How Serial Entrepreneur Sachiko Maruyama Finds Drive to Stretch Herself

Oct. MM 2018

Concentrate on What You Are Good At

At our 2018 October Monthly Meeting we welcomed Sachiko Maruyama, a serial entrepreneur and a founder of Global Women’s Association (GWA), to share her insights on stretching yourself and venturing out to the unknown.

Sachiko Maruyama started her career in a traditional Japanese company at the beginning of the 1980’s. At that time, Japanese companies expected women to work only a couple of years before they got married, and thus women employees weren’t even given business cards. Women also had to do all kinds of odd office tasks: prepare and deliver paper agendas for the meetings, as well as serve tea – and besides all that to get their actual work done.

“Male employees were assigned an assistant, but women employees didn’t have that perk. I had to work overtime everyday to finish my work,” Maruyama recalled.

However, Maruyama decided to endure – “ishi no ue demo 3 nen”, or “even if you are just sitting on a stone for 3 years” in English, has been her motto since young adulthood.

Opportunities Abroad

Her perseverance paid off. Under a new boss in the Planning & Advertisement Department, she got an opportunity to manage a marketing budget and do business trips abroad, which wasn’t possible for many women in those days. Then, she got married and moved to Germany for her husband’s job.

I thought I wanted to be a rich housewife, but after a while I realized that I need to be independent. There were not many who could translate both Japanese and German, and I saw it as a chance. After three years of study, a small Japanese company hired me as their interpreter.

Sachiko Maruyama

However, interpreting turned out not to be her ideal job. She decided to study accounting and become an accountant. Flying back to Japan for the rigid accounting exams, Maruyama managed to get her license, and after returning from Germany she opened an accounting office.

Ventures to the Unknown

After six years, Maruyama realized that running an established business wasn’t for her, and she stretched herself again. It was year 1999, and internet was becoming a big thing. She started her own IT-company, even though she had no experience in the field.

“In business it’s most important to find the right people to work with. I’m good at creating new, but not so good at growing the business. Thus, I hire people to run the business for me, so that I can venture out to new areas”, she explained.

That is what Maruyama has indeed been doing. She started GWA, a network for globally-minded Japanese women to share their experiences and support each other. Inspired by the members of the network, she once again decided to go abroad a couple of years ago. The beauty salon business in Johor Bahru in Malaysia is doing well, and now she is looking for new opportunities in Sri Lanka.

“When starting a new business, you need to go in the country and meet the local business people to find the key people. You start small, order business cards from someone, water from someone else…This is how you get to know who to trust, and they start to trust you”, Maruyama said.

My policy is to try everything for three years. However, if it doesn’t work out in three years, don’t waste your time. If you cannot achieve the goal, it’s better to change the goal. It’s not your goal. It’s a goal for others.

Sachiko Maruyama

FEW wants to thank Sachiko Maruyama for an inspiring talk. Many members were sure to get invaluable hints on how to drive their business in Japan, an unknown and foreign market to many of them.