President & CFO, Tanioka’s Seafoods and Catering
Business counseling client and SBA roundtable participant
Tanioka’s Seafoods and Catering has been an icon in Hawaii for over four decades. As this popular Waipahu eatery celebrates its 45th anniversary, President and CFO Jasmine Tanioka credits their employees and the loyal support of the community for the company’s success.
“We have an amazing management staff and dedicated employees who have been with us through all of our challenges,” she said. “Teamwork is key. They’re all committed to providing first-rate customer service and maintaining the quality of our food. They support each other and diligently monitor the quality of our products to carry on our motto, ‘Quality Foods with a Friendly Smile.’ We’ve always believed that our employees and customers are the heart of our business and this continues to drive us.”
Jasmine’s parents, Mel and Lynn Tanioka, opened Tanioka’s in 1978, and the business has since grown from its humble beginning with three employees to nearly 150 prior to the pandemic. From a small poke shop, they now own their own building and offer island-wide catering. Although it was a lot of work, Mel and Lynn always made family their number one priority.
“My parents are truly amazing,” Jasmine said. “They worked seven days a week but still made time for us by chauffeuring me to piano lessons and soccer games for my brother. They always put family first and still took care of the customers and the community, and we carry that tradition forward today. I really enjoyed my childhood and now enjoy taking care of my own son.” These days, Mel and Lynn are enjoying their three grandchildren and traveling more but are still involved in the business.
All of the hard work and efforts by the Tanioka’s team has paid dividends over the years. “We
have customers who have been with us for years and years who keep coming back,” Jasmine shared. In 2019, the company had a successful three-month pop-up location at Ala Moana Center to reach their customers in town.
Fast forward to present, Tanioka’s maintains its location in Waipahu, serving a variety of poke, bento, and plate lunches. They also do island-wide catering for many events, primarily birthdays, corporate functions, graduations, and weddings. Together with her brother Justin, who is also the COO and General Manager, Jasmine and the Tanioka’s team are committed to serving the quality cuisine that customers have come to expect and giving back to the community that continues to support them.
When it comes to what’s important to Tanioka’s, community is right next to food and customers. The company donates 25% of sales from its online marketplace (shop.taniokas.com) to a different charitable organization every month as part of its Kindness Matters campaign. Prior to the pandemic, the campaign involved students submitting artwork representing their interpretation of what kindness means to them.
The Tanioka’s Charity Foundation has donated over $400,000 in total to all the major local hospitals and other charitable organizations across Hawaii. The company’s giving spirit carried forward even when Mel and Lynn won the 2022 Aloha Shoyu Poke Contest and used the $3,000 prize money to donate bento to local EMS employees.
As one might imagine, Tanioka’s has also faced challenges in its 45-year history; the Covid-19 pandemic being the hardest. “Thankfully, we were able to reopen and rebuild,” Jasmine reflected. “We learned a lot from that experience, and I believe our team is stronger because of everything we went through.”
Jasmine first learned about the MBDA Enterprising Women of Color Business Center through an acquaintance. Upon completing the intake form, she began receiving emails and then reached out to the Center’s director Marla Momi Musick, whom she describes as “kind, caring and a wealth of information.” She later had a business counseling session with Kelli Namba and participated in a roundtable with the U.S. Small Business Administration – Hawaii District Office. Jasmine is grateful for all the support she has received and the assistance with her questions, as well as valuable information received through the Center’s newsletter and numerous webinars.
As she looks toward the future, Jasmine is excited to continue developing Tanioka’s catering services, retail store, and promoting their Kindness Matters campaign. She’s hoping to expand their company and continue their community service. Their executive chef also comes up with new recipes every month, so there’s always something new to try, including special menus for holidays and special occasions.
To her fellow woman entrepreneurs and small business owners, Jasmine offers the following advice and message: “Don’t give up. There are going to be ups and downs, hills and valleys, but no matter what, keep on moving forward and hold on to hope. I’m very thankful to God for everything and pray that God will bless you and your families.”