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Women Entrepreneurs In Japan

I arrived in Narita Airport in Tokyo yesterday and was met by Yuka Nakatsumi, CEO of a new company named Miths.  Miths produces and distributes organic matcha green tea in powdered form that can be mixed with boiling water.  Each package includes 5 cup sized samples in a flat transparent envelope that makes it transportable.  The green tea is natural in its purity and produced in the rich volcanic soil of Kyoto.  In my conversation with Yuka, I learned that when we brew tea, 2/3 of the nutrients are discarded.  The nutrients that come from green tea include carotene, anti-oxidants, vitamin E and other healthy fibers.  

While I was intrigued by the tea and the package itself, more interesting is the fact that Yuka is a woman entrepreneur in Japan.   The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) 52 country study that Babson College sponsors every year shows that Japan has one of the lowest rates of entrepreneurship overall with and overall rate of early stage entrepreneurial activity at just under 8%.( Only 12 other countries have lower rates of entrepreneurship.  Why is this the case?  My understanding is that in Japan, it is harder to fail and more difficult to acquire star-up capital.  For women it is even more difficult.  The GEM study shows that only 6 countries have lower rates of female entrepreneurship than Japan. 

I asked Yuka about role models—she mentioned there are few, especially in the consumer products area—instead, they are in the technology sector.  Role models are important – and again, in Japan, the percentage of individuals personally knowing an entrepreneur who has started a business in the pasts 2 years is the lowest of any of the 52 countries, ad 21%.  For women, it would even lower.  It is clear that Yuka has greater hurdles to overcome in starting a venture.  Her passion, capabilities and experience in  working in the venture capital arena, and her careful planning should make her a success and role model in her own right some day.  

Dr. Candida G. Brush, Professor of Entrepreneurship
Paul T. Babson Chair in Entrepreneurship
Chair, Entrepreneurship Division