We had the good fortune of connecting with Roger Ma and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Roger, have there been any changes in how you think about work-life balance?
Balance is one thing that business owners and entrepreneurs tend to have trouble juggling. But I see balance as subjective as each person’s perception of balance can vary significantly. My work life balance in the last decade or so was pretty predictable on a day to day basis as but as I started expanding into new projects and scaling into different sales channels, that put everything into a vacuum and each day can turn out differently. I went from working a set amount of hours per day and having a solid social life for a short while but things got a bit stagnant with the business (I tend to get bored when things are too predictable) so I decided to expand and scale things up a bit. After spurring some growth throughout these last few years, we continue to try new things and shift our focus into newer aspects. This has caused us to grow in ways where we continuously have to adjust our processes. With an expansion of our online sales channel presence and managing multiple storefronts, it can be a bit tough to have a “normal” social life as everything is viewed as an opportunity cost. As an entrepreneur, we tend to feel guilty when having too much leisure time as our business is like a child that needs to be nurtured in order for it to sustainably grow. The way I see this work life balance, in order to succeed as a business person, you will need to pay the price now and forgo most of those social life events in order to get ahead later down the line. Sacrifice the instant gratification in the present so you can craft out the life you desire after hustling and grinding hard!

Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
Pet Zone Tropical Fish has always been one of the few freshwater-only tropical fish stores in the SoCal area and we’ve been known as the place to go for rare and hard to find oddball fish you’d only see on YouTube. We were also the very first full-scale aquascape focused shops in San Diego and have been the forerunners when it comes bringing in new aspects of the aquarium hobby into the local fish keeping and aquarium hobby industry in town. Our team consists of passionate hobbyists and their love can be felt the moment they speak with any of our customers, whether it’s in-person at one of our brick-and-mortars or via email or phone with an online customer from out of state or abroad. The team is what keep our business and shop going strong and our business wouldn’t be where it’s at today with each one of our teammates’ hard work and dedication. We’ve also just launched off the very first art gallery dedicated to the art & craft of aquascaping (Hakkai – Aquascape Design Gallery). This has been a long-time dream the Pet Zone Tropical Fish team has had for years now and we finally pulled the trigger and moved forward to end 2020 in a major way. It’s been a tough year for everyone, especially those of us in business and this is a great achievement that not only makes us proud but we’re stoked to be able to share this growing art-form with fellow aspiring aquascapers who will come and visit our gallery. It’s been a tough but fulfilling journey this past decade or so and every so often, you run into some challenges that’ll make you question your business and where it stands in today’s fast moving world. Competition can be cutthroat as some of the online retailers may slash margins so thin it’s not even worth playing the price war game. With so many retailers doing price-matching, consumers are accustomed to this and will become price sensitive over sometimes pennies. What we’ve learned over the years is that above and beyond customer service surpasses any monetary price advantage because your customers will appreciate the value you’ve given them.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
We’d definitely start the trip off with a visit to one of the many taco shops in town. Tacos El Gordo is one that always pops up for many visitors and they’re well rated for a damn good reason. We’d definitely hit up the local coffee roasteries for the well needed caffeine fix. Bird Rock, Caffe Italia and West Bean are some of my top coffee joints to get a freshly brewed pour over or cold brew coffee. For a night out to soak in some energetic vibes, the rooftop bar of Born & Raised in Little Italy is a top spot for mighty good whiskey based cocktails. Fort Oak in Mission Hills is another top favorite for a great dinner spot with top notch cocktails to complement the delicious plates. A trip to San Diego isn’t complete without taking advantage of the local uni we have. Sushi Tadokoro in Old Town has one of the best omakase meals in town and their uni is hand selected by their chef. Little Italy is definitely one of the best neighborhoods to just take a stroll in on any given night. There’s countless restaurants, bars and dessert spots and with Covid-19 still lingering, the weekends are busier than it’s ever been (with social distancing of course) and is a great place to just people watch while soaking in the good vibes from everyone around.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I’d have to give a lot of credit to my parents and my significant other for pushing me to become who I am today. My parents provided a platform for me at a young age and I am truly grateful that it has led me to become ambitious throughout these years. My significant other, Priscilla, has supported me unconditionally and puts up with my hectic lifestyle and truly makes me a better person each day by encouraging and inspiring me during my continuous endeavors.

Website: www.hakkai.com & www.petzonesd.com
Instagram: @petzone & @hakkaisd
Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/maroger/
Twitter: www.twitter.com/petzonesandiego & www.twitter.com/hakkaisd
Facebook: facebook.com/petzonesd & facebook.com/hakkaisd
Yelp: https://www.yelp.com/biz/pet-zone-tropical-fish-san-diego-2 & https://www.yelp.com/biz/pet-zone-tropical-fish-san-diego & https://www.yelp.com/biz/hakkai-aquascape-design-gallery-san-diego
Youtube: youtube.com/petzone & https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC2nJvjOGB_U9rnYI-ZfR_9Q

Image Credits
Filbert Banh – photographer

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutSocal is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.