Steve started as a designer, became an idea guy and later a business maker. He now dedicates much of his time to non-profit work empowering youth entrepreneurs.
Steve began his career in Oakland, CA opening a residential design and construction company. His design abilities lead to commissions around the western United States in production housing, urban planning, theme parks, corporate theater and live entertainment. He also became known as a “hired gun” conceptualist and high-stakes pitch guy for a half dozen branding firms creating national foodservice, retail, technology, entertainment and product brands. For a decade, he was also a conceptualist of mega-resort casinos around the globe.
Steve’s career took a turn when Autodesk, maker of AutoCAD, created software to turn technical drawings into his signature hand drawing style. Through working with Autodesk, Steve learned how to develop software and turned to authoring his ideation, branding and business development skills into the BizGym.com Entrepreneur’s Growth System. Later, he created entities to support BizGym including the Bizgenics® Business Genome Project and RankHI Digital Marketing Agency.
The success of BizGym lead to the spin-off 501C3 nonprofit BizGym Foundation (“BGF”) where Steve serves as Chairman. At BGF, Steve is the “Chief Lemon Head” of Lemonade Alley (a shopping mall of lemonade stands where students K-12 create businesses to raise money for the charities of their choice) and the Executive Producer of the BizzyB.com Entrepreneurial-based Learning Platform that teaches and measures 21st Century soft skills. He also serves on the Hawaii Entrepreneurship Foundation Board and is a past Junior Achievement Board Member. Recognitions include Entrepreneur of the Year (Hawaii BBB 2013) and Charity of the Year (Hawaii BBB 2014). His educational background includes a BA in Design from UCLA and a JD from the Boalt Hall School of Law at UC Berkeley.
DAYS LIVED IN PARADISE
CO MAKEOVERS IN HAWAII
LEMONADE STANDS BUILT
We Are the Sum of Others: Steve’s mentor math…
Philosophy ( from 1998 to Present )
The Meaning of Life ~ Who I Learn From
- Benevolence: In Hawai’i, people that are as close as blood relatives, but not biologically related, are called hanai family. I'm lucky to have several hanai, including Po Chi Wu and family. Po Chi is a decorated academic and venture capitalist. He's also pedigreed (his father was known in China as The Father of Physics). But what's most impressive about Po Chi are his philosophical powers. Whenever we're in the same town, we talk. A lot. More than imaginable. The rest of the family knows when to clear out. Yet while he has great intellectual powers and deep perspective, the best part of Po Chi is that he is wise and full of love. The result is that he's able to leverage his wisdom into benevolence. I think of him as the Benevolent Venture Capitalist ~ kind of like a vegetarian shark. But Po Chi is in fact that transcending spirit. Po Chi: Thank you for sharing so much of your life force, encouraging words and most of all the love of your entire family. You are all special in my heart.
- Perspective: I talk frequently with Alan (AJ) Sue. He's a King of the Question. AJ is exceptional at framing point-of-view. It's said that asking the right question is 90% of problem solving ~ AJ has an uncanny talent for putting things into perspective. AJ and I share a love for nerding on business. And we're both at the stage where we're trying to figure out the "Why?" of life. Despite AJ being my younger brother, I consider him to be one of my mentors. AJ: I'm proud of the rock star you've turned out to be. On the point of siblings, It would be stupid of me not to recognize my sister Linda Sue for always supporting my antics and being so caring, and my brother Larry Sue who despite hogging all the brains in the gene pool, never threw that back in our faces. All of the kids in our family are highly unique. All have different perspectives. Yet we are one. I love all you guys.
- Love & Light: I thought I was well balanced until I met Karen Asato. As a swashbuckling concept guy, I thought I was pretty good on the right-brain side. But Karen pushes my hippy-dippy meter every day. She helps me shed shackles I don't even know are there. More importantly, she is the very essence of unconditional love. She lets me be me. That's important and deserve an encore: she lets Me Be Me. No matter how stupid my ideas might seem at the time, she lets me be me. And she stands by me through thick and thin. Together, we hold hands, spit into the wind and laugh. Karen and I both work from home. We're together 24/7. And we're entirely copacetic: no strife, no strain, all love. Of course we've only been married 6 years as of this writing. So ask me again after the 7th year itch to see if this still holds true. The smart money says go all-in on a "Yes" bet. Karen: you are the love of my life. That may sound trite but I've never felt truly at home with anyone else. You are good through and through. I love you and everything about you. Also on the home-front, there's Mia the Dog. Many will think, "Really... he looks up to the dog?" But Mia keeps it real. I turned out to be a workaholic like my Dad. I can't do enough in a day. But Mia knows priorities. Eat. Snuggle. Play. And she's very powerful. She just has to look at me and next thing I know, I'm rolling on the floor like a dog on crack. Top-of-mind words to us are, "snackies" "walk" and "bath" ~ from time to time, I spring the last one on her just to keep it real... Ha! Take that you little mutt! Mia keeps it real... and is the light of our lives.
