Founded Startup Lady along with Canadian co-owner Amee. They interview inspiring female entrepreneurs and gather information in order to support other females who wish to start their own businesses.
Challenging the business on a stage set in Japan with a foreigners point of view.
Author for TACHIAGE women’s entrepreneur media. In his free time he enjoys having tea with his a lot of girl friends. Enthusiastic author full of girl power.
How did you meet?
What does Startup Lady usually do and what type of business model is it?
We provide total support for for female entrepreneurs in every aspect. Basically we offer networks and create international communities, so women can learn how to start new businesses.
Also, we interview successful women entrepreneurs and share their experiences to women who want to start their own businesses, so they know where and how to begin.
Our motto is to “Be the game changer”, which means “Let’s become independent women”. Our service has just been established and we are still just kind of feeling our way around.
What’s the best thing about co-founding this business?
Amee speaks English, and I speak Japanese. I think that is our strongest asset. Of course, we do have cultural differences, but we plan on combining them together to make us even stronger.
Different thoughts and backgrounds could definitely improve our service. Infact, I feel like that’s another one of our strongest assets.
What made you decide to work with Amee?
Right after I started the company, I met Amee. She told me that she’s planning on starting a business in Japan. She wanted to help out Canadians that want to start their businesses here, but she didn’t know the rules and regulations. I had some knowledge in that area, so I told her that I’d help her out.
It was difficult at first though, to help her out from my perspective, since I was Japanese.There are different rules that apply when foreigners start businesses here in Japan.
At the same time, I realized that this is exactly what women entrepreneurs face when starting their own businesses.
Then I thought, why don’t we support these women who are struggling with the same problems? I suggested Amee that we should do this project together, and we began by interviewing other female entrepreneurs.
What were you doing before this project started?
I founded a company that offered support for companies expanding into the overseas market. I also supported individuals who wanted to work abroad. At the same time, I created an educational app to match educators with students.
Before meeting Moeko, I worked 2 years in a sales position at an international corporation. In the summer of 2016 I decided to quit my job and start my own company in the IT field. Along with a few engineers, I started a company called Owlsome Reality, and we mainly focused on providing a virtual reality platform for businesses.
Don’t give up “because you are a female”.
What are some problems that women entrepreneurs have, just because they are females?
They all have many different problems, but for the majority of them, it is difficult to gain the understanding of their spouses. I once interviewed a woman who overcame this problem.
These issues seem to be exclusive to women, and I think it is wonderful that they overcome these obstacles and establish their own businesses.
When I see these women, it makes me realize that nothing is impossible and anything could happen. However, it is not easy. I would like to share these experiences with women who want to start their own businesses.
Have you had such experiences yourself?
There are special challenges, especially for Japan society. A lot of times there are certain expectations for japanese women to stay home, be in charge of child care. Because of this expectation, women trying to start their own business require a lot of support from their partners and other family members. Because of this difficulty, sometimes women chose not to do it because it’s maybe logistically impossible or their husbands are not supportive of it.
Another issue is the lack of information. Maybe their friends among them are not entrepreneurs. Its difficult to gather this information from your circle. Other people we’ve interviewed, for example a mom entrepreneur, she has two kids , and when she first started she didn’t tell her husband. She was going out late, coming home late, it pulled a string on her family until she finally said that she’s starting a new company. It was a difficult time for her, but she doesn’t regret it now because her husband fully supports her and her children see her as a role model, they see her as a working powerful woman who is pursuing her dreams.
By providing information on entrepreneurship, you are supporting the dreams of so many women. Are you planning on continuing this?
We don’t want to see women giving up just because they are women. We want to help eliminate any obstacles they have so they can strive for their goals.
We are the ones who can do that.
Hopefully maybe someday the support will spread out to Canada through Amee’s friends too.
I think so too. Actually, I would say US or Canada, such community for women exist much more than Japan. If we were to take this and make it a global network , I think there will be a lot of partnership and many communities would join us.
How different is the American and Japanese startup environment?
In the startup environment, there is a very big difference. I was staying in San Fran before coming to japan, San Fran is a place where there are so many startups and the environment is extremely supportive. Entrepreneurs are very well respected in that area. It’s mostly tech startup. Coming from that environment and coming to japan, when I first landed, I felt that there was at least a 3 year difference in term of dynamism and the environment and support, between Japan and San Francisco.
I was in San Francisco ten years ago too. Back then, I felt the environment was so supportive of women entrepreneurs. Ten years later, the female entrepreneur trend is finally starting in Japan.
The best part about the Japanese Canadian collaboration
I think the joint-management between two women from such different countries is extremely rare. How do you feel about your collaboration together?
Because our background, culture and language is so different, we have different business perspectives too. Of course, in a good way.
Amee speaks from a foreign business perspective, and I speak things in a Japanese point of view. By combining these, we are able to provide a both efficient and foreigner-friendly service.
Also, we feel that network and trust are both so important when starting your own business. We want to provide these opportunities in the best way we can.
Do you guys ever get into an argument, because of the difference?
Of course we do. Since we have such different opinions, we do have some disagreements, and that’s totally normal. Amee and I have the same goals, and that won’t ever change, no matter how much we argue.
When co-founding a business with a foreign partner, it is most important to respect each others culture and background. We learn so much from each other.
Have you ever thought that you’d rather have a partner from the same country, or maybe a male partner?
Never. Neither of us have ever thought that before. We do have a lot of foreign male friends, and we can always ask for their opinion if we need to. Amee and I have the same goals, value the same things, and that’s all that matters.
Your current clients are mostly Japanese women, but do you feel there will be more and more foreigners coming to you for help?
Yeah, I think foreigners coming to Japan have limited career opportunities because of the language barrier. I see more and more females AND males wanting to start their businesses here and create this opportunity, so I would say the entrepreneurship trend in the foreign community is very strong.
What you hope to do in the near future
What are your goals for the near future?
I’ve always wanted to create a place where people can gather and learn. I want to be the one to create opportunities for people. This is my goal, and also one of the main goals for Startup Lady.
For me, I have come from a society and culture where women take a big part in important decision making and driving the economy forward. I’d like to see the same happening in Japan — there is a slow but steady trend of women returning to the work force, I’d like to be part of the support system when this happens.
Is there anything you are preparing right now?
Not only are we sharing interview videos of female entrepreneurs, but we are also planning on releasing a total support program for women who want to start their own businesses.
Do you have any tips or advices for people who are starting their businesses?
Life is a series of choices. The situation you are in now is the result of your own choice and not anybody else’s. By choosing the right one, you pave your own road.
By having a strong will, you’ll be surrounded by fellows with the same will.
For me, I met Amee, and all my other friends who support me, making up for the things I lack and vice versa.
If you are lost about what you are doing in life, that’s ok. Embrace the uncertainty, and think about it as an exciting crossroad where you get to find your interests, your passion, and decide which paths to take down the road. Never stop learning, if you are not an expert in a field now, or if you have 0 knowledge about something, don’t give yourselves labels such as “Oh, but I am not an engineer”, or “Oh, but I am not good at sales”. If you really try, you will find yourself as an expert in the field very soon.
Thank you both so much for the wonderful interview today. So, shall we go for some Okonomiyaki?
Um, sorry. I’ve got plans today..