Finding the Inner Entrepreneur in Japan
This article is a part of the photo essay series Women of FEW, introducing FEW Members to one another and beyond. For more personal stories from expat women, click here.
by Tanja Kinnen
Before moving to Japan with my husband, I was working as a marketing manager in Luxembourg, my home country. I probably would have pursued that career path, if we had stayed. However, when we relocated to Tokyo through my husband’s company, I soon realized that finding a similar job might be difficult. A couple of months of applications and job interviews without success proved that I needed to become creative.
Being an active person and my professional career being important to me, I couldn’t imagine myself being a housewife or waiting for a perfect job to come around. Throughout the next two and a half years I switched jobs and activities a couple of times before finding my perfect fit.
I first started to work as a private English teacher, but after a few months switched to Berlitz and became a German and French teacher. I stayed on for a year, but realized that even though teaching was something I liked, it wouldn’t keep me satisfied for long. Thus I moved on to study Intercultural Communication at Waseda University.
Having five years of professional experience in my pocket, the studies turned out to be very theoretical with little application to the business side of things. At the same time, I found out that I was pregnant, and thus took a semester off to focus on our new family addition.
Three months into being a new mom, I heard that Mom in Balance Tokyo, a young startup that offers workouts, specifically designed for pregnant women, postpartum and beyond, was looking for a new owner. I felt immediately that this could be it – I got a good friend on board as my business partner and applied. We got selected and have now run the business for almost a year with as much enthusiasm as in the first hour.
Being an entrepreneur has its challenges, but it also offers a lot of flexibility, which is fantastic when you have a small child. You can adjust your schedule easier compared to working as an employee. However, it also means that you are never really “off” work and somehow you always think about the business. Still, with all the pros and cons, being an entrepreneur with Mom in Balance Tokyo is fun, fulfilling and it fills me with happiness – I feel that I have found my “thing” at last!
Looking back at my personal and professional journey in Tokyo, I realize that FEW has always been a part of it. I got involved with FEW quite shortly after my arrival in Tokyo when a friend told me about the association. I became a regular member in my first year and later served in the FEW Board of Directors for two years. After leaving the board, I am still a member of FEW and also a FEW Sponsor with our company.
The FEW community, with its members from all over the world and different personal and professional backgrounds, has been a huge inspiration along the way and a great resource for ideas, knowledge, and connections. FEW introduced me to a lot of women in similar positions, pursuing their careers and running their own businesses. I feel that the community supported me in daring to become an entrepreneur in a country that is far away from home. Most probably, this remains something I wouldn’t have done if I had stayed back home.
Women of FEW is a photo essay project that aims to share inspiring and powerful stories of our diverse Members through text and photos. This project is done in collaboration with our Sponsor, TopTia Photography. Are you and FEW Member and interested in sharing your story? Please contact our Sponsorship Director at sponsorship[at]fewjapan.com for more information.