The Art of Technology ( from 1997 to Present )
Who Got My Geek On
- Macs: For years, I'd been back and forth between PCs and Macs ~ until I met John Finn. John is a motion graphics designer best known for creating fancy TV show animation intros. He's also a wickedly talented photographer. John got me into Macs once and for all. While the phones and pads are great, the real move forward was getting into graphics, photo and video features that Macs excel at. Thanks John for bringing me into the 21st century, for putting up with all my stupid questions and all the years carousing at the Foundation Room.
- Web: The Internet for me is the result of a chain reaction. John Finn (noted above) introduce me to John LeBlanc. LeBlanc has a way with the Web, people and music. I'm not sure which he is most proficient at, but there's no doubt that he's a master of all. John brought me to the world of the Internet, SXSW and Wordpress. He's the best example of a person who's 100% present and real. I love his style and I love him as a true friend. I'm a fan. John's girlfriend Kimee Balmilero would certainly chime in here with a "Bromance..." line. OK, while true, I also look up to Kimee for her teaching me witty smarts through her improv techniques. Kimee is also 100% invested in the non-profit work we do together so silly girl: jettison the bromance line and get it on with a three-some snipe. BTW, I should sneak in a blurb on Lance Lew who introduced me to both Finn and LeBlanc. Quite the cascade. Lance is a connector, immensely talented and a true friend. He's been a TV guy for as long as I've known him and we've done countless events together. He can arrange flowers like all get out, is a foodie and throws the most amazing parties ever. Recently, he picked up Lemonade Alley and ran it in the SF Bay Area through NBC and YMCA. More than anything, he's 100% caring and thinks of others. Thanks Lance for thinking of us all.
- Digital Marketing: Making great websites starts with superior strategy. Buzz words worth noting: SEO, Social Media, On-Page Optimization, Conversion Optimization, PPC, WordPress, Magento, etc. It's a myriad of nutty stuff that changes daily and doesn't necessarily fit together like you'd expect. Business insight coupled with tech smarts are mandatory to survive in this jungle. The biggest brains I know in this area: Tim Caminos. Tim is a bonafide badass. Yet he's approachable and can break it down for us mortals. I dig his style. I love his ideas. So I look to him on a continuing basis for wisdom, vision and strategy. I also love hanging out with him as he has his heart in the right place living "Profit to Share!" being Treasurer and Board Member of BizGym Foundation.
The Art of Business ( from 1986 to Present )
How to Vision & Do Deals
- The Law: The frank truth is that I sucked at the law. But two guys at UC Berkeley kept me in the game. Sandy Kadish, a renowned criminal law professor taught me that the law is well-meaning. It establishes order. It is very forgiving. He had the good instincts to pull back on the socratic reins and go easy on the first-year pony with a gimp. As a first-year, I was on the bubble about staying in law school as I had competing offers to be an art director at a couple of computer animation companies. One went on to make a feature about Ants and the other ended up with a jumping drafting lamp logo ~ damn you Sandy, you shoulda opened that can of lawyer's whoop-ass on me. Then there's the other guy: Jesse Choper, Dean of the School and the "God" of constitutional law. Dean Choper was also very human. He'd occationally sweep the library at night looking for kids to take out to eat hot dogs and talk philosophy. A Top Dog in the middle of the night on Telegraph Ave with the God of Con Law? Pretty heady stuff. He made you feel special. On campus, he called me The Artist as he knew I spent more time designing t-shirts for law reviews than doing cite checks. I was not born for the law but both these guys embraced who I was and taught me there is a human side to the law.
- Branding: For a number of years I was a hired gun to SF agencies. At one of the firms, I met David Takiguchi, the best creative director I ever worked with. He's wicked talented. He has great taste. He's awesome with both clients and staff. And a really nice guy. Eventually he left his agency and joined me as a partner in my firm. His first action was that he wanted to change us into an "Environmental Branding Firm." I was like, "Woo-hoo! Cool!... uh... what's branding???" It took me years to figure out what "branding" is. I owe a lot to David for bringing that whacky word to my doorstep. The challenge of understanding it was what spurred me to create the software app BizGym.com. If there's anything that defines my highest and best professional use, it's branding. I thank David for this and the many good times and deep friendship we shared.
