This month I chatted on Messenger with Jacqui Miyabayashi, a long-term resident of Japan, based in the Osaka area. Read on to be inspired about setting up a business or making a career change.
Where do you originate from?
I was raised in a suburb of Auckland, New Zealand's largest city. We spent a lot of time at the beach or in the pool. I had a very normal upbringing. I left when I was 24.
Tell us a bit about what brought you to Japan?
I was worried that I was becoming stuck. Japan was supposed to be a stepping stone to more travel - that didn't quite work out! I was a fairly new graduate at the time and working at the phone company.
Were you working in NZ at the time?
I was working as a sales rep for the telephone company, in a busy call centre. I was one of the top-ranking reps at the time and was doing very well. I had been there for two years, straight out of business school. It wasn't very taxing although I enjoyed it. I hadn't planned to stay that long but the money ... Japan was a good way out of it! My plan was to get into the marketing department but it never seemed to happen.
Did you always have an interest in Japan? Was there a moment you remember that inspired you to try life in Japan?
Ironically I had NEVER been interested in Japan. In fact I had taken Japanese at school and hated it. The only reason I came here was because my brother was here. I wanted to work and travel in Europe.
But fate brought you here...and then you met your husband!
Yes, I always joke about that UNFORTUNATE turn of events!
And you have children which complicates matters somewhat!
I feel bad that the kids are growing up so differently from how I grew up but living where we do has made it more like what I wanted it to be like for them.
You've tried a number of different career paths in the years since your children were born. Tell us about what you got up to.
I have tried all kinds of things. I resigned from my job as a human resources manager after a year of maternity leave.
I had a mom-blog called Osaka Mothers and I helped run a playgroup while studying to become a lactation consultant. I started trying to monetise my blog using all kinds of online marketing strategies. Blogging was still kind of new then.
Most of my attempts to make money revolved around the internet and having flexible work hours because I had committed to being at home with my son. I tried selling decorated birthday cakes, designing cards, teaching cooking classes, running a craft blog ... All kinds of stuff!
I was still exploring ideas up until my second child was born and I did have some time off with him but eventually I started a sewing business and a cafe conversation class when he was a year old.
So that's how Mee a Bee started?!
I wanted a business that I could run from home around the needs of my kids. After doing some research I decided there was a gap in the market for quality bags for kids. It was a match for my skillset so I started an Etsy store selling bags for preschoolers.
The philosophy of the company is that I only ever use Japanese fabrics, the fabrics are non-commercial character, imagination-inspiring designs, all handmade bags.
And how long after you set up Mee a Bee did you realise that you wanted to add another string to your business bow?
Mee a Bee is in its 11th year now. Five years ago I started a consulting business helping women launch and run their own businesses. Hanging my shingle as a consultant was a full-circle moment because I had always wanted to run a business that used my marketing and business management skills since that is what I studied at university. Before the internet came along that seemed like an unobtainable dream and I felt deep regret and guilt over that.
Tell us more about that.
Honestly, for years I felt like I had missed the boat, that my degree was worthless. Mee a Bee opened my eyes to the possibilities of the internet. I wish I could say that I immediately was great at helping others but it took a long time for me to regain the confidence I had lost from being "just a stay at home mum".
Five years on I can confidently say that I am a marketing consultant and business mentor. I love helping women in business, in particular expat women, because I have walked that path too.
What are your plans for the future of your marketing business? Any special projects you can tell us about?
There is so much exciting stuff going on in the online world and so many women are taking life by horns and going for it. I feel deeply proud to be part of the women's empowerment movement.
I have a talent for simplifying the complex and making the steps easy (to build a business). Anyone can do it! My plan is to keep growing personally and professionally and to help as many women as I can to realise their dreams.
If anyone reading this is wondering how to get started or how to achieve more balance in her life as a mother and an entrepreneur then the best place to start is my Facebook group, One of a Kind Life https://www.facebook.com/groups/oneofakindlifers/
If you’re looking for more one-on-one support then message me or get in touch. I run several mentoring programs and provide support to women in the early stages of business. My website is the place to visit to learn more: https://jacquimiya.com/
The rising tide lifts all ships. It's time for (expat) women to lead more fulfilling and meaningful lives. If having a business is the means to that end then I am the person who can help you achieve that.
Find out more and follow Jacqui
Jacqui Miyabayashi Consulting website: https://jacquimiya.com/
Business Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/jacquimiyabayashiconsulting/
One of kind life Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/oneofakindlifers/
Instagram @jacquimiya and @meeabee
See the selection of Jacqui's toddler bags here.
Hope you can stop by the Collective Market co-hosted by Bikudesigns, Turquoise Port and Foodie Tours Japan to celebrate the launch of the Best Living Japan Studio. It's always lovely to see some friendly faces and to show you my work in person (as well as have a cheeky chat!).
Find out more about the event and the fabulous vendor line-up here.
I'll be doing an interesting give-away at the event....something fun I've never done before. Come and join the fun and you might even win a piece of jewellery to take home with you.
Victoria Close from Bikudesigns talks kimono, business, Japanese design, life in Tokyo and all the things she loves.