FEATURED MEMBER - Jay Harris
Interview - October 2005
Jay Harris - Director of Operations,
Expat Auto Solutions Serving the Expat Communities Automobile Needs.
Interview with Jay:
1. When did you start your first business? What was it? What lessons did you take away from that experience?
Gaijin Inc. first started in October of 2004. It was an idea between Hisao Inoue (the President of Vip Auto Japan-General Motors and Cadillac Importer) and myself. I had been working with Vip Auto buying Auction Cars for export only, when we thought we should take advantage of a market that we have right here at home in Japan, Expats.
This is a good market but it has a lot of competition as we soon found out.
2. What are some of the challenges you have faced in starting your business and how did you overcome them?
Before we jumped into this, we did some research on the competitors and found out that most of this business is based on Kuchi Komi (word of mouth). Our competitors have been around for the last decade or so, so our first challenge was to build name recognition. We did that with mass advertising in all the major English Magasines and most important of all just with our name it self. Our target market is the Gaijin Market so what better then to let them know that “hey we are Gaijin too and feel you frustrations, we are part of the group E I think this helped us to make a large impact on the market and get out there faster than if we were called something like Toms Auto.
3. How did you form your business? (Yugen Kaisha, Kabushiki Kaisha, etc.) How long did the start-up process take?
We are a Kabushiki Kaisha as we are a division of Vip Auto. So, getting started was really easy! The company was already in place, it was just developing the new division and business strategies that took time.
4. Where do you see your business in 5 years?
In 5 years from now we would like to be more internationally recognized in Australia, New Zealand and the UK. A big part of our business is still to do with exports. Not so much with cars anymore as that market was flooded years before, but with parts and engines.
5. Do you see yourself as an entrepreneur? Why?
I guess I can say yes to seeing my self as an Entrepreneur. In our industry we are constantly looking for new products and ways to market them to the rest of the world to so we can differ from the competition.
6. What is your definition of an entrepreneur?
My idea of an Entrepreneur is; someone who is a natural match maker! What I mean by this is that you have to become the business “cupid Eby understanding the consumer, product and risks involved to make it all mesh into a natural connection. I think that anyone can write and follow a business plan but to make the two marry into a long lasting relationship you have to be an entrepreneur not just a business graduate.
I guess in simpler terms it would be someone with natural ability or sense to manage and mold a business into success.
7. What piece of advice would you give to a person wanting to start his or her own business in Japan?
Really study the market before entering it! Get out there and get to know the consumer, because they are the ones who pay your salary every month. I guess the most important things is working on your marketing strategies to appeal to your market, because you and how many other people are selling the same thing! You need to create the magic to draw the crowd!
8. Can you recommend any resources such as books, websites, or support centers for entrepreneurs in Japan?
I think the best resource for an entrepreneurs is to attend Networking events, like the EAT. This way you have the chance to meet others who are already out there doing it or who have done it. You can hear about those who have been successful and those who are still in the struggle. And after hearing both sides of the story, hopefully you can write your own ending and make it a happy one in your own business.
9. Who are your mentors in business?
My mentor in business would be have to be Enzo Ferrari, for obvious reasons. His love and passion for his work as a race drive drove the creation of the most prestige’s and wanted automotive product in the world. Who doesn’t want a Ferrari?
10. What makes you happy?
I really do love the automotive business because cars, and bikes have always been my passion. So when I get to meet others and pass that passion on to them it makes me happy.