Happy 5 Years, Vite Ramen
Fun fact: Did you know that, at one point, we had a multi-billion dollar, southeast asian instant ramen noodle maker who’s very famous try to get into our facility to see how we were able to do so much with so little?
They were specifically interested in our dehydrator machine, the one that we’d designed and built ourselves. Even back then, before we upgraded and learned more about how to build it more efficiently, we were still running 600% faster than facilities larger than ours.
They even went as far as to contact our Alma Mater, UC Davis, to try to get them to sweet talk us into letting their people in.
Which… I don’t know man. If you have billions of dollars and dozens of people on R&D and you still can’t figure out the things we did with a bunch of freshly graduated college idiots who had no experience and no idea what they were doing…
Sounds like a skill issue.
Today, October 16th, 2023, is Vite Ramen’s 5th Anniversary.
Happy Birthday, Vite.
I love Vite. I hate Vite.
It is simultaneously the thing that has given me the most and taken the most away from me. When we came into this, we wanted to make the best ramen ever.
5 years later, we have succeeded.
We never deviated from our path– Our ramen is still high protein, still has fiber, still has every vitamin and mineral your body needs. It tastes better than ever. We have vegan, plant-based flavors, we have meat flavors, we have partnerships and fans and this nebulous, outwards appearance of success.
If in these 5 years I have achieved my dream… then why does it all feel so empty?
Why do I feel so empty?
By this point, I thought there was supposed to be some kind of touchdown moment. A championship winning, celebration worthy, memorable and defining moment. After all these years, after all the blood, sweat, and tears we’ve put into this...
Wasn’t there supposed to be some kind of reward? Some kind of victory?
Instead, we simply push onwards, relentless, sleepless, dragging our bruised and battered bodies and minds towards the unknown.
See, to do what we do, we must be trailblazers. We cannot follow the established ways of doing things, can’t follow a step by step, paint by numbers approach. Each and every thing we do must be new. Made from scratch. Built from the ground up in a crucible of fire and failures. There is no path for us to follow.
We are the ones who cut the path through the unknown, dense underbrush for others to follow.
And it is completely, and utterly exhausting.
I’m suffering from extreme burnout. When you’re trying to do something new, people will tell you all the ways it won’t work, all the ways you’ll fail. And I know. I’m keenly aware of all the ways I can fail, and my mind vividly reminds me of each and every way I’ve messed up when I stare into the inky blackness of the ceiling, failing to fall asleep on those all too familiar nights.
I have thought about all the ways it can go wrong a hundred times more than you have.
What people get wrong about burnout is that it isn’t a consequence of just too much work. Burnout can’t be solved just by taking a vacation, or relaxing, or indulging in something fun. Were burnout really so easy to solve, then it wouldn’t be such a prevalent issue that’s plaguing so many people right now.
Burnout is a condition that’s caused by putting your heart and soul into trying to accomplish something, and finding that all that time, effort, and energy you put into it amounted to nothing. You spin your wheels, hoping to go somewhere, but you’re stuck– Put in a lot of energy, put in a little energy, it’s all the same. Your determination begins to falter, your passion begins to fade. Why do all this if nothing changes? Why wear yourself ragged when your efforts amount to nothing?
You doubt yourself more than ever. Every time you rise to do that thing, your chest tightens up more, and more, and more, and more, until each and every time you approach this thing, you feel as if you’re drowning in dense, stale air, clawing your way towards something that you know is only going to hurt you. Your determination crumbles to become nothing more than an exercise in self-torture.
And you think to yourself, “Why does it matter if I try at all? Why did I even try?”
In these 5 years, every step was so fraught with peril, every decision so tenuous and risky, each year carrying new, global unprecedented events that instead of spending my time able to grow the company and be in a comfortable place with backups and resources to spare for rainy days, we have been doing nothing but fighting for survival.
Every ounce of energy I have, I’ve spent just to be able to see another day. Another week. Another month.
Every wheel spins hastily, desperately as the cliff crumbles behind you, and yet... you go nowhere.
We’ve made Vite Ramen. We’ve made it the best we can, and every improvement from here on out becomes small, subjective gains to specific people and groups.
I don’t care to grow as much as possible to get the largest amount of profit. That’s never been what we’re about. Sure, I’d love to have a nest egg instead of fighting to keep things going, but I suspect that no matter how large of a rainy day fund we sit on, no matter how much profit we end up making, my burnout won’t get better. I won’t feel happier.
So… what now?
