Sharon Ku, born and raised in Hong Kong, is one of the co-founders behind Uji Time Dessert, a delightful dessert store in the Bay Area.
Sharon has been working in the food industry for the past 15 years since she graduated from UC Berkeley with a major in Nutrition Science.
Through Uji Time Dessert, Sharon and her team bring together the best of East Asian flavors and desserts, making them accessible to everyone. The pop-up store’s authenticity and creativity garnered massive success, and it became the first dessert shop of its kind in the Bay Area.
In an interview with Asian Hustle Network, Sharon Ku shared her journey as an entrepreneur. Read through as we discover how she turned her passion into a thriving business, and how she found inspiration within the community.
HOW IT ALL STARTED
Uji Time Dessert opened its first pop-up store in April 2016. Together with John Ip and Benson Leung, we have been taking far east flavors and desserts and making them mainstream in the Bay Area. Our famous Fish Cone, called Taiyaki, is our take on the traditional Japanese dessert in the shape of a fish, usually filled with red bean paste. The pop-up was a great success because of its authenticity. Uji Time Dessert was the first dessert store selling Taiyaki soft serve in the Bay Area.
Uji Time Dessert loves to combine and meld elements from multiple traditional desserts to create affordable treats for everyone. Our goal is simple – think of Uji Time Dessert when you crave Japanese fusion-style desserts.
Uji Time Dessert regularly offers Instagrammable, fun, and delicious desserts and ice cream for all ages. It has transformed into a full-scale dessert cafe, from Fish Cone (Taiyaki), black sesame soft serve, lychee ice cream mochi, Matcha Latte, Earl Grey puddings, to Hojicha and Genmaicha ice cream. Depending on the season, Uji Time Dessert offers limited production seasonal flavors, such as strawberry rose and lavender in soft serve or ice cream.
During COVID, we connected with many local businesses to do cross-promotion and share resources. We offer our stores as pick-up locations for other business owners. Other business owners help to promote our brand and products.
In 2022, Uji Time Dessert expanded its footprint to Seattle, Washington, and Albuquerque, New Mexico. Uji Time Dessert continues to seek opportunities to serve our customers.
NAVIGATING THROUGH THE COVID-19 CHALLENGES
COVID hit hard across Bay Area San Francisco in 2020. Our sales dropped to 0% as we only sold soft-serve ice cream. Our stores were forced to close for 3-12 months. We closed two stores permanently.
Despite COVID-19 challenges, we expanded from 0 to 25 local supermarkets. Closing three stores didn’t stop us; we opened three new locations and have more coming in Palm Springs and New Mexico with our licensed partners.
These difficulties brought our team closer and made us stronger. From a small ice cream shop, we now distribute to various locations in the Bay Area. The growth and partnerships showcase our resilience and quality. I’m inspired and confident in our continued success.
SUPPORT AND INSPIRATION WITHIN THE COMMUNITY
I’m grateful to the Asian Hustle Network community for sharing inspiring stories of persistence, and for the connections I’ve made in this group.
I met Jing who has a passion for helping small businesses, the owner of Kaya Bread, and other inspiring individuals. Connecting with like-minded entrepreneurs and supporting my brand growth has been invaluable.
Once again, I want to express my gratitude to the Asian Hustle Network for providing a platform that facilitates learning, sharing, and gaining inspiration. I am truly thankful for the opportunity to be part of this community and to share my story of resilience, growth, and the joy of forging connections to support others in building their own brands.
VALUABLE LESSONS AS A SUCCESSFUL ENTREPRENEUR
I would suggest everyone not to give up.
We should not focus on what might stop us from achieving our goals. We should think of what we can do to make a change. Don’t be afraid and try to reach out. Many experienced entrepreneurs would love to share their experiences and thoughts with you.
CONNECT WITH UJI TIME DESSERT
Facebook: Uji Time Dessert