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Kenneth Valvur

Founder & Chairman, Founder & President, Bento Sushi, Ontario Spring Water Sake Company, Toronto, Canada

Tell us about your current role and responsibilities.

I currently wear two hats: Founder and Chairman of Bento Sushi, Canada’s largest sushi company which applies the Japanese style of lunch to a North American setting, and Founder and President of Ontario Spring Water Sake Company, eastern North America’s first sake brewery. At Bento my role is one of strategy and senior oversight of a company with about 2,000 employees and associates; at the brewery I manage day-to-day operations with a team of eight.

Why did you choose Thunderbird? 

Prof. James Mills’ book on international activities of Canadian banks put Thunderbird on my map, then I checked it out and loved what I saw. Professor Mills was a Thunderbird Professor for many years.  

How has your Thunderbird experience played a role in your career?

Thunderbird’s language requirement gave me the opportunity to learn Japanese, which I thought would be useful in finding an international finance job since Japanese capital was playing a large role in markets at that time. I had never even tasted sushi at that point, but the decision to study Japanese totally changed my life! I spent my last semester at Thunderbird’s sister program at the Institute for International Studies and Training in Japan. Then, while working for the capital markets group of a large Canadian bank, I spent most of my time abroad—including four years in Japan. While living in London I realized that the Japanese take-out food I enjoyed while in Tokyo (sushi, bento boxes, etc.) was starting to take off there. So, I left the bank and returned to Canada to start Bento Sushi.

How has being a T-bird affected your personal life? 

To this day I enjoy friendships with fellow T-Birds, people I met while in Japan and more recently people serving on Thunderbird Executive Leadership Committee (TELC). 

What does the Thunderbird mystique mean to you?  

I believe it is the bond between people who are both internationalist and entrepreneurial and chose Thunderbird to help realize their dreams.

What advice would you give to someone considering Thunderbird?  

If you are serious about wanting to live and work abroad, Thunderbird is your ticket. With the opportunities created by Thunderbird, you will have many lifelong options for interesting and profitable work.

The global friendships, relationships and work experience you gain via Thunderbird are very unique and energizing. This is an energy that can only be found at Thunderbird.

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