They say that people make the biggest changes at checkpoints in life. 5 year marks, 10 year marks– they become pivotal turning points where we look inwards, examining who we are, what we’ve done, and what we want our futures to be.
I guess we’re no different.
When I started Vite Kitchens, I started by making noodles. I was on the line 40 hours a week, making noodles alongside everyone else, and then after our day was over, would go back home to do all the other necessary things to keep a business running. I loved that, then. I loved being right there, seeing the noodles being made, with everything that was happening being a direct result of my actions, how fast I moved, how skilled I was, how perfect my timing could be.
As we grew, that didn’t happen anymore. I spent more and more time away from the line. I spent more and more time dealing with spreadsheets, and paperwork, and calculations, and data, and…
Everything became more abstract, drifting farther and farther away.
I delegated production to someone else instead– I could no longer spend time on the line. I gave up R&D and would participate only in product management, flavor direction and approvals.
The more we grew, the more everything stayed the same, and the more miserable I became.
When I turned 30 a year ago, I did the most out of pocket, ridiculous thing that I could’ve done. I put on some cat ears and a bikini maid outfit, and I filled an inflatable pool with ramen, and filmed it all in a commercial that still runs to this day.
And I did it because over these years, I’ve never really felt in control of what we were doing, never really felt like things were going the way I really wanted them to, and be able to do the things the way we wanted to do things– And so, on that precipice of a third decade, I embraced whole-heartedly all the weird, strange, cringe, and wonderful things that make me, me, and with one bold, crazy video, declared it to the world.
Many of you reading this, I’m sure, found us from that ad. I’ve filmed many other crazy things since then, pulling out the unconventional, the weird, the over the top ideas and concepts that I’ve always loved. Instead of suppressing these ideas and emotions, I instead embraced them, brought them wholesale into Vite, and faced the world with everything I had to offer.
When it comes to running a business, people always say to focus on your core competencies, to dial in everything you do and to make that work the best you can. And when they say that, it’s about growing as much as possible, about becoming as profitable as possible, and they say nothing about your mental health, or being able to create and do things that you love.
But I am not a monolith. I am not a creature with a singular focus and passion. I am a wild, chaotic individual with as many passions, hopes, and interests as the stars across a summer’s night sky. And I am greedy.
I am greedy to experience all that life has to offer. I desire to do all the things that I love, from knifemaking to writing to esports to poetry to cooking to filmmaking and so much more. I want to live and express myself across every facet of everything that I am, unfettered by the expectations of who and what they think I should be.
Life is about pursuing passions. It’s about being excited, and happy, and creative, and experiencing and trying new things.
And I will not be happy with it just being about ramen.
It will no longer be just Vite Ramen. Not just Naked Noods. Not even just Nanoboost, but creating and enabling all the myriad of beautiful and wonderful things that we can do, and want to do, and express into the world.
Those of you who have been following some of the other things we’ve done lately have seen that we’re doing all kinds of things. I’ve designed my first kitchen knife in collaboration with Onigiri, and a second, third, and maybe even fourth are on the way. We’ve done hoodies, and aprons, and shirts, and plushies… and we’re going to be moving forward and doing so much more.
Because it’s fun. Because we get to express ourselves, and be creative, and help others make their dreams come to life. Because we get to experience new things, and help, and look at something new and go, “we did that. We made that” and be proud of what we’ve done.
We’re not going to stop making our ramen. We’re still going to make our ramen, and make it the best that we can, and do everything we can to make it better, and better, and better.
But we’re not going to be limited to just ramen anymore. We’re going to do all the wonderful things that make life worth living. Dumb things. Fun things. Wild things.
Throughout the month, we'll be introducing limited edition "chaos drops" via SMS, social media, and emails. These drops will include items from our past collections that you might have missed, such as kitchen knives valued at $200, $100 cutting boards, playmats, plushies, and all kinds of other fun things we’ve made, and all at a fraction of their cost.
But the secret is that they’ll be completely random. Each of these drops will have a bundle package that will include a random item. Maybe it’ll be a pair of chopsticks, and maybe it’ll be a VG-10 Kitchen Knife. Who knows?
They’ll be extremely limited(because, well, they’re basically being given away for free) and will be first come, first serve, so don’t miss out!
Meanwhile, we have a 5th year anniversary sampler pack that will be running through the rest of October!
Come along for the ride, and have some fun of your own. It’s been 5 years, and we’re just getting started.
Let’s make life fun, and worth living.
-Tim, CEO/Founder Vite Kitchens