During our clinics, which were conducted in either Japanese or English depending on requirements, we helped the participants to set out the main objectives for their branding and managed to provide some insights and direction on which steps to take next. One of the participants was actually able to consolidate some key points of his core brand thinking in the time between the morning session and the afternoon session.
After the morning clinics, we ran a two-hour group session where we gave a keynote presentation with portfolio and insights. We also discussed branding and the state of entrepreneurship in Kyoto and wider areas of Japan. Some of the participants were creatives working with clients on their websites. Others were setting up as freelancers, brand and marketing managers, or social entrepreneurs.
Overall, we were struck by how similar the questions regarding branding and entrepreneurship were, and we were energised by the excitement and optimism of the participants. We look forward to tracking the progress of their branding and future ventures. It was really inspiring to meet such great people and to experience the positive vibe we know from the Impact Hub in London in another part of the world.
Below is an excerpt from our Q and A in Kyoto.
What is the current state of start-up culture in Japan and Kyoto?
At the moment, there is not enough support for start-ups. In terms of finance, there aren't the kind of options that you have in other countries like in the UK and Europe, with loans or grants. In South Africa, we learned that you can get large start-up grants if you are creating a business in manufacturing, education, agriculture or technology sectors. This does not exist in Japan.
Culturally, there is also the issue that if you get off the career track (Japanese people tend to go to college, get a job and stay in that job traditionally) it is very difficult to get back into the system if you try and then fail with your start-up.
Many students often dream about setting up a start-up but their parents dissuade them from these dreams and persuade to work for large companies or follow more 'sensible' options.
However, it sounds like entrepreneurship is gathering pace in Kyoto. More artists and start-ups are emerging there. One participant mentioned that they thought that Kyoto welcomes '変' 'hen' or strange people. They said that if you move to Tokyo you get coloured by the Tokyo lens. In Kyoto, people accept you as you are and embrace individualism.
In terms of social businesses or social enterprises, or '社会企業' 'shakai kigyou', it seems that the current landscape consists of large companies with CSR programmes or non-profit organisations, but social entrepreneurship, where both profit and social impact existed together, is limited. Currently, Japanese companies are legally required to employ disabled people to make up 2.0% of the workforce for companies with at least 50 employees. The participants were not sure if there were any other social responsibility requirements for companies regarding the environment, education, or health, etc. As the population of Japan is much less diverse than in other countries, the requirements may be quite different.
Overall feedback and impressions of the day:
'It was helpful because, before I came, I was struggling to understand the branding process and now I feel that it is much clearer.'
'I found the session very helpful although I am not new to branding. We currently get so busy with other things that we can lose focus on the brand. This will help us clarify our goals and work on our brand messaging.'
'It takes a lot of work to get from a collection of messy messages to something that will make a clear message to everyone.'
'As a web designer, if I can clarify the branding process with clients then we can really produce something that it is really tailored to their goals, making it a win-win situation.'
'Including a variety of stakeholders, not just the big bosses, in the branding process was eye-opening to me. It was important to learn that branding is something that should be pivotal across the company or organisations, not just the leaders.'