Stephan Harman, Zach Weprin and Josh Weprin were fresh out of college when they saw the need for a simple, fresh, and casual sushi restaurant. Brothers Josh and Zach, with their childhood friend Stephan acted on the idea, launching FUSIAN—with the mantra “easy, casual, sushi”—in 2010.
Six years later, FUSIAN has grown to 9 locations across Dayton, Columbus, and Cincinnati, Ohio, with number 10 slated for a summer opening in Clifton, a metro extension north of downtown Cincinnati.
Walk into FUSIAN and you’re likely to see the words, “YOU ARE WHAT YOU CREATE” painted on one of the walls. Guests come to create customized sushi rolls in an interactive, high-energy, fun and fast-paced environment.
For co-founder Stephan Harman, FUSIAN is about much more than a 10-piece sushi roll. It’s about the entire experience: for guests, it’s trying something new, being creative, and eating well. For employees, it’s having an inspired place where there is freedom of expression and the opportunity to be a part of something bigger, he says.
In part one of this series, we share what we learned when we asked Stephan how the company’s three founders came up with and evolved FUSIAN’s mission, vision, and values. Come back for part two where we explore FUSIAN’s blueprint for growth.
“Creating a Place Where We Wanted to Work”
It might seem like a challenge to create a single mission and vision when bringing together three people to launch, build, and operate a restaurant. But this wasn’t a problem for Stephan, Zach and Josh.
“Our goal from the get-go was to create a place where we wanted to work, eat, and enjoy. That was decided early on.” It was, ‘let's create the best restaurant we can, a place where we feel engaged, inspired, and be able to eat something that we're passionate about,’” he says. “We set out to build a brand.”
“Before the mission, the vision, and the values were written down and defined, we lived them. We breathed them,” explains Stephan. “We are united by our childhood. We grew up together and we have been through many phases of life together. That builds a lot of shared experience and trust.” With trust as the foundation, they also came together to clearly define and share their mission, vision, and values. “Our values are huge decision-making tools for us, but our mission and vision resonates with a much larger purpose.”
“Our mission is to connect people through collaboration, culture, and cuisine—also known as the ‘three C’s’. Our mission provides clarity and unity with our team.”
As a destination for an engaged and inspired dining experience, Stephan says these are the five values the company lives by:
1. Do the right thing.
“It’s about creating trust, and knowing the difference between right and wrong. It's also an empowering statement, knowing that answers lay within each of us. We believe that trust is the foundation to success.”
2. Hospitality Wins.
“Service is half of our business. We’re in the foodservice business, and we believe we can't have one without the other. We’re not a restaurant without food. We're not a restaurant without service—so hospitality is a huge part of it for us,” he says. “We don't arm people with a script of how to be great service providers. We teach our team the virtue of giving and why hospitality leaves both us and the guest happy!”
Stephan says this is a lesson he and co-founder Zach learned together when working in Colorado. “We worked as bellmen in a hotel in Aspen, Colorado, and we were encouraged to be our authentic self and use our hearts to make people happy, and use our personality to make people happy, which was very empowering.”
3. Make it Meaningful.
“This value comes from us being naïve restaurateurs. When we started, none of us had worked in a restaurant before, so developing meaningful relationships with those around us been an integral part to our success.”
Guests, suppliers, friends, family, industry veterans, design professionals, mentors all support and shape the business. “We’re addicted to feedback—positive or negative. It’s all good,” says Stephan. “By making things meaningful we maintain intimacy, and create connection with our communities.”
4. Grow Sustainability.
Stephan says they’ve stayed true to making decisions that contribute to the longevity of their resources. “We want to make business decisions through a long lens and we want to grow in a sustainable way by creating something that will stand the test of time.”
5. “Live it.”
When uniting and empowering employees, FUSIAN leaders recognize the importance of lifestyle, and living out these values. “The reality is that the restaurant business can beat you up. It never stops,” he says. “We work in a people-centric business and being emotionally aware is a big part of effective leadership. When we put service at the core of what we do, we find personal fulfillment. When we act responsibly and honestly by doing the right thing, we create a legacy.”
Stephan shares how the owners of FUSIAN have been dedicated to embracing and instilling these values as they create—and look to sustain—the kind of company that the founders want to work for, too. “Our culture will help ensure a people-centric business that guests love to visit and employees love to work for.”
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About Stephan Harman
Stephan Harman is the co-founder of FUSIAN, Inc., an Ohio-based fresh-casual sushi concept. FUSIAN operates 9 stores between Dayton, Cincinnati and Columbus, employs 225 team members, with plans to grow into Toledo and Cleveland in 2017.
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