Who Runs The World: A Story of a Female Entrepreneur in Japan

How does it feel to be a female foreign entrepreneur in Japan? We spoke to Kyoto Makers Garage resident Jo Rosales who shares with the Japanese her passion for exotic Ecuadorian tea.

Jo stumbled upon Makers Boot Camp booth at Slush Tokyo, a startup event where she was looking for someone to help with her business. It’s been already two months since she quickly packed belongings and moved to Kyoto. We caught Jo busy at Kyoto Makers Garage preparing for business ventures and sipping fruity-earthy guayusa tea.

At the Kyoto Makers Garage
About Jo Rosales: 32y.o. entrepreneur born in Quito, Ecuador
Founder of Pachamanta Ecuador
Spent a year in Holland as an exchange student, majored in environmental engineering
Six years ago launched her first company to recycle electronic waste in Ecuador
Loves photography, travelling and sports

Doing business in Japan

The way people do business here differs from overseas. First, Japan is a credential society that evaluates your potential by educational institution you finished. A decision to apply for a prestigious MBA School in Tokyo shaped my future, as I had no problems in kick-starting my business upon graduation.

I came up with an idea to bring authentic Ecuadorian tea to Japan and started looking for people involved in the food industry, especially organic products. At one of the fairs held in Hokkaido, I met a trading company that desperately wanted to establish a connection to Latin America producers. They made me a very attractive offer I could not refuse.

Ecuadorian tea to be sold in organic food and teashops in Tokyo

After we stroke a deal, I immediately contacted two of my friends in Ecuador who I knew would be interested to join. One is socially active biologist; the other is very good at administration and management. We started to hold meeting twice a week and meticulously planned everything we had to do. Meanwhile, I hired a designer in Tokyo who worked on the brand and package design. Once it was done, we could proceed with producing the trial batch of 500 tea packs that has been shipped to Japan.

About the brand

Pachamanta Ecuador offers very special tea growing only in the Amazon jungles of Ecuador. It is well known to indigenous tribes who drink it in the morning and by the end of afternoon.

Absolutely no sweets. I do not want it to be a fancy tea served in cafes. Its nutritional benefits help to maintain a healthy lifestyle and boost your energy; a ritual experience that could become your daily habit. I see in it a lot of potential for international market, especially tea-loving Japan. Guyausa tea does not have the bitterness of green tea, still rich in antioxidants.

Straight from the Amazon jungles

Being a female entrepreneur in Japan

I am certain that aspiring businesswomen in Japan experience many troubles due to the preconceptions deeply embedded in their mindset. They strongly believe that they cannot succeed. However, there are certain women who let the social prejudices slip out of their mind and simply make things happen.

According to a 2015 report by the Japan Finance Corporation, female-led entrepreneurial startups increased since 1991, from 12.4% to 17% of the annual total.

I personally know several Tokyo-based female CEOs and startup founders who are doing pretty well. One of the girls runs her own tourist application; another one is growing organic vegetables in Hokkaido and bringing it to Tokyo markets. Oh, and there is 55-years old ridiculously smart and well-connected lady managing three companies.

For me being a female entrepreneur in Japan is easy. Why? If you are a small girl, see it as an advantage. The truth is that in a boys-dominant world, many are willing to lend you hand and treat you in a nice way. Wherever there is a girl, things run smoothly.

Jo, anything else?

If you think people will not take you seriously, they won’t. Whether you win their trust or not is determined by your self-confidence and attitude.

I strongly recommend everyone who wants to start business in Japan to learn Japanese. Non-proficiency in language was the biggest problem I encountered here. If I could speak Japanese, I would do much more.

Do you want to share your entrepreneurship story? Feel free to contact us at @makersbootcamp!

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