- Bodacious Business: one of the most influential mentors in my life was Paul Steelman. Paul is a top-drawer casino architect in Las Vegas. While he's a brilliant architect and master planner, he's unique in business abilities. He's also a silver-tongued evangelist. Paul taught me the art of visioning ~ and selling the vision. Paul's like the Pied Piper ~ he toots a little pipe and everyone falls in line. He created and executed big ideas that actually worked. He taught me how to think big. REALLY BIG. Big, iconic and bodacious. Paul's most common critique was one simple word, "BIGGER." Over the years I learned how to meet the bar he set. Paul is The Man and I'm eternally grateful for being able to hang under his wing for so many years.
- Strategy & The Numbers: I first met Myron Nakata when he was a client of my wife's body alignment business. He'd stay on occasion for dinner and we became good friends. It took a while to learn about his background in construction businesses, business help groups and non-profits. He's understated and humble. While he has no clue as to what IMHO stands for, his top-used Myron-ism is starting off sentences with, "In my humble opinion..." Myron is well-read so he probably picked that up in a self-help book. But it really embodies his hat-in-hand style. Myron is the guy that walks softly and carries a big stick. Myron has raised the bar for me in strategic thinking. He thinks big ideas straight through to numbers. And he's practical. He's the contractor that measures twice to cut once. He does not miss. He's also very giving and philanthropic ~ Myron was one of the founders of Lemonade Alley and BizGym Foundation. On the non-profit side, he works quietly behind the scenes never looking to be aggrandized. On the business side, I routinely seek his counsel for strategy, numbers and reality checks. Myron's combination of skills and perspectives renders him a practical, salt-of-the-earth kind of guy. Thanks Myron for your generous heart and for grounding my bodaciousness.
The Art of Performance ( from 1995 to Present )
I'll Always Love a Good Show
- Events: Oakland, CA homee John Murray runs a slammin' production house. We've done countless shows together from fashion, to galas, to music, to parades, to ice shows, to pageants. With John, I learned the art of how to put on a live show. Live production never goes exactly as planned. He taught me how to remain cool-headed, smile and improvise quick solutions when things melt down. John has style and swagger. I thank him for sharing his wisdom and so many good times.
- Voice: at one point in my career, I was doing so much scenic design work that I thought I should learn a bit about the performance side. So I enrolled in Samantha Paris' voice acting school. I did three years with Sam and even went out on a few VO calls. I learned how to project, have more feeling, talk in colors and most importantly, be sharing as a performer and giving as a person. Thx Sam for making me and so many others a better person.
- Actors, Writing, Producing: I once did a show that required rounding up a bunch of Asian actors. All roads lead to James Hong, character actor extraordinaire. He was also the gatekeeper of Asian actors. James ended up taking me under his wing and we had many whacky adventures together. He taught me about being big and being open. Another LA clan that included me as their own is Debi G___'s family. I'm keeping their identities incognito, but if any of them reads this, I want them to know I love all of what they stand for. Thanks to all you guys for showing me how to tell a story and that The Industry isn't just full of bozos. And most recently, I've been lucky enough to take some of Kimee Balmilero's improv acting and comedy classes.
Art & Design ( from 1980 to 2000 )
I'll Always be a Designer
- Color Theory: pre-eminent color theorist Vasa Mihich pulled me from the muck of a "me-to" economics curriculum at UCLA. I took his class on a whim and he took me under his wing. Vasa told me I had to be a designer. He asserted that I had talent. I knew he was right. At first I baulked as I knew my Dad wanted me to avoid design. Vasa said he'd talk to my Dad. He didn't need to... he had me from the first swatch.
- Glass Blowing: once in the design program at UCLA, famed folk art glass blower Dick Marquis recruited me. He was one of the coolest cats on campus. His critiques featured beer. To a 21 year old, there's nothing cooler. He taught us anything we'd do had been done before. As a corollary, he taught if you gotta knock off somebody else, be damned sure you're copying something good. He said all that but had an amazing knack for putting a new twist on an old theme. He taught how to make something your own yet honor those who came before. Our works are bricks in a massive pyramid, but each has a purpose and is unique.
