We are a fresh produce specialized trading company that sources strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and other fruits domestically and internationally, and sells and proposes them to cake factories, hotels, wholesale markets, supermarkets, and other businesses. We specialize particularly in berry fruits. At the same time, we also sell Japanese fresh produce to overseas markets. Our catchphrase is “Sanpo Yoshi” (good for the seller, good for the buyer, good for the world), and we aim to become a company that can realize this concept internationally.
Now I have been in Japan for 25 years since coming from Korea. For about 20 years, I worked for a small trading company selling imported fresh produce, especially berries from the United States and Europe. However, about three years ago, when there was a generational change in the company, I began to consider starting my own business. But because I have a family, I had to get their approval first, and that took some time. In terms of management, I thought that sales and accounting were the two main pillars, so even though I had no experience with numbers, I consulted with the accounting department head. Then, while receiving advice on setting up a company from a senior who had already become independent, I spent about two years exploring the company’s business plan and sales strategy on my own. Finally, on Christmas Day in the first year of the Reiwa era (2019), I was finally able to establish my own company.
For about 20 years at my previous job, I built a sales system with domestic and foreign producers. It was a very rewarding job, but as the company became more organized, I naturally had to take on the role of a middle manager, which prevented me from engaging in sales activities on the front lines. I also had a desire to spread the word about delicious Japanese food to the world. These circumstances overlapped and became the impetus for starting my own business. I realized that setting goals, putting them into practice, and achieving results were still what gave me a sense of fulfillment, and that led me to start my own company.
A specialized trading company that emphasizes on freshness in domestic and foreign strawberries, raspberries, and other berries is quite rare. Additionally, this field is a Blue Ocean market with growth potential. Our company further differentiates our products by being selective about the origin and variety in this field. Specifically, for strawberries, we limit imports from the Netherlands to the period between July and November. Although they are small, we want you to enjoy the good shape, aroma, and taste of these strawberries. At the same time, we also sell domestic strawberries from limited producers and varieties in Aomori and Hokkaido during the same period. We are working hard to become known as “Border Free” when it comes to berries.
After starting my own business, the impact of the novel coronavirus made importing goods difficult and all overseas trips were canceled. As a result, I shifted my focus to domestic activities and managed to overcome the challenges of the past year. One good thing about being an entrepreneur is being able to decide all directions and schedules for myself, and making quick decisions. However, the downside is that I no longer have time off (laughs). I don’t have anyone to take my place, so I end up not getting enough sleep. Additionally, because my previous job and industry overlapped, there was a one-year restriction before I could fully operate. Although this period was frustrating, I believe that it is important to protect the ethics and territory when starting a business in the same industry. I am working hard to eventually be able to collaborate and compete with the company I used to work for. Despite the difficulties of the pandemic, I have been able to connect with domestic producers and customers through networking and word-of-mouth. Based on my own experiences, I hope to create an environment that makes it easier for foreigners to start businesses in Japan by encouraging them to take the leap and providing support.
Starting a business in the same industry as your previous job may bring some constraints, as it did in my case. However, it’s important to take them seriously and make efforts to overcome them. Creating a company requires a strong desire to do everything yourself. With that comes the ability to develop plans and the sense of accomplishment when they are successfully implemented. I believe that if you can handle responsibilities without causing inconvenience to society or your family, then you are a competent entrepreneur. Even when faced with significant challenges, remaining steadfast and determined while maintaining a positive attitude to firmly decide the direction of your own company is essential for becoming a successful entrepreneur, which is my personal goal.
2-8-4 i-office Kichijoji, Kichijoji Honcho, Musashino City, Tokyo, Japan
When accessing the Border Free Inc. website, you are greeted with cute images of berries and the phrase “benefiting all three parties”. It’s impressive to see Mr. Ho, who came from overseas, embodying the spirit of Omi merchants. Focusing on berries is a great way to showcase the company’s unique features and strengths. The challenges faced with the previous job restrictions may be a useful reference point. I look forward to seeing the development of an environment that facilitates foreign entrepreneurs and their future successes.
Adviser:Management Brain Inc. CEO Yuki HIMENO