Founder name and position
Founder and CEO
What was your entrepreneurial path?
I’m a serial entrepreneur. After having children, I wanted to return to the workforce. However, in Japanese society, it can be difficult for mothers to find good work. So, in 2001, I came up with the idea of starting a company. That way, no one could fire me. I started working for myself, but I didn’t know anything about business at all. I didn't know about the internet or ecommerce, but I was able to start an online shop at home. Although it was difficult, this is how I realized just how much of a good fit running a business was for me. It was so challenging and interesting. I worked hard, learned a lot and gained so much experience. Overall, my business went well.
My first company specialized in hair accessories. After we sold a lot, I started collecting used accessories via the internet as a corporate social responsibility project in Japan. We donated and occasionally resold them in developing countries such as Laos and Cambodia. Our success in this venture allowed us to create scholarships and youth vocational programs.
Reusing waste has so much value, and I realized that I could do important and positive things for society with the internet. I decided to focus on one of Japan’s major social problems: food waste. That’s how Beautiful Smile and the Loss Zero brands came to be.
What challenges did you face while starting up and how did you overcome them?
It’s so important to solve social problems, but doing so is difficult to monetize. This was my struggle. Fortunately, through my first company and the amazing business relationships I had been building for over eighteen years, I had numerous acquaintances including entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurs, administrative personnel, and company executives that I could rely on. People in my network gave me a lot of advice. Also, after some time, I had a lot of business experience and knowledge. All of this helped me solve the business problems that came up. My business environment gradually improved, and I could continue to run Beautiful Smile.
How does your business model work?
Food manufacturers in their production will discard any miss-shaped or non-standard food. And as well, manufacturers sometimes have excess inventory based on supply and demand. Time sensitive foods go to waste without enough sales channels.
And so, our first approach is to buy this excess stock and non-standard food and resell it through the internet direct to consumers. B to B to C.
We carry a lot of premium quality foods. We sell at a small discount, but just as importantly, through our website we inform consumers about why the food is potentially going to waste: for instance, because of COVID lockdowns and closures. We also inform them that part of Loss Zero’s profits go to help children with poverty.
The manufacturers are happy because they reduce their costs and improve their corporate social responsibility while maintaining their brand image. Consumers are happy because they buy with the knowledge that they are getting a discount, helping to solve the food waste problem, and helping children with poverty because part of our profit from these sales goes to just that. And we are happy because we meet our goals. It’s a win-win.
Our second approach to reducing food waste is to buy overproduced or excess raw materials, and manufacturer our own sustainable goods. For example: we buy excess chocolate and perhaps, dried fruits and create manufacture and sell our own line of chocolate-covered dried fruit. D to C (direct to consumer)
We also reach our customers through restaurants and cafes through Loss Zero themed events here in the Kansai area. We collaborate with a lot of food producers to make this happen.
What was the best business decision that you’ve made so far?
My best decision was to do business to solve social issues. I was forty-eight years old when I started Loss Zero, and I was slightly more conservative than when I started my first business. However, I made a decision to take on a new challenge. Thanks to that, I am growing more. Solving social issues is very rewarding.
What advice do you have for early-stage entrepreneurs?
Just act. Acting quickly is so important. Be willing to listen to the market and change your business model quickly in response. Some businesses never change their business model, and that can cause problems. Always think about consumer satisfaction and how you can monetize your business model.
What was the biggest mistake that you made while running your business? How did you recover from it?
When I was running my first company, I didn’t respond to complaints quickly enough. These complaints gradually escalated and festered online, due to my failure to respond to what were initially minor customer complaints. Eventually some of these complaints became slander, and this made me so depressed that I couldn’t even leave home. Thanks to the encouragement of family and friends, I overcame this situation little by little. Since then, I've been working so hard to run my company in a sincere way. It was a very painful experience, but now I think it made me stronger.
Why did you start your business in Osaka?
I built my business here in Osaka while raising two children. My parents-in-law, who live near my house, have always been supportive of me and my husband and they helped with housework and childcare. I don't think I could work without their support.
I sometimes think about living in Tokyo, because Tokyo is filled with information and energetic people. People in local cities, such as Osaka, tend to be slightly more conservative than people in Tokyo. So, in a way, I feel like I have a responsibility to encourage people here. That being said, there is also plenty of opportunity in Osaka. Additionally, there aren’t so many women who are entrepreneurs here in Osaka. So, I’d like to encourage them as well.
What do you like about living and working in Osaka?
The people here are very kind and have a sense of pride in the Kansai region. We have our own unique style of humor. Also, our food is very delicious. So I always enjoy working and laughing in Osaka. The city gives me so much energy.
From a business perspective, I’ve developed so many helpful connections since I started the hair accessory business back in 2001. Osaka’s a big city, but it’s not as big as Tokyo. So, it’s easy to meet people and discover new things. The city is a great size for doing business. Also, it’s easy to access other Asian countries from Osaka, so the city feels very international.
What local activities, restaurants and attractions do you recommend for business and leisure?
Osaka is one of Japan’s manufacturing centers, and there are many companies with excellent industrial technology. If you are looking for a place that can support your business, Osaka may be a candidate.
Also the World Exposition will be held in Osaka in 2025. This event aims to make a significant contribution to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals through the use of technology. At the World Exposition, you’ll be able to experience what life will be like in the near future.
Can you describe your company culture? What is it like to work for Beautiful Smile?
These days, a lot of people in Japan are interested in Sustainable Development Goals—especially issues regarding food waste and conserving our environment. That's why we are often interviewed about Loss Zero activities. When our vision was introduced on television or in business magazines, it was easy to attract and hire young, talented university students and people who were willing to quit their jobs at other companies to come and join us.
What personal work habits have you developed over time?
I have two meals a day, so I work without a lunch break. Working in this way allows me to go home early. Of course, business lunch meetings and training time are an exceptions to this practice.
When I exercise, I go to the gym, which is a five-minute walk from my company. I can save time and get back to work quickly. This also makes me feel refreshed and helps me work more efficiently.
Lastly, I avoid working at night. Instead, I value having conversations with my family, taking a relaxing bath, and going to bed early.
What does the future look like for you? What concerns or challenges lie ahead?
We plan to recruit more staff who sympathize with the vision of Loss Zero—people who are passionate about working with us to solve the problem of food waste. Additionally, we want to propose a new way of food consumption to Japanese society and create a new movement in the market.
This ties directly into our biggest concern. Here in Japan, the majority of the population is still unfamiliar with the issues surrounding food waste. So, we want to create a public consciousness about food while simultaneously expanding our business. I believe that this process of generating our awareness and achieving greater business success will be a long term challenge.
Our main goal is to create a new market in Japan. We are actively developing innovative strategies to achieve this. The continued success of Loss Zero will require working with corporate partners and more media exposure.
Beautiful Smile is a company that reduces food waste while creating value for consumers, local businesses, and corporate partners. Through the Loss Zero program, Beautiful Smile is able to buy and sell food that would normally be discarded.
“Be willing to listen to the market and change your business model quickly in response.”
What are your top work essentials?
At what age did you found your company?
Forty-five. I started my first company when I was thirty-one.
What’s your most used app?
Google Maps. I get lost every day.
What’s the most valuable piece of advice you’ve been given?
Get a lot of sleep.
What’s your greatest skill?
Encouraging people. I strive to be role model for women.
What book has most influenced your career?
The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People
For the directory
Beautiful Smile Co., Ltd.
Yotsubashi Center Building 9F