Student Blog

Alumni Interview Vol.10: A bridge between Taiwan and Japan

5min read

John Kuan started a trading company while he was a student at APU, and currently serves as the CEO of GLG FAMILY (hereafter, GLG), which develops various businesses such as drinks, Taiwanese sweets, and restaurants for groups. Kuan has continued to take on challenges regardless of failure since his student days times. How does he take on these challenges?

Received the "2022 Taiwan Tourism Contribution Award" from the Taiwan Tourism Bureau.

Alumni Profile
Name:John Kuan
Graduated:2009 College of Asia Pacific Studies
University Activities:managed trading company、table tennis club
Current Position:GLG Family Inc. CEO

What do you do at your job?

I started a trading business based in Ishigaki Higashi, Beppu City while I was still in APU. Currently, I run a company called GLG, which develops various businesses such as Taiwanese drinks and sweets. GLG stores are all over the country, and in Oita Prefecture, Oita OPA's Taiwanese sweets shop, Taiwan Ten Shoten, is one of them! Recently, we are expanding not only sweets and drinks, but also hot pot dishes, fried chicken, and cosmetics.

What do you think is important when running a company?

Our mission is to build a bridge between Japan and Taiwan. Taiwan is said to have the highest happiness ranking in East Asia, and is said to have a culture of happiness. As a company, we would like to connect the happiness of our staff to the happiness of our customers through gourmet food. Also, I believe that each person has value, so I think it is important in running a company to bring out the best in each person.

That’s a wonderful vision. How did you get started?

I started my first business when I was 19. I opened a takoyaki shop in Taiwan from my experience working part-time at a takoyaki shop along the Kyushu crossing road.

I had a part-time job because because I didn't have money. Before I entered APU, my parents went bankrupt and I came to Japan with only 300,000 yen. I couldn't speak Japanese at all, but I told her that I wanted to work right away and started working part-time at a takoyaki shop.

What led you to start your current company, GLG?

It started with the Tenku Festival. I opened a Taiwanese booth with my friends and we sold out immediately. The following year, we prepared three times as many materials but they were sold out immediately. At that time, the ingredients for Taiwanese sweets and drinks weren't as readily available as they are now, so I started my business to start importing ingredients. From there, we have developed Taiwanese gastronomy such as trade, directly managed stores, tapioca shops, sweets, lou lohan, hot pot, breakfast, etc. The company, which was started by just three people, my wife, another person, and me, currently has about 300 employees.

What else did you do during your time at APU?

I played table tennis until high school, so I joined the table tennis club. Actually, the desk in GLG's office is a table tennis table! The reason is that I always try to think outside the norm. I always try to have an innovative mind and imagination, such as "Why can't a ping-pong table be used as a table in a conference room?"

What else do you think is important?

There are other solutions and answers to current problems, and it would be a shame to solve them normally! I think, “It may not be popular now, but can we do something about it?” For example, “In Japanese culture, people eat breakfast at home, but what would happen if they ate out?"

Have you ever experienced failure when trying to solve a problem?

I believe that there is no failure. Instead, I think, "I haven't succeeded yet. I'm in the process." It doesn't matter if it's five years from now, or even after you die, if the next generation succeeds, it's not a failure.

Well, can I ask you about a difficult experience you had?

When I came to Japan, the 300,000 yen I received from my bankrupt parents disappeared within a month and a half. I didn't have much money, so I tried to find a part-time job. I couldn't speak Japanese very well, so I had a lot of trouble. I waited for part-time job information in front of the convenience store and always carried around five resumes, so that I could start working immediately.

So, when I finally made it to the interview, I started the part-time job on the same day. I also had to work at night, so I commuted by moped. It was especially scary in winter. I had some close calls at times. On the dangerous way home from my part-time job, I really learned to think about what I should do to survive.

Please tell us your vision for the future.

Now, 20 years after starting in the restaurant business at the age of 19, I think it is important to know different cultures. Also, IT is also essential for the restaurant industry. So I would like to focus on creating software and applications that can contribute to the restaurant industry. GLG's motto is "Drinking Joy". In order to achieve this, we have to raise the income of the workers. I believe that tipping culture is effective in solving this problem. It's still under development, but it's a system where at each store, the customer scans a QR code and gives a tip to the employee. You can raise the hourly wage and improve service. The store manager doesn't have to be called, and it will be possible to increase regular customers. I think it will lead to a triple win. I would like to create a setting where customers can convey various messages to the staff and create new ideas.

Lastly, please give us your message to APU students.

As I said earlier, nothing is a failure in the long run. I want you to do activities that make use of what you have learned at APU. Also, always think about the future. Look up further and further. It's "Tenku Thought." I want you to see your vision without being swept away by others. I myself used a lot of the knowledge I gained from my part-time job, such as the importance of hospitality and cleaning, morning meetings, and speaking out, when I started my business in Taiwan. So, keep your vision firmly based on the knowledge you have gained from experience.

Loop.A.S. Interviewer

Name:Moeka Sunada
Hello! I am Moeka Sunada, a 2nd year APS student. I like listening to music. Through the activities of Loop.A.S., I would like to grow myself with people. Nice to meet you!


The name says it all: student Organizations Loop.A.S. main goals are to connect APU alumni and the current students and to make chances for APU students through a variety of activities and events. And their activities are for both Alumni and Students. They work with the APU Alumni Association to create opportunities for alumni and students that they can meet, share knowledge, and gain better understanding of life after APU/in APU. The Student Blog posts interviews with alumni conducted by Loop.A.S.

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