From the left, Taishi Okabe, Ayaka Hirasawa,Hiroe Hayakawa
Toshima City Culture, Commerce and Industry Division Life and Industry Section
While many municipalities in Tokyo provide support for entrepreneurship, there has not yet been much ever specialized for women. Here we will introduce the Sakuranu Biz Support Project started in FY 2015 by the Toshima Business Support Center in Toshima City. This project has named women who would like to start a business or who already operate a business “Sakuranu Biz”, and is an effort to support these women from a variety of angles.
We asked Ayaka Hirasawa and Hiroe Hayakawa of the Toshima City Culture, Commerce and Industry Division Life and Industry Section as well as Taishi Okabe of the Toshiba Business Support Center about this project.
Female counselors are popular for entrepreneurial consultation
First, we asked about the background of why this project was launched.
“What inspired the project was the estimated future population of the municipalities announced in May 2015 by the Japan Policy Council, an organization of private experts. There, it was announced that, in all of Tokyo, Toshima City alone would see the population of women between the ages of 20 and 39 decline by half, making it “a city in danger of becoming extinct” and unable to maintain population. This city took this as a warning bell and has made all kinds of effort towards creating a sustainable city. This project is one of those." (Hayakawa)
The support options are divided into four: entrepreneurial consultation, business start-up cram school, meet-ups, and Facebook.
“One of the characteristics of the entrepreneurial consultation is that we have employed female counselors from FY 2016. For ordinary women, entrepreneurial consultation is a fairly high hurdle. They find that other women are easier to talk to and deal with them more kindly. In addition, another feature is that we conduct follow-ups after starting the business. For usual municipality entrepreneurial support, there aren’t many mechanisms the follow business expansion after starting the business, but here we give meticulous support and respond to troubles after the business has been started.” (Hayakawa)
The business start-up cram school had its first semester of 2016 starting in July, and the second semester starting in October, and was held every other Saturday four times each. The curriculum covers the process from the basics to practice, so even those unaccustomed to business can gradually gain skills and motivation. Incidentally, the first semester contained creating a winning business plan that makes use of one’s strengths, brand concept, techniques for internet marketing, and experiences from senior entrepreneurs. The second semester contained prerequisites for a successful startup, points for preparing a business plan, basic knowledge and laws for using systems for starting a business, and business plan announcements and critiques.
Group photo from the meet-up
"The meet-ups are aimed at creating a network of female entrepreneurs. It’s a casual thing where we invited people everyone from senior entrepreneurs with experience and small to medium business management consultants with advice to tea ceremony teachers, acupuncturists, yoga instructors, and more. Everyone at Sakuranu Biz is good at networking, and there have been cases of spontaneous product development or collaboration.” (Okabe)
Furthermore, in September 2016, women’s entrepreneurial meet-ups started in Kita Ward and Arakawa Ward in addition to Toshima, further expanding the network.
"Facebook is a social network used for the latest project events, sharing of useful information, and exchanges between Sakuranu Biz members. As you probably know, it is very widely used, making it a tremendously useful tool in developing this project.” (Hirasawa)
"Toshima Monozukuri Messe" held March 2016
Another thing that raises the motivation of everyone at Sakuranu Biz is the “Toshima Monozukuri Messe”, which will be held for the tenth time in March 2017. This is an industrial trade show that brings together companies and organizations centered in Toshima City and exhibits excellent products and services, and in 2016 there were 110 companies and organization
"Sakuranu Biz Challenge Booth" location
exhibiting and approximately 21,000 visitors.
“Actually, we have prepared a space for entrepreneurs at the venue called the ‘Sakura Biz Challenge Booth.’ Moreover, the benefit is that the usual 54,000 exhibition fee will be free. In March 2017, there will be 6 booths exhibiting, and we’ve heard they had meaningful experience in retail, exhibition, and business matching. Among students of our business start-up school, there are quite a few people who have set the goal of exhibiting at this trade show.” (Hirasawa)
“In Toshima City, we have arranged a variety of lending systems of course for women but for men as well, and in some cases, if conditions are met, you can get even more advantages, such as essentially free interest or credit guarantee assistance. Women who intend to start a business within Toshima City, please take a look at the Sakuranu Biz Support Project.” (Okabe)