Each month of 2018 I'll be interviewing Japan-based business women who are carving out their own unique niche.
This month, interiors curator Alex talks about life before setting up her business and the inspiration behind her idea.
Where do you originate from?
I grew up in a veeeeery small village in Thuringia, eastern Germany with a population of around 350 people. Very rural area, not too much going on. I had just turned 15 when the Iron Curtain fell.
Wow! How did life change after that happened?
Not too much changed immediately, but it opened a lot of doors a few years later. I would never be where I am now as we did have rather heavy travel restrictions imposed on us.
When did you last live for a period of time in Germany?
I moved to Ireland in early 1998 and never returned to live in Germany again. I learned English in Dublin and worked as an Au Pair. Onto London after that. I gave myself two months to find a job and ended up staying for 10 years interrupted by one year of traveling the world. Getting a job in London was pretty easy back then. My background is banking/finance and there was quite a bit of demand for people like me. My first job in was with an American stockbroking company, followed by working for one of the largest hedge fund companies in Europe and a start-up Merchant Bank. Exciting times!
I met my husband in London, he’s from New Zealand. After we got married we decided to move to Auckland. That was back in 2009. When we first arrived on the shores of NZ I worked as a translator at NZ Rail and also had a job at the University of Auckland before re-joining the financial world, working in the Wealth Management Department at HSBC NZ.
We had just purchased our dream house when my husband was asked to move to Bangkok for his job. I was sooo excited! I always loved Bangkok and had spent quite a bit of time there during my travels. That was in 2013. I ended up running the Thai-Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Bangkok. Never thought I'd do anything like that in my life!
On to Kuala Lumpur in 2015, again with my husband’s job. I changed direction again and wrote for a magazine as well as being in the editorial team. Another move came in January 2017. Tokyo!
Do you think living in so many different countries has shaped your thinking/ outlook?
Definitely! I am a lot more patient than I used to be, more open-minded and possibly more tolerant.
Being exposed to so many different cultures and countries was the best thing that ever happened to me. And not just that: moving around quite frequently requires to keep an open mind about career choices. I became a lot more flexible and daring.
So, here you are in Tokyo...3 things you love about living here. 3 things you can really live without.
Love: The food!! The safety! And it is sooo clean!
I can live without: Winter! I am really suffering after 4 years in the tropics. Also: Language barriers and earthquakes.
I felt that injecting some colour into people’s lives is a very positive thing to do. The response from Tokyo’s foreign community was fabulous from the onset. That group of people is my main focus group for the time being. My customers like the colours as well as the uniqueness of most of my products.
I did quite a bit of research before I started, went to many shops and department stores and realised that nobody had the type of collection that I had in mind.
What are your plans for the future of Turquoise Port? Any special projects you can tell us about?
I didn't want to have an online shop initially as I like the direct contact with the customer. My products all have a story which might be the people that make the product, the history of an item or the material the product was made with. And I love telling the stories. However I get asked quite frequently about the possibility of online shopping so that is one of the projects I will be working on.
I also hope to do more collaborations with like-minded people in the entrepreneur space. Those may be joint projects, pop-up events etc.
How can we find out more about you and follow your updates?
I do have a website, but I mostly use Instagram and Facebook for updates. Or you can come to my showroom in Higashigotanda, (by appointment)!