April 2016 Women’s Start-Up Club: Outsourcing, Hiring, Partnering and Firing

By Marie Mortreux, Public Relations and Communications Intern

The April Women’s Start-Up Club meeting addressed some common problems faced by women after starting their own business. Outsourcing, hiring, partnering and firing are at the heart of decision making when having one’s own business.

Three female business owners came to share their experiences in relation to outsourcing, hiring, partnering and firing. First was Donna Burke, founder of Dragmusic talent agency and exporter of heat pads who has lived in Japan for 20 years. Our second guest was Laura Marushima, a virtual assistant to well-known independent entrepreneurs in Tokyo who built her business based on personal and professional connections and word of mouth. Third was Yoko Majima, an independent immigration lawyer and one of the founders and organizers of the Women’s Start-Up Club. The panel was moderated by Sarah Everitt Furuya who also works for herself as a personal coach and facilitator as well as being a strategic partner of FEW.

The three women emphasized the importance of building up a network of trusted colleagues and connections when beginning a business. This will be even more valuable when it comes to outsourcing as your business grows.

Here is a sampling of their answers during the panel:

What was the point when you felt you needed help?
“I had been struggling very much with my Japanese, bookkeeping and doing my taxes. When I came to a point where I felt sick of doing something, I realized it was time to outsource. It’s very much about whether you have the persistence to run your own business. As with childbearing, there will be hard times, but also a lot of joy that comes from building one’s own business. You need to have lust and also should know when it’s become necessary to outsource and accept that you cannot do everything on your own. You have to ask yourself, what are the drivers of your business? Just make sure you have the legal and financial basis necessary even if it’s not the fun part of your business. You’ll also have to learn to say no and put you and your business first.” – Donna

Is it possible to avoid a lawsuit by carefully drafting a contract?
“To a certain extent, yes, but there are some limits to a contract. It cannot protect you 100 percent. It’s better to really try finding someone you can trust before even entering into a contract. Going to court is a hassle and should be considered as a last resort.” – Yoko

What are the legal aspects of having an intern?

  • Typically a two-month minimum internship, but no fixed period of a time.
  • No rules binding an internship.
  • A minimum salary of usually 900 yen/hour.
  • If you’re not going to pay an intern, you may be able to provide accommodation, transport or travel.
  • Interns on a tourist visa cannot receive a salary, but allowances for food, accommodation, transport, etc.

What are the most efficient ways of hiring someone suitable for a position?

  • Disk Profile  You can actually tell if the person is forward or being dishonest.
  • Phone Interviews – If you like someone on the phone, it’s likely you’ll like them in real life.
  • In-person Interviews – Multiple interviews with different interviewers (two to three).
  • Lunch  Inviting the interviewee to meet you for a lunch is a good way of figuring out other skills, such as social aptitude.

How can you terminate a collaboration?
“If you start thinking of one of your employees on your way back home and wondering whether they fit within your company, it’s time to let them go. When firing a person, it’s important to be straightforward but kind in order to preserve their dignity.” Donna

What are some of the financial and contractual responsibilities when hiring somebody?

  • If you have less than five employees, you can be exempted from providing them with insurance, pension, etc. if you state it clearly in their contract. Many people hire part-time staff to get around this contractual obligation.
  • You can have a period of three months probation. This doesn’t apply for interns.
  • You can renew a contract one month before. If a contract is renewed more than two times in five years it will have to become a full-time contract.
  • The terms of the employment contract cannot exceed three years, unless it’s unlimited.

How can you find clients for your business?
“I am limited with the hours I can work per month as I also have to take care of my children. As a result, I choose my clients carefully and outsource if I cannot take the workload.”  Laura

Websites and Other Resources:


Q&A with Jackie F. Steele and Megumi Ishimoto

Leading up to our upcoming monthly meeting on ‘Celebrating Women as Change Agents in Post-Disaster Tohoku,’ we’re featuring a Q&A with Jackie F. Steele, a political scientist at the University of Tokyo, and Megumi Ishimoto, Executive Director of NPO Women’s Eye. The Q&A is modeled on the Proust Questionnaire, designed to reveal insights into the respondent’s personality. Join us […]

Published on 14th March 2018

March Strategic Partner Member Offers and Other News

Check out the latest member offers and opportunities from our Strategic Partners here! Our Strategic Partners are committed to bringing the best services and products to FEW members. And go to our Strategic Partners page to learn more about all of FEW’s Strategic Partners, who not only support FEW’s activities but also provide professional and personal services […]

Published on 1st March 2018

February Meeting Recap: Survivor – How to Overcome Adversity

You never know where life is going to take you. That was the message from our February guest speaker, Maxine Van-Cliffe Arakawa, who has had a decades-long career as a fashion stylist, make-up artist, and fashion show director in New York and Japan. She shared her personal experiences dealing with bi-polar disorder and gave her candid advice to […]

Published on 1st March 2018

March Community Services Feature: Five Tokyo-Based Organizations That Fight For or Empower Women

In honor of March’s International Women’s Day, we’d like to present to our FEW community a list of five organizations that have established themselves as organizations who fight for or empower women as well as a list of five events that you can attend to show your support for this year’s theme of #PressFor Progress. […]

Published on 28th February 2018

How I Got Here: Johanna Nousiainen

I first came to Japan as a study abroad exchange student. That year changed my life, even though at first I didn’t know it would. I was supposed to become a journalist in Finland, since that was what I loved to do – looking for information, interviewing people, writing articles about unique encounters you have. […]

Published on 28th February 2018