September 2014 FEW Meeting Recap: What Starting a Business Taught Female Business Owners -Lessons, Inspirations and Insights from Six Different Industries

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Recap: “What Starting a Business Taught Female Business Owners: Lessons, Inspirations and Insights from Six Different Industries”
FEW Meeting September 13, 2014

Panelists: Elana Gilbert, Joanne Pascual, Melanie Uematsu, Megumi Moss, Sophie Wang, Yoko Majima  

By Helen Lewis, FEW Special Events Director  

To kick off the 2014-2015 FEW year, we welcomed six highly inspirational female small business owners from six very different industries – fashion design, law, recruiting, event management, childcare services, beauty – to our September meeting for a panel discussion on the lessons they have learned during the process of building their business. All at various stages of their journey, their stories provided inspiration and insight applicable not only to those women looking to embark on entrepreneurship, but also to any woman working towards realizing their dream.  Some powerful themes emerged from the panel discussion. The following are some notes and quotes around them.

IMG_2292Self belief

  • Trust yourself even when different and sometimes contradictory views surround you.
  • Have fun, you’re doing it because you love what you do. Get some help and have fun
  • Be honest with who you are and you’ll attract the right people.


  • Go the the bank to find out how much money is available before making your plan
  • Put your goals somewhere you can see them every day.
  • Consider going freelance first before setting up totally alone.


  • In Japan there are various subsidies. Many options for small businesses and it is pretty easy to get hands on them.
  • Don’t chase the money, let money chase you
  • Don’t undercut yourself as this signals a lack of confidence. Charge the right amount for the market.

IMG_2291Self-care and network

  • Exercise
  • Make time to see friends – non negotiable
  • Get over fear of being a ‘winger’ just be honest with friends about challenges you face
  • Go drinking

The benefits of flying solo

  • Flexibility to take time off with daughter to spend with family overseas for a month over new year – this would be unheard of in old job.
  • ‘Staying up working until midnight for yourself  isn’t the same as when you’re doing it for someone else’


  • ‘Really believe in what you’re starting.  You’ll need to be patient.
  • If you believe you’ll try a bit longer’

Pick and chose your clients as they affect your working life.

Thank you to all the panelists for sharing your inspiration and thought-provoking insights, and to all attendees for your questions and active participation.


Elana GilbertElana Gilbert: Founder, Elana Jade (FEW Strategic Partner)
After traveling to Japan in 2008, Elana fell in love with Tokyo and decided to return with a plan to open a beauty salon in Azabu Juban, Elana Jade. With years of experience as a beauty therapist and careful business planning, Elana was able to make the business a success and Elana Jade is now enjoying it’s 5th year. During this time, Elana also opened a health and fitness club with her brother and husband, Club 360, where she hopes to achieve the same success.

Joanne PascualJoanne Pascual: Event Organizer, Fusion Dance Peformer / Instructor at Deseos Inc.
Joanne is the Co-Founder and CEO of Deseos Inc., a dance production company based in Japan. She is also a dance artist and instructor, performing and teaching regularly in the Tokyo area. Since 2009, Joanne has been striving to spotlight the growing dance scene in Tokyo, and bringing all kinds of dancers together through education and performance. She is also the proud organizer of Tokyo International Bellydance Competition, which is held yearly, and has hosted numerous well-known dancers worldwide.

Melanie UematsuMelanie Uematsu: Fashion Designer and Founder, Sewing Circle
Melanie Uematsu is a German fashion designer, living in Tokyo. She has been working in Tokyo since 2002 for Tsumori Chisato and Uniqlo as a designer, and was the Art Director and PR Manager for all international affairs at Design Tshirt stores graniph and Jurgen Lehl.

When her daughter was born, she decided to turn freelance. To pass on her creative experience in fashion design, she started to teach sewing classes, patternmaking and tailoring in December 2010 and opened her studio in Oyamadai one year later in 2011. Since then she is welcoming a wonderful international clientele of men and women who live in Tokyo and are interested to learn sewing and to realize their own design ideas.

Beside her classes, she works for professional and start-up fashion brands and creates patterns and first production samples (mock-up’s). Furthermore she offers an order made service for interior, women’s, men’s and kid’s wear, as well as fine tailoring for evening gowns and wedding dresses.

Megumi MossMegumi Moss: President & CEO, CareFinder (FEW Member & 2014-2015 Finance Director)
Originally from Shiga, Megumi Moss has lived in London and has travelled extensively throughout the globe. She moved to Tokyo in 2002 and from 2003 started working at the business planning division at Sony and Sony Mobile communications. Throughout her career, Megumi saw her co-workers and friends struggle with balancing their work-life and family-life. Challenges that she was getting ready to face herself in the near future. Through observing her peers deal with these challenges Megumi realized there is not adequate childcare in Japan. Inspired by her experience, Megumi quit her job at Sony and founded CareFinder in May 2013, which connects eager babysitters and parents who are looking for care for families. Almost before the ink dried on the incorporation documents, Megumi had her first child, a baby girl. In May 2014, she launched CareFinder beta site to start the service. Megumi is also FEW’s new Finance Director this year.

Sophie WangSophie Wang: Director, Latitude People K.K. (FEW Member)
Currently Sophie manages Latitude People headquartered in Tokyo, sourcing top talents with Consulting, IT and Finance skillsets in the APAC markets.

Sophie has 13 years’ experience in the global executive search market. Prior to relocating to Tokyo to establish Latitude People in October 2010, she started her search and selection career in London recruiting talents for Japanese corporates based in Europe. She then moved on to the global energy and project finance specific search market and successfully placed mid to senior levels’ executives in Tokyo, London, Paris, Geneva, Singapore and Hong Kong.

Born in Taiwan and grew up in different parts for the world, Sophie is passionate about helping young professionals to develop a strategic and organic plan for their career growth. She is frequent guest speaker for MBA career planning events in Tokyo and London. At her leisure time, she enjoys Japanese tea ceremony and jazz.

2013_FEW_Director_Finance_Yoko.jpgYoko Majima:  Legal Advisor & Immigration Lawyer, Conseil juridique (FEW Member & Former Finance Director)
Yoko was born in Sapporo, Japan in 1974. She lived in Australia and France for one year each as an exchange student and studied French at Sophia University. Not being sure of what her career path would be, she kept changing jobs until the age 30, working for a fashion designer, then at a trading company importing French wine and food. She then got a job at the Permanent Mission of Japan to the International Organizations in Geneva, where she met an inspiring Japanese woman who was the only one among all the diplomats wives who followed their husbands to find a job as a lawyer in Geneva.

After returning to Tokyo, Yoko worked for the Trade Commission of the French Embassy in Japan and started doing her legal studies at the same time in the evening and on weekends. After successfully passed the examination and being qualified as a Gyosei Shoshi Lawyer, she wasn’t able to find a job in a law firm that she wanted to work for, so she decided to run her own legal practice to help foreigners with visa application and company registration in Japan while making the most of her extensive experience in international fields and language skills.

She thoroughly enjoys her work which allows her to meet many different people and to help them achieve what they truly want to do in their lives.