Asazu launches an appetizing business

Enterprising Mac junior has built a loyal customer base with his homemade onigiri (Japanese rice balls)


Photo courtesy of Kenta Asazu

It took Kenta Asazu more than three months just to get the permits to sell onigiri. After peaking at 100 orders per week, Asazu now has a stable base of 50 orders per week. He plans to continue his business during the school year. Photo courtesy of Asazu.

Lindsey Plotkin, Knight co-editor in chief

It’s Saturday morning and junior Kenta Asazu is hard at work.

While many high school students his age would be sleeping in, especially on a summer Saturday during the pandemic, Asazu would not think of complaining to his boss about the early hours.

That’s because he is his own boss.

According to the Samurice webiste, onigiri is a savory comfort food, small balls or triangles of rice stuffed with assorted fillings and wrapped in seaweed. The healthy snack has been a staple of Japanese cuisine for more than 2,000 years. Photo courtesy of Asazu.

On Saturday mornings, Asazu wakes up and starts making his orders from the previous week and delivering them on his bike. Out of boredom and the want for money, Asazu decided to start his own business.

“I make Japanese rice balls called onigiri,” Asazu said. “It’s salted rice with filling inside that is usually eaten as a snack. My parents own a restaurant and they also sell onigiri. To be honest, it’s not as good as it could be. I was just thinking, ‘Oh I could do that better and probably make some money so why not,’ That’s how it happened.”

Asazu’s company is named Samurice, and was named by his friend’s mom, who thought the combination of the words samurai and rice sounded cute.

After he originally came up with the idea for Samurice, it took Asazu longer than expected to finally get business going. At first, Asazu didn’t want to pay taxes, but to obtain a permit to operate a food enterprise, he needed a DBA, which allows him to operate under a trade name, and to pay a fee to obtain the permit.

“It took me three and a half months to get everything because I’m a minor,” Asazu said. “Some things I have to do under my mom’s name, but others I can do under my name. For taxes, I put that under my mom’s name but I still have to pay for it.”

Once Asazu got all of the permits and forms he needed to begin sales and delivery, he started taking orders.

“I take orders through Instagram, Facebook, text, and email,” Asazu said. “I’ll accept orders basically any way that you can communicate with me.”

Asazu illustrated the components of his signature snack, an exterior of seaweed and a savory filling surrounded by rice. Asazu claims that his version of onigiri surpasses the version his parents sell at their restaurant. Photo courtesy of Asazu.

When Asazu first started Samurice, he would receive almost 80-100 orders every week, but now he receives around 50 regularly. On Saturdays, he makes, packages, and delivers his orders.

“I make all of the orders at once, and then I start packaging them,” Asazu said. “By packaging, I use seaweed, and I just wrap the seaweed around it. It probably takes me about an hour or a little less to make 30 orders. On my website, it has a map with an orange outline for where I can bike, but most of the orders are for pickup at a coffee shop.”

Asazu said that he probably spends around seven hours total every week making and delivering orders. For delivery, Asazu bikes, so he only delivers to a small area. For orders that are outside of his biking range, he offers pickup at the Sa-Tén coffee house on Airport Boulevard from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Junior Kenta Asazu prepares triangles of rice for the savory filling which will then be wrapped in seaweed. After preparing his orders, he delivers them by bicycle. Photo courtesy of Asazu.

While at first Asazu was only in the business game for a little extra pocket change, he soon realized that his food was having a positive impact on one particular family that had become a regular customer of his.

“I had this customer who would buy it for five weeks straight, which was crazy,” Asazu said. “She would send me pictures of her kids eating it and eating it for their birthday, so that was really nice. It starts to feel like there is a lot more going into it, and it makes you think a lot more.”

For now, Asazu just wants to be able to balance his school workload with his business work so that he isn’t too overwhelmed.

“I want to keep my business the way it is, and especially with junior year, I just want to keep it simple,” Asazu said. “During the school year, I’m probably going to have a couple of electives where I won’t have very much work, so I’ll rely on those. The good thing is that everything is on my computer, and in my email, so I don’t have to move around too much. I can still be in class and be working, which is nice.”

While Asazu does not have any plans to open a restaurant after high school or college, he isn’t completely ruling out the idea.

“I don’t have any sort of plan at the moment, but never say never.”