Lifelong Takeaways from the JMEC Program

Lifelong Takeaways Through JMEC Progra 2019

By Sabrina Hassanali

Why would you give up your weekends for about 8 months, commit 200+ hours of your time, and coordinate with a group of 3–4 other working professionals to prepare a business plan for an existing business? Why have over 1,300 people participated in the Japan Market Expansion Competition (JMEC) over the lifetime of the program? Read the takeaways from FEW participants and get ready for the 2019/20 class!

Based on the commitment required, JMEC could be a tough sell. However, most participants rave about their experiences. Past JMEC participants have made lifelong friends, expanded their business networks and connections, launched new careers, and developed applicable new skills.

The JMEC program, often called a ‘mini-MBA,’ includes theoretical and practical components. Participants begin in the late Fall with eight full Saturdays of interactive lectures covering marketing, finance, and doing business in Japan. Then, at the beginning of the next calendar year, JMEC participants enter a four and a half month “hands-on” component.  Participants are put into groups of 4-5 people and assigned the task of researching and writing a business plan for a selected JMEC client. The teams work on the weekends and evenings completing research and writing the plan. At the end of the process, each team submits their business plan and is required to give a 30-minute presentation before a panel of judges. The panelists comprise  prominent  Tokyo business people. Both the presentation and business plan are judged on realistic business criteria. 

The 25th JMEC program wrapped up on June 5, 2019, with an awards ceremony at the Tokyo American Club, where the winners received roundtrip tickets to Europe. Two-thirds of this year’s participants were women and 14 nationalities were represented in the entire JMEC class.

Check out JMEC’s article on this year’s winners here!

Strong ‘Team FEW’ Rocking the Class

Every year, FEW awards one full scholarship and three half scholarships to our members to support their participation in the program. This year, in addition to the four scholarship recipients, a couple of other FEW members also took part in JMEC.

FEW members comprised an ambitious and motivated bunch. During one of the finance lessons, all the participants were given a project called ‘The Lemonade Stand.’ They were asked to develop a plan for a profitable (yatai-style) stand selling lemonade and justify the financial assumptions represented in a finance spreadsheet. FEW Members formed one group and completed the project by coordinating their schedules over the winter holidays. In the end, “Team FEW”  presented the best justified hypothetical lemonade stand and won the competition.

The winning FEW Lemonade Stand Team, from left to right: Kyoko Nagano, Gizem Sakamaki, Lindsey Rogerson, Sabrina Hassanali, and Marisa Cassidy with Chuck Olson – a facilitator for the financials class.

Connecting with the Local Business Community

FEW asked the scholarship recipients for their thoughts on the JMEC program. Across the board, participants were  happy with their takeaways and achievements. According to our FEW members, the JMEC program is remarkable because of the support it has from the local business community. Expats, entrepreneurs, and professionals from various industries impart their valuable first-hand knowledge during the classes.

“It is a fantastic way to meet the business community in Japan. JMEC lecturers, participants, and supporters are happy to share their insights from hands-on experience.”

Sabrina Hassanali, who received the full FEW scholarship

“Our mentor and financial advisor were really important to our team. They helped us deliver a great product,” Gizem Sakamaki, who runs her own business in Japan, added.

Producing a business plan for actual businesses adds a real-life challenge where participants need to coordinate with their clients and team members. Navigating the quirks of Japanese markets can be a challenge, but the final business plans are used by JMEC clients to guide business strategy in Japan.

“Expect the unexpected. Regardless of the situation, the key is to get committed to the project.”

Kyoko Nagano, entrepreneur and Special Events Director at FEW

“Everyone in JMEC that I’ve talked to has had a powerful story of change throughout their careers, and I’ve become so inspired to take on something new,” Lindsay Rogerson summed up her takeaways from JMEC.

What is JMEC?

The Japan Market Expansion Competition (JMEC), often called a ‘mini-MBA,’ is a business training program in Japan designed to foster the development of foreign businesses (project clients) in Japan while strengthening the business skills of up-and-coming executives (participants).


Initiated by the Australian and New Zealand Chamber of Commerce in Japan in 1993, JMEC is based on the New South Wales Enterprise Workshop. Currently, the program is supported by 18 foreign chambers of commerce in Japan, including the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, Austria, Belgium, Luxembourg, Britain, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland (represented by Enterprise Ireland), Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, South Africa, Sweden, and Switzerland. The program also receives corporate sponsorship from members of the business community within Japan.

Scholarships Available for the 2019/20 Class!

FEW has partnered with JMEC to offer one full scholarship and two partial scholarships for FEW Members for the coming 2019/20 class! The scholarships are allocated on a first-come, first-serve basis.


  • Get more details on the JMEC website
  • Reach out to our Sponsorship Director at when you are ready to sign up.