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Tricia Ruiz of Kiawe Roots

Many of you know the epic food of former food truck Culture in Roots that could be found daily serving up deliciousness down at Warehouse 3540. Recently, owners Tricia and Mark, took the leap with friends and opened a brick and mortar restaurant above Tortilla Republic. In every thriving business there are points in time where opportunity presents itself and one must step forward to the next thing. Here Tricia shares the journey of going from a dream to running a restaurant and how starting small while dreaming big has worked for them - and how Kiawe Roots is simply a milestone along the way.

What was the turning point that launched this idea into reality?

I can't really pin point when, or what the turning point was that made my husband [Mark] and I decide to launch our (food truck) business. It may sound cliche, but our business ventures all stem from having a dream and finding our way through life to make it come true. A simple thought of, "How cool would it be if we owned a food truck?!" Then turns into, "Ok...we love what we do, but we're done working for someone else. We always said we wanted to own our business, so why not? What are we waiting for? Let's just do it!" What really surprised me along the way is the amount we were able to accomplish in such a short period of time. In a nutshell, on a whim one day we walked up to a food truck in the neighborhood and asked how much that trailer would sell for. The owner at the time really didn't think about selling, but we showed interest and one thing lead to another. Within a month, we bought a food truck. Then six to eight months later an idea sparked that we could possibly partner with another business to occupy a space at Waimea Plantation Cottages. Then, the next thing we know, Mark's former bosses at Tortilla Republic presents us with an opportunity of a lifetime that we simply could not pass up. Just a little over one year after launching our food truck business, Roots in Culture, we turned brick and mortar, Kiawe Roots, and are now alongside some of Hawaii's renowned chefs at The Shops at Kukui'ula.

Whats next for your business?

Thinking back to the series of events that lead us to where we are today, turning your dreams into reality is really all about setting goals. Persevering and working hard to reach one goal, and once it is accomplished, you set another goal. It's about setting a foundation and continuously building upon that foundation, day to day, goal by goal. Even through set backs and obstacles, when you have your mind set on reaching that goal line without wavering, and you finally reach it, you still know it's not the end because there are new goals to be set. New dreams to reach. For me, for us, Kiawe Roots, this is just the beginning. Who knows, within the next couple years we may want to relocate. In the next few years we may want another location, or three, or four locations. The "sky is the limit" and we are not going to stop reaching new heights. We really feel we are building something to be proud of. Building something that our families, our children and their children will be proud of. We are a family owned and operated business, and we hope to keep it this way for generations to come.

What strength have you discovered through this process?

I have never felt more empowered and strong as a business woman as I do right now. This strength that I have discovered, finding my assertiveness as a business woman and manager of my own company feels really great. It partly comes from experience in the many years I have been in the industry and partly from the support I receive from Mark. He inspires me to keep going, always encouraging me and showing me a different perspective within the business dynamic. When I observe him professionally he has mastered the balance of assertiveness, respect, and humor in the workplace. I was always the one who was so critical of my own self, taking myself too seriously, a huge weakness of mine. But, after working closely alongside him this past year I learned to separate our business partnership from our personal relationship and he has helped me find my strength in operating our business. People always ask if I get tired of working with my husband. I have to say I truly love working with him. Separately, we both enjoy working in this type of industry. We love food, we love to cook it and eat it. To have people appreciate the experience we enjoy providing through food and service is very rewarding for us, individually. To be able to work together, while sharing the same passions and goals is a bonus.

So much as happened within the last two years, I am so grateful and humbled by this life I am able to live. I really am living the dream.


Thank you Tricia for sharing what it has meant to you to be on this journey.

Be sure to visit Kiawe Roots or check them out online at or on IG @kiaweroots.

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