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Start Your Business Success Stories

Small Business Snapshot: The Flame Broiler

Small Business Snapshot: The Flame Broiler Credit: The Flame Broiler

Our Small Business Snapshot series features photos that represent, in just one image, what the small businesses we feature are all about. Young Lee, CEO and founder of The Flame Broiler, explains how this image represents his business.

After graduating from UCLA, I joined the workforce in a life insurance sales position that required me to be on the road during meal times. As a result, I ate unhealthy at nearly every fast food chain imaginable. Soon after, I fell ill; and medical professionals were unable to find a diagnosis.

I then decided to leave my position, started eating right and immediately saw improvements. Still needing to support my family, and with my recent health issues on the forefront of my mind, I saw an opportunity in the fast food industry for a healthy, quick-serve alternative. In 1995, I opened the very first The Flame Broiler restaurant in Orange County, California. My goal was to make a living by helping others improve their overall quality of life through their eating habits.

The Flame Broiler is best known for serving healthy, convenient fast-food at an affordable price. The most notable item we serve is our brown or white rice bowls, featuring your protein of choice (charbroiled organic tofu, all natural chicken up to 95 percent fat free, or Angus beef up to 96 percent fat free), blanched vegetables and green onions. Customers can add five unique sauces of their choosing, including our proprietary Magic Sauce. Our bowls start as low as 140 calories and do not include dairy, trans-fat, skin, fryers or HFCS.

The above photo represents our core DNA and family values. We are a family-run business, with my son Daniel at the helm of our marketing team, and my wife and other children very much involved in our day-to-day operations. We trust each other and have an honest and open working relationship. We use this as a model to demonstrate throughout our whole company, hoping that franchisees, managers and the like will pick up on the same practices. I believe they contribute to a healthy workplace.

Being a family-run business, we experience our challenges together. Often, we come home after work and remain in business mode instead of spending quality time with one another. Because of this, we've designated dinner a "business free" zone.

Our biggest piece of advice for families looking to go into business together is to never do anything that would create resentment or impact your personal relationship – because after all, that's what matters most.

Edited for brevity and clarity by Sammi Caramela.