The Choice — A Conference to Empower Japanese Women & Give Them More Choices!

In late November 2018, I had the great fortune to attend the 1st ever Choice Network Conference in Tokyo about women’s empowerment, personal branding, and entrepreneurship. For half a day, I listened to top women in various industries such as the Chief Editor of a popular women’s magazine — Oggi, a female founder of a Women’s Empowerment Consulting Company in Japan, the General Manager of LVMH Group, and the Founder of the Choice Network.

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An Outstanding Example of Overcoming Insurmountable Odds to Create a Thriving Business

An Interview with Female Founder, Sachiko Okamoto

Seamlessly switching back-and-forth between Japanese and English, Sachiko Okamoto and I had a delightful conversation in a vibrant room filled with captivating books, games, and pen pal letters. The founder of Willpower Learning Institute — an English School with more than 100 students and 4 teachers in Kameoka, Kyoto Prefecture — Sachiko truly adores her job!

Due to her kindness, passion for the role of teaching, and devoted attention to her students, Sachiko's students have stayed by her side, wherever she was teaching, for over 13 years. And even some of the children of her previous students, are now attending her school. Although Sachiko ran into many obstacles along the way, everything led to her current success and fundamental happiness with the way her life turned out!

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How This Female Entrepreneur Plans to Change the World

If I only had one word to describe her, I would use — visionary! Yes, it's a cliché, especially when attributed to entrepreneurs, but there's no better word than this, to describe Mariko Fukui.

Currently, Mariko is the Founder and CEO of Aalto International —a global branding and public relations company. With a number of accomplishments already under her belt (i.e. CEO by the age of 25, learned English on the job in Singapore, has traveled to over 20 countries, etc.), Mariko has now set her sights on creating the world's first global sustainability solutions platform.

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Let's Bring on the Sunshine & Positivity!

I. Why Do You Blog?

Originally, I built my website as a portfolio of what I planned to accomplish, if I were fortunate enough to earn the Monbukagakusho MEXT Scholarship. Fortunately, I did receive the scholarship, and decided to make this an online resource for Japanese women who are thinking about starting their own business. And now, it's evolved into a collection of inspirational stories of Japanese female entrepreneurs, plus my musings of living abroad as an expat in Kyoto!

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A Captivating Role Model for Future Female Entrepreneurs in Japan

On a sunny day in Tokyo, I visited Kazuyo Saka's high-end women's fashion store called Kana. A warm, sociable, social-media friendly Japanese entrepreneur, Kazuyo struck me as a woman I could truly look up to as an inspirational role model.

Kazuyo always had a profound love for fashion, and quickly began working for a small design company right after finishing school, similar to entrepreneur Yukiko Yamamoto. While there, she developed a keen sense of discovering high-quality and inexpensive raw materials, and finessed her design skills.

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Why This Professional Networking Service is Excelling in Japan

Confident. Transparent. And approachable. These are the 3 words that I would use to quickly describe Akiko Naka, founder of Wantedly — the game-changing, professional networking service in Japan that offers two unique services.

One, Wantedly allows candidates who are interested in a particular company to visit the offices of the potential employer — a highly unusual service in Japan. Two, Wantedly’s mission is to create: “A world where work meets passion.”

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How This Female Founder Spearheaded Innovative Kimono Accessory Designs

A stunning, fashionable, light-hearted, and fun woman, Yukiko Yamamoto happily shared her personal trajectory. Now at the age of 67, she runs a design studio for kimono accessories called 紅小梅 (べにこうめ)・京都 (きょうと) in Kyoto and Shanghai with 4 full-time employees. Yukiko creates custom-made and personalized goods for her customers based on their wishes.

Fundamentally optimistic and warm, you would never guess that Yukiko has overcome betrayal and embezzlement of a former employee, surmounted huge piles of debt, and been the target of constant gossip. But she has

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Harue’s High-end Women’s Fashion Store in Kyoto

Meet Harue — a unique, captivating, and extremely warm individual. She’s different. She’s fashionable. And she’s strong! Over the course of multiple meetings including a dinner and a few visits to her store, I got to know this remarkable woman.

Launching her first store at the young age of 21 in Aichi Prefecture and running that business for 12 years, Harue has now been overseeing a high-end women’s fashion business in Kyoto called Hodge Podge for the past 18 years.

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A Calming & Creative Twist to a Centuries Old Tradition

Graceful. Elegant. And mired in tradition. These were my three takeaways from my visit with Atsuko Mori at Camellia — the founder of a traditional tea ceremony experience, geared towards foreigners in Kyoto. Atsuko started her company a mere 3 years ago, and already plans on expanding to a new location within the next year. 

Now with a steady business under her belt with 13 people working for her, all of whom are women, Atsuko is conducting more PR and making more time for herself. She recently appeared on television, was featured on Facebook Japan’s #SheMeansBusiness to promote female founders, created a video on how to make matcha tea, and married a man from the UK

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Pioneering Female Founder from the Japanese Tech Scene

Towards the end of 2016, I wrapped up my final interview of the year with Japanese female entrepreneur Chika Tsunoda, a Keio University graduate — one of the top business universities in Japan. Within a mere 40 minutes, I learned about her views on what makes an entrepreneur successful in Japan and the best advice she ever received.

