HomeBreaking BambooDanny Taing transforms home into a Japanese snack company

Danny Taing transforms home into a Japanese snack company

By Xintian Wang

When Danny Taing’s parents fled the Khmer Rouge to find a new home in New York City in 1979, the Taing family faced financial struggles and a new culture. Raised by relatives due to his parents’ demanding jobs as a dishwasher and a seamstress, Taing didn’t learn English until primary school, despite being born in America.

The tide turned when his parents opened a retail shoe store, laying the groundwork for Taing’s future entrepreneurial endeavors. Little did Taing know, the seeds of bootstrapping and the blueprint for building something from scratch were already sown in his DNA.

“Growing up, I certainly never want to work in business. I actually ran away from it as hard as I could just seeing how tough it was for my parents. It is very ironic that I am a founder now,” he told AsAmNews.

Upon graduating from Stanford University with an M.A. in sociology, he found himself at Google, a company many would consider a dream employer. However, the allure of a steady job began to fade as routine set in.

Danny Taing wears a Bokksu branded sweat shirt
Danny Taing. Bokksu Photo

“I felt like I wasn’t growing anymore, and I wasn’t learning, and then I just felt very unhappy,” he says.

Life had different plans for him, steering him from Google to Rakuten in Tokyo and some “failed” entrepreneurship projects in consumer marketing along the way. Still, Taing had not found his calling.

Taing’s working experience in Japan ignited his passion for Japanese snacks when he returned to the U.S., so the idea of creating a Japanese snack subscription gift box business came to his mind. This was when Bokksu was born in 2015.

“This is something I actually care about a lot. This is something that I can also use my background for,” says Taing, reminiscing about the epiphany that led him to dive into the world of Japanese snack subscription boxes.

Beyond delivering authentic Japanese treats that fill Bokksu boxes, Taing envisions a broader mission. Having lived in Japan for four years, he experienced a reverse culture shock upon returning to America, facing racism and microaggressions. Bokksu, for him, became a bridge to connect cultures and combat prejudice by introducing non-Asians to the rich tapestry of Japanese flavors.

“It’s a way to help bridge cultures by getting non-Asians to taste and love these amazing Japanese food products,” Taing says.

Treats from Bokksu
Bokksu photo

In the early days, Taing and his mother packed gift boxes with handwritten notes in his living room for Bokksu’s 20 subscribers. Today, with 70 employees across Japan and America, Bokksu ships 20,000 to 30,000 boxes monthly to customers in 100 countries, experiencing 40% year over year growth from 2022 to 2023. A $22 million investment led by Valor Siren Ventures and strategic acquisitions have transformed Bokksu into a multi-national, multi-channel platform.

He shares that Bokksu cares about every authentic regional family business in Japan. “We go beyond merely selling snacks. We encapsulate the rich history and stories behind each product. For instance, our documentary ‘Snack Bites‘ delves into the 140-year legacy of a button candy from Hokkaido, crafted by the same family for five generations. From curating and sourcing to packing and shipping, every step is an art form for us,” says Taing.

Reflecting on the company’s growth strategies, Taing shares that by leveraging influencer marketing during the pandemic to the acquisition of its competitor Japan Crate, Bokksu’s expansion has been a dynamic evolution. The collaboration with Japanese entertainment company Sanrio and the launch of the Hello Kitty snack subscription box in 2023 exemplify Taing’s commitment to elevating Bokksu to new heights.

Bokksu collaborates with Hello Kitty on a new snack box
Bokksu photo

“We embarked on this venture not only to expand our customer base into the ‘kawaii’ market, distinct from Bokksu’s foodie aesthetic, but also to elevate Bokksu’s image. Our collaboration with Sanrio, launching the world’s first Hello Kitty snack subscription box, was a strategic move to showcase our journey from a bootstrap startup to a recognized player,” says Taing.

As Taing continues his entrepreneurial journey, he offers advice for those considering a similar path. “Everybody should really make sure this is the right path for them. It mostly sucks, to be honest,” he says, highlighting the rollercoaster nature of entrepreneurship. He stresses the importance of finding a mentor, acknowledging the pivotal role mentorship played in his own success.

From the humble beginnings of his parents’ retail store to steering the ship at multinational company Bokksu, Taing’s journey has not only created a successful business, but also a cultural bridge that brings AAPI people together, one delightful treat at a time.

AsAmNews is published by the non-profit, Asian American Media Inc. Thank you for all who supported our year-end fundraising drive. Donations are still being accepted through this link. We are supported in part by funding provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library in partnership with the California Department of Social Services and the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs as part of the Stop the Hate program. To report a hate incident or hate crime and get support, go to CA vs Hate.

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