MIAMI (CBS4) – As many in South Florida struggle with unemployment and businesses struggle just to survive, one Miami company with a ‘big heart’ is success not just for its owner but for those who work there.

But things weren’t always so good for George Yap, the founder of Leasa; a Liberty City company which grows and sells bean sprouts along with Tofu, noodles and vegetables. Yap started the company in 1977 on money he borrowed. He lost $30 thousand in the first four months. But over the years, his company grew and so did their business. Last year, they set a company record with nearly $9 million in sales.

Yap said Leasa was his second chance – he lost everything when he fled Jamaica in 1976. Today he’s known in the neighborhood as the man who gives second chances. A second chance was just what Hasiel Gonzalez was looking for after he served time in prison for drug trafficking and racketeering.

“It felt good, like no one else gave me that chance, so I feel grateful for Leasa,” said Gonzalez.

“I say to them when I give a job ‘I don’t care what you did before. When you walk through my door, clean sheet. Could be murderer, bank robber, you walk through door, clean sheet, you start your life here’,” said Yap.

Yap’s son Andrew, who is the company’s chief operating officer, said they could have put in automated machines to pack the Tofu but that would have put some of their people out of work.

“You have to have a heart. That’s what my dad taught me. When he came here and gave people second chances, that’s what we have done and why we have had long term success,” said Andrew Yap.

Ninety five percent of the company’s 70 employees are African-America. Many, like former welfare recipient Bernadine Ellison, have worked for Leasa for years.

“I like this place and I love George Yap,” said Ellison.

Leasa is one of the largest growers, manufacturers, processors and packers of healthy food products across the Southeastern United States. Leasa brand products are distributed to various retail locations throughout Florida, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee, The Caribbean and Alaska.

Comments (6)
  1. Lisa Barquist says:

    Thank you, Shannon Hori, for highlighting people and companies in our community who forego some profit so that their empployees can remain employed. During these challenging economic times, many people have difficulty finding honest employment, especially those who have paid their penance in prison and are need of a “second chance.” Hopefully, your story will inspire other employers to follow the example set by George and Andrew Yap and LEASA Industries.

  2. Stephanie says:

    This is such a great article. Andrew Yap was my Marketing professor at FIU. I’m glad to hear he is just as great in his career as COO as he is in the classroom at FIU. GO YAP!!!

  3. Ron says:

    Great article about a family run business and a great guy.

  4. Alen says:

    I had the honor of meeting Mr. George Yap and he is as real as they come. He possesses a rare combination of wit, charm, determination, and compassion.

  5. Lisa says:

    It is a great article, video and a great man. He is gving people second chances and happiness. We need more people like George Yap, helping the community and making great food.

  6. j. shepard says:

    George Yap is a good man. We can learn a lot from him – he’s now a millionaire, but still the humble guy who saw a niche and saw where he could make money help people too. And those in power would be wise to read what his son Andrew said too – automation would have caused them to retrench staff. It probably have meant more money in the long run in their pockets too – but the human being mattered more, so they kept people employed. It would be wise for some of the industrial giants to put aside the immediate bottom line and save jobs for those who will be able, because they are employed, to buy their products. Continued good luck to the Yap family.


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Watch & Listen LIVE