center (UTEC) in Lowell, MA, is a thriving organization that, “ignites and nurtures the ambition of our most disconnected youth to trade violence and poverty for social and economic success.” We were so moved by UTEC that we wanted to do something special for the young people who have worked hard to turn their lives around and the staff that supports them. So we welcomed them to Fenway Park for a special visit as our guests in the suite.

For us, it was a small thing we could do to help an organization committed to helping young people trade violence and poverty for social and economic success.

One of the young people told us that day, “(UTEC) helped save my life.”

When you celebrate 20 years in business, as we did this year, you feel a few things. A tinge of pride. Lucky, certainly. But what we feel most is a sense of gratitude, especially when we’re fortunate to support and celebrate people like that.

This post is a part of a series of posts written by the 2016 Small Business of the Year honorees. Stay tuned for more insights from our honorees leading up to next Thursday’s event.