In 2013 at the age of 28, Chika Tsunoda began her Anytimes technology business with neither a background in technology, nor programming friends. As such, she started from humble beginnings of crowdsourcing employees in order to create exactly what she wanted — an online skill share platform to connect users who need services such as housecleaning or cooking with local talent. 

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The Most Important Factor to Become a World-Class Organization // Defined

World-class organizations are those that strive on a daily basis to make a positive impact on the lives of others, no matter how large. As such, the most important factor in order to become a world-class organization is the company’s leadership, as demonstrated by Google, Wantedly, and Kyocera.

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Breaking Stereotypes —  A Young Foreign Mother & Female Founder in Japan

Impressive. Inspiring. And invigorating! These were the words I immediately felt while speaking to amazing female entrepreneur  —  Omima M. Miki, or “Mimi” for short. Currently, her task list is larger than most Japanese サラリーマンor “salary men.” One of her latest initiatives is planning and launching an “温泉と旅館” or a Japanese-style hotel paired with a relaxing onsen spa and delectable Japanese-style food.

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Introducing Japanese Female Entrepreneur — Emi Takemura Miller of Peatix.com & FutureEdu Tokyo

Recently, I interviewed an incredible female founder, Emi Takeumura Miller. We spoke about everything ranging from the advantages of starting a female entrepreneurship to the importance of sharing your vision with everyone you meet. Not only did she co-found Peatix.com, a mobile-focused event platform, but she also co-founded FutureEdu Tokyo, an education-based community, and co-hosted Unreasonable Labs Japan, a 5-day, hyper-accelerator to give Japan-based, social entrepreneurships an “unfair advantage to scale and succeed.” Most recently, Emi spoke at TEDxRoppongi to encourage more young female participation in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math).

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Wisdom from Founder of Women 2.0 — Shaherose Charania

In a brand new co-working space called Galvanize in SOMA, San Francisco, I was fortunate enough to meet the founder of Women 2.0 — Shaherose Charania.

For those who don’t know, Women 2.0 is one of the most impressive organizations that can safely say its made a difference in the lives of 55,000 women who attended its 500 events in 25 different cities around the world — eight of which I have personally volunteered for and attended. In addition, a whopping 5,000 articles were posted by female entrepreneurs on the Women 2.0 website. Beyond events and articles, the organization has empowered over 100 women to start pre-seed companies with people they met at one of the events.

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Introducing Kanoko Oishi, Founder of Mediva — Making a Positive Impact in the Healthcare World

A down-to-earth female entrepreneur with quite an accomplished background, Kanoko Oishi received her BA at Osaka University before earning her MBA at Harvard. Through Harvard’s network, she also met and inspired Kay Deguchi, the founder of Ochanomizu Orthopaedic Clinic.

Upon graduating Harvard, Kanoko Oishi joined McKinsey consulting company and worked there for 12 years. Her role focused on how companies can make themselves more customer-oriented. Incredibly dedicated to her work, and highly intelligent, she quickly rose to the role of partner.

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Introducing Yuka Fujii, Founder of Famarry — The Premier Platform for Discovering & Meeting the Best Photographers!

A young, captivating, and highly intelligent woman, Yuka Fujii is the founder of a uniquely positioned startup. Famarry blends the words “family” and “marriage” to capture the heart of the business idea. An online platform that matches couples with their ideal wedding and family photographer, Famarry’s mission is to help couples realize their vision for their ideal wedding and family photography.

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Introducing Kay Deguchi, Owner of Ochanomizu, an Innovative Orthopedic Rehab Center – Part 2

As this is Part II of a wonderful interview with Kay Deguchi, please refer to Part I before reading Part II.

A second life lesson she shared with me was the fact that our time is running shorter by every second.

Steve Jobs once said, “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.”  

Our days pass by, so it’s up to us to actively participate in life. So why not live life to the fullest, instead of complaining all the time? It’s our call.

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Introducing Kay Deguchi, Owner of Ochanomizu, an Innovative Orthopedic Rehab Center – Part 1

This interview was so juicy with phenomenal content that I ended up splitting it into two parts. In this first blog post, I will introduce her and her chosen field, as well as share a life lesson that she imparted on me. Enjoy Part I! Skip ahead to Part II, if you want to read abut the advice she shares to female entrepreneurs

Kay Deguchi, owner of Ochanomizu Orthopoedic Clinic — an innovative rehab center, is an exceptional entrepreneur.  With over a decade of experience in pharmaceuticals, medicine, medical devices, and even media companies such as Disney, Kay is extremely knowledgeable and brings a diverse set of skills to her chosen field of interest

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Introducing Mariko Fukui, CEO at Aalto International — a Global Branding & PR Firm!

On a routine day at Kyoto University, I met with one of the most fascinating and driven entrepreneurs I have ever met. Not only is she an incredibly warm individual, but Mariko Fukui has accomplished a tremendous amount in her mere 28 years of life – the highlight being Aalto International, the company she launched at the age of 25. Before we get to her current endeavors, let’s take a look at her journey. 

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