Business Startup and Survival in Tough Times November 17 Event Recap

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FEW’s November meeting looked at Business Startup and Survival in Tough Times with emphasis on Unconventional Success Stories from Japan. We are normalizing and shining a spotlight on all the Unconventional Journeys that pioneering women are constantly leading and our amazing panelists and community shared their experiences to help us create our own business and success stories.

Meet the Panelists

Lauren Shannon comes from a background of entrepreneurial business development in the content writing, travel, technology, food/beverage and hospitality industries. She is a partner and General Manager of Arigato Japan Travel, a culinary tourism company in Japan. From 2014-2016, Lauren was the content and community director for Odigo Japan, a travel planning/ itinerary building and sharing website and iOS application. She previously launched her own creative agency “True Taste Tokyo – Stories from Japan.” The agency was focused on social media, and content marketing for small creative travel and other businesses based in Japan, especially those run by women. Lauren is a Pennsylvania native but has lived in Japan for over 25 years. She is an avid traveler, reader, writer and creator of projects, her Arigato Japan partners nicknamed her the Arigato Japan CoMT “chief of many things” 

Lisa M. Hunsberger is a full-time lecturer at a university in Fukuoka Prefecture. She has an MA in linguistics and has been teaching in the field of language and linguistics for over 15 years. Lisa has taught at The University of the West Indies and The University of Technology in Jamaica, at a high school on the outskirts of Paris, and at every level in Japan from kindergarten to university and professionals to retirees. Thanks to her creative designs and unique use of presentation software in her classes, workshops, and conference presentations, Lisa has become known in English teaching circles for her engaging and eye-catching presentations. She has since combined this skill with her love of public speaking and video editing to create educational videos on the Jamaican language on YouTube.

Thanks to the encouragement of family, friends, and colleagues, Lisa turned her pastime into a business in December 2020 by registering it in Japan. Its name, YaadPikni, is comprised of ‘Yaad’ – a name Jamaicans affectionately call the island of Jamaica  and ‘Pikni’ – meaning ‘child’. Lisa offers presentation design, video editing, and private one-on-one lessons through her business, and she has worked with clients in various fields in Asia, Europe, and North America. Occasionally, she also offers free basic workshops for persons looking to improve their presentation design skills.

Establishing your Business

Our panelists shared how they found their niche in their business and why they decided to enter this segment of the market. Natural talent and passion led them to establish their particular businesses and rather than being a generalist in their businesses they realized that the best way to unlock the deeper mysteries and connections in Japan was through a specific theme and interacting with people who have the same passions. It is important to find your niche so that your business stands out and attracts your ideal clients.

We also discussed the resources that are useful in business start-up support. Our panelists emphasized that the most important thing is to ask questions, do research, join communities and get mentors and don’t be afraid to ask for help.There is a lot of information that you can learn from people around you. There is no one resource or tool for starting your business but just approach everyday of your business and your life with a very curious lifelong learning attitude. The people around you are the most important resource, so surround yourself with professional communities relevant to your business to get the support you need. 

Key Takeaways in Starting a Business

  1. Be patient with the process of registering your company, it may differ depending on what type of company you are starting
  2. When registering your company don’t limit yourself to the business you want to do now, you can also list other businesses that you may want to do in the future
  3. You can start small and work from home if possible to cut on costs till you grow your business.

Cultural difference between Japanese and non-Japanese clients in terms of successful or unsuccessful negotiations

We need to try to work between the differences in negotiation. For example Lauren shared that in their business, inbound travelers expect flexible schedules, reservations and start times and local partners do not work well with lots of changes, cancellations or last minute requests, therefore there is need to find a balance in these differences. A lot of relationships in Japan are not monetary transactions but are relationship transactions. There are a lot of things that are more important in business relationships other than money. When negotiating, make sure it’s a win for everyone, don’t disadvantage your business and at the same time don’t disadvantage your client. Culture and language barriers can also hinder business negotiations but it is workable if you find common ground.

Tips and advice for beginners to make successful business strategies during hard times?

  1. Stay focused on your business and passion, don’t waver when times get tough
  2. Use the support that you get from colleagues, friends and family to motivate you to continue pushing forward
  3. Starting your business in tough times is good for you as you develop strong skills to tackle the challenges and these skills will keep you going for many years to come
  4. Be kind to yourself and be empathetic to your situation, don’t let tough times discourage you
  5. Act fast and try to find solutions to your problems quickly
  6. Be open to trial and error
  7. Choose the best team you can even if it’s just one partner
  8. Hire for diversity in skills and background
  9. If something is not working make the tough call and make a change quickly
  10. Shoot your shot in all situations, be confident in your skills and put yourself out there
  11. Don’t be afraid to ask, no doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world and that no can change to a yes in the future, so always put yourself out there

Many thanks to our panelists, Lauren Shannon and Lisa M. Hunsberger for sharing their inspirational stories, experiences and helping us learn more about establishing our businesses and navigating tough times successfully. Thank you to Program co-Director Viktoriya Shirota for organizing the panel and to Program Director Léa Perceval, for moderating this event. Special thanks to our FEW Japan community who showed up for this event to learn more about establishing their business and creating their own success stories.