Like father, like son, like son. Entrepreneurship is a sort of family tradition in Waterloo for the Hatashita clan and the latest manifestation at ONE King North is a community space for like-minded startup venturers.
Roman Hatashita is the son of the John and Joan Hatashita, a Japanese couple who have owned and operated several successful businesses in the Waterloo region over the last 50 years. Roman is also the father of his newest business partner, Michio Hatashita. The two recently took over the iconic building at the corner of King and Erb streets, where John sold jewelry for years and now Roman and Michio have transformed it into a space where startups can work, meet, cross-pollinate and take over the world.
ONE King North is going to be a Waterloo hotspot, but first, a little family history.
John Hatashita and his wife Joan came to Waterloo in the 1960s to set up shop and eventually ran several businesses. John was a consummate entrepreneur that never shied away from seizing new opportunities, expanding the business, tackling a new venture, owning commercial space, teaching judo, and building something else.
(SOURCE: Waterloo Chronicle)
Roman recounts that his father’s first business “was about 5 stores down from [ONE King North] and it was a small gift shop, selling hippie posters and hippie paraphernalia. As kids, we used to roll movie posters for the university kids in town. A shipment of Raquel Welch posters would come in and all the neighbourhood kids would roll the posters into tubes.”
From the modest gift shop, the Hatashita business grew into a small empire. At one time, John and Joan owned and operated close to a dozen different businesses including a gift stop, a clothing store, a martial arts dojo and most notably, a jewelry store. For the last 20 years (until just recently) the Hatashita Diamond Centre has resided at ONE King North – a staple in UpTown Waterloo.
Roman, too, is no stranger to building an entrepreneurial legacy. As a Canadian Judo Olympian, Roman travelled the globe extensively and seized a business opportunity of taking over one of his father’s fledgling businesses and turning into a global player for supplying world-class martial arts equipment. Check out Hatashita International for your next set of boxing gloves.
And now the entrepreneurial torch is being passed once again, as ONE King North shifts from a place to acquire engagement rings to a place to engage. But this time Roman is the patriarch and Michio is cutting his entrepreneurial teeth.
“Starting a co-working space is a ton of work, especially if you have to renovate a building that’s a hundred years old,” Michio says. “But it’s a passion project; it really is. It’s the people you meet, not necessarily what gets done in the day, but who you meet from doing it.”
The idea behind the venture is about facilitating a startup community. It’s a place where like-minded people (and perhaps not-so-like-minded people) can come and work in a common space and see their ideas, innovations and businesses come to life. While it’s a real estate venture on paper, it’s really a people business at heart.
Roman echoes his son’s excitement: “I like the idea of seeing different people and experiencing different businesses. We can house them all here and make this the center for entrepreneurship and small business – young people primarily that are building something great – they can start here.”
The building boasts three distinct stories. The third floor has already been rented out to Atlas Property Group and early-stage startup investors Leo Group. The second floor is also rented to New York based Perpetua Labs, but it’s the concept behind the ground floor that is really exciting for the owners. The idea is to offer a communal working space for people and their laptops to gather and create at a modest monthly fee. It’s an office without the cubicles AND it comes fully loaded with an in-house café, staffed by a barista, where members get their fill of free delicious caffeinating java while they pick up their mail.
For Michio, the venture is an amazing opportunity at a young age, and for Roman it’s a chance to impart some wisdom on his son, while still learning firsthand himself. As the two finish each other’s sentences in the interview, Roman smiles and flips one last time from equal business partner back to the teaching father: “It’s been all encompassing. It’s a relationship builder. If this whole thing flunks – Michi will come away with an education on what to do and how to get stuff done.”
ONE King North is a startup through and through. But it also embodies the future of how people will work. With success stories in the US like the $20B company WeWork and their recent $200M acquisition of Meetup, Roman and Michio are really onto to something that is needed and sought after in the world of tech, right here in UpTown Waterloo. Their startup is a building, so that yours doesn’t have to be.