- Computer Animation: one of the key guys behind Tron, the first feature-length CG film was Art Durinski. Art taught me CG basics (when the entire industry was really basic) then hooked me up with Larry Lichten, a professor at UCLA's Engineering School. Larry scammed me night time access on the school's mainframe computer. A computer the size of a bus... awesome. It was powerful and I drove that thing with a lead foot. Larry told me if I crashed it to shut off the lights for an hour, be quite and don't answer any messages on the console. I sat in the dark a lot reveling at being on the cutting edge of computing.
- Theme Parks: I lived in Burbank for about a year and a half working as a consultant at Landmark Entertainment. While loads of industry gurus walked the halls, the guy that showed me the ropes was Greg Damron. Greg was regarded as the best theme park master planner around. He taught me the business of theme parks and the art of master planning. He taught to always look at how changes affect revenues. He taught to look for the Kodak Moment where visitors could get that great branded picture (now called "selfies"). He taught me to always ensure that the "Cow Catcher" retail store was positioned to push plush toy sales. I worked with him on a park called The Wonderful World of Oz ~ despite being a huge entertainment property and being funded by Ted Turner and Michael Jackson, it didn't happen... welcome to concept design.
- Concept Design: One day I saw this guy drawing massive pictures of mega-resorts... all pen on paper. I had to do it. So I asked Bill Bardsley if he would teach me how to draw. Bill graciously invited me to hang out with him at his studio in Walnut Creek, CA. He taught me not only how to draw, but also the art of the big idea. Turns out that Bill was THE top guy for Vegas casino concepts. He was crazy busy. After a year or so of drawing with Bill, he started taking me to Vegas on design charrettes (brainstorm sessions). We designed by day and clubbed by night. We helped build massive stuff. In the early days, the architectural world looked down upon gaming projects. But as Vegas grew, it became the epicenter of hospitality and entertainment design. Bill warned me that when the industry heated up, it would be like a bucking broncho. With youthful vigor, I bucked up and jumped on. After a couple years in the Vegas saddle with Bill, he up and retired. And the rides got bigger, longer and more wild. Like my Dad, Bill taught me to never go on salary: idea guys are like golden gooses ~ try to shackle them and their gold globes turn to simple brown poop. Bill, you're a God and I miss adventuring with you.
- Software: In the late 90's, I was introduced to software development by Michael Perrani of Autodesk. Mike's goal was to turn technical AutoCAD drawings into Steve Style concept drawings. He lead the charge on creating algorithms on how concept guys draw. Through the process, I developed a taste for the art of software. He taught me that we could logically explain and create formulas to take into account all the soft stuff that unconsciously poured out of my pens. Through him I learned that there is rhyme and reason behind just about everything. There is order to the world. Thanks Mike for bringing me to your world.
Life Basics ( from 1960 to Present )
Shaping a Lump of Yellow Clay
- Love: My mom, Darlene Sue taught me how to love, live and give. Since my dad was a super-hard worker, she was the one to teach me sports and how to be a boy. She taught me how to compete (we played doubles tennis tourneys). And how to be a good sport. She was frugal beyond being Chinese so I learned the art of getting by on less. She taught me how to smile and get smiles out of others. Mom was a star of stars. You're the best Mom and I love you.
- Determination: My Dad, John Sue was a landscape architect turned contractor turned real estate developer. He taught me how to be an entrepreneur. He taught me grindstone determination and perseverance. He taught me the meaning of "GSD" decades before it became a popular acronym. Every time I win a new conquest, I think, "This one's for you Dad." Now that I've grown up, I see I've turned into him in many ways. And I don't hate the result. Thanks for the hard love Dad. I love you.
- Differentiation: My 3rd & 4th grade teachers, Mrs. Thompson & Mrs. Selby (dunno their first names: at 8 years old, you're not supposed to) encouraged me blossom in the arts at the expense of compromising the 3Rs. I eventually caught up on all that stuff years later. But supporting my unique qualities was a risk and therefore an amazing thing for them to do. I doubt that modern-day teachers would take on the liability such backing. But so far, I haven't chainsawed anyone to death yet, so I think their strategy might just work out.
- Connecting: My Boy Scout leader was a guy named Greg Hyde. All the kids called him "Greg" rather than Mr. Hyde. He connected. Kids got him. He was a rock star. And he was a consummate outdoorsman. Through him, I learned how to see nature, tie knots, be resourceful and survive. Now in the second half of my life, I employ much of his connective style to light up kids in our non-profit program, Lemonade Alley. Thanks Greg for belaying me up the first pitch of life.
I just want to be big…
-Josh, Big (the movie)
I’m good at making and fixing businesses, especially those in need of personality and storyline. I’m also into demystifying the art of business, making it available to all and teaching Profit to Share values to next-generation business leaders.