FEATURED MEMBER - Kristin Newton
Interview - March 1, 2004
Kristin Newton, originally invited to Japan on an artists' exchange program as a glass artist, completed many stained glass commissions in Japan, Hong Kong, and the U.S. for banks, hotels, public buildings, and private residences before starting her current business Right Brain Research (RBR). Over the past ten years, she has developed it from a side-business/hobby to the recently formed Kabushiki Kaisha and currently serves as Creative Director. Right Brain Research, until recently a small art school focusing on 5-day drawing workshops and classes in visual arts, will reopen this month as A New Center for Creativity and Bi-lingual Education offering Art and Music classes, and more, for all ages from 3 to 100. She has 2 partners, Mayumi Murata, Director of Marketing, and Lia Howe, Administrator. Kristin was born in Los Angeles and has lived in Japan for 20 years.
Right Brain Research is A New Center for Creativity and Bi-lingual Education offering Art and Music classes, and more, for all ages from 3 to 100. We are expanding and adding a wide variety of instruction. RBR is committed to excellence and leadership in developing innovative Right Brain education that enables people to realize their full potential in a totally supportive and fun environment.
The RBR Art Center is moving to a brand new space in Moto Azabu, just 7 minutes walk from Azabu Juban Station on the Nanboku line. The new art center has five classrooms filled with classes and workshops by artists, painters, engravers, sculptors, jewelers, calligraphers, live models, poets, teachers, linguists and musicians. Yoko Jimbo will host several orientation sessions to introduce you to the exciting Pace Method of musical instruction. Teri Suzanne will be giving bilingual workshops using her methods which center on developing fine and gross motor skills with the use of scissors, art, music and drama. Whatever media your creative juices want to try, we will probably have a class for you! Individual-centered classes match students with the most effective activities for students' intelligences and learning preferences. To awaken your latent artistic power, the brain's underused right hemisphere must be activated.
1-5-15 Moto Azabu, Minato-ku
(just across from the Korean Embassy)
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Interview with Kristin:
1. When did you start your first business? What was it? What lessons did you take away from that experience?
When I graduated from art school, I went to the employment office to find a job. The counselor there just laughed at me and said "A degree in Fine Art! You may as well just hang it on the bathroom wall for all the good it will do you!" So I started my own stained glass business and have hardly worked for anyone else since then. That's what brought me to Japan and indirectly led me to the business I'm doing now. I've completed many major stained glass commissions in Japan, Hong Kong, and the U.S. for banks, hotels, public buildings, and private residences. Artists have to learn about business or they won't survive. But businesses also have to start thinking like artists, or these days they won't survive! The February issue of Harvard Business Review said that the most popular degree corporations are looking for in job applicants lately, isn't an MBA?but a Master of Fine Arts, because those people are much better at problem solving and creative thinking.
About 11 years ago, I started my current business, "Right Brain Research", as a side business, then 4 years ago I rented a permanent space in Azabu Juban and did it full time. This year two partners have joined me, Lia Howe and Mayumi Murata, and are helping me move from my one-room facility to a much larger space with many more class offerings. The new facility will officially open in mid-May in Moto-Azabu. As we developed our business plan, partnership agreement, and formed our Kabushiki gaisha, that was like a crash course in business. I should get an MBA from that experience! But the basic lesson, no matter what kind of business you are in, is that if you provide good service, the customers will come. No customers, no business!
2.?hat are some of the challenges you have faced in starting your business and how did you overcome them?
I was getting overwhelmed trying to run the business and teach the workshops. There was a demand for more classes than I could handle in a single room and as sole proprietor-business manager/teacher. I also hadn't realized until I had this business how different the communication styles of Japanese and Westerners can be. There were many problems with mis-communication. A lot of the problems I've encountered have been because either I or my staff were too vague in our communication. I've come to realize that clear communication is extremely important so these kind of problems don't happen. Another problem is how do you train someone and retain them as a loyal part of the business, instead of having them run off and become a competitor.
Last year I took a great course from E-Myth. That really put things in perspective and showed me how to tackle all the challenges and not get overwhelmed by them. It's made a huge difference.
3. How did you form your business? (Yugen Kaisha, Kabushiki Kaisha, etc.) How long did the start-up process take?
I've been a sole proprietorship until about a month ago when my partners and I formed a Kabushiki Kaisha. One of our advisors, Keita Shimanuki, who has started many businesses himself, helped us wade through the process so it wasn't as bad as I expected and only took a month or two.
4. Where do you see your business in 5 years?
It's always been my dream to give people of all ages a really joyful learning environment, where real learning can take place, like I experienced during my time as an artist's apprentice. People can learn so much more and so much faster than they realize. We want to create a unique environment and school for multi-cultural artistic expression and instruction that will be a magnet to the pent-up interest among culturally sophisticated inner urbane Tokyoites, both Japanese and foreign, a school that will make a visible and immediate improvement in students’abilities, create a“buzz”in the community and a gathering point for budding artists and wanna-try’s, and make a living for the founders and return for investors.
5. Do you see yourself as an entrepreneur? Why?
Until recently I never thought I was an entrepreneur because, among artists, businessmen are often considered "the enemy". And businessmen often think of artists as "flaky". As a matter of fact, I gave a workshop to a group of managers for a large international corporation in February. I've done a number of workshops for that company and was asking the boss if he'd like me to change anything next time to tie in the workshop more directly to their business. He looked shocked and said "Oh, No! You're from outer space, that's why we hire you." I still don't know what to think about that! Then I looked at the Small Business Administration website and saw that part of their definition of entrepreneur says, "Most entrepreneurs tend to be maverick personalities with risk-taking vision and courage. Many entrepreneurs tend to be just a bit "off beat" and they sometimes need to be in order to creatively grow a successful business." I like constant challenges!
6. What is your definition of an entrepreneur?
I would say they are creative problem solvers who get restless unless constantly challenged. They have to be risk takers but also dreamers with the balanced power of their right and left brain. They are strong on creativity and innovation. In business, there are no guarantees. If a safe, secure job seems like living death to you, then you must be an entrepreneur.
7. What piece of advice would you give to a person wanting to start his or her own business in Japan?
Japan desperately needs more foreign businesses. Have courage, jump in! Get good partners and helpers, people you can trust and rely on.
Running a business will wear you down emotionally, so it's very important to find ways to help you survive slowdowns and periods of burnout. You will be your own boss, so if you don't like the boss at the company where you work now, you will soon be trading places with him/her, which can be quite an enlightening experience.
Don't give up, no matter what. You never know what's just around the corner! Conversely, don't get smug for the same reason.
Carlos Goshen, of Nissan, said something to the effect, "There will always be problems", but look at how he approaches them. What an inspiration!. I used to get upset when problems reared their ugly heads, but now I just look at them as more problem solving opportunities. Even if you make mistakes, which you will, no doubt about it, just remember that mistakes are simply inappropriate solutions to problem solving and try something else until you find a way that works. Thomas Edison failed 10,000 times before he succeeded in creating the first light bulb!
8. Can you recommend any resources such as books, websites, or support centers for entrepreneurs in Japan?
Of course, Entrepreneur Association of Tokyo - www.ea-tokyo.com!
◁ETerrie Lloyd, publisher of J@pan Inc magazine and local entrepreneur, sometimes gives Foreign Entrepreneur's Handbook business seminars, a great introduction to both the basics of setting up a company and how to run one.
◁EThe U.S. Small Business Administration website
is a wealth of resources. You can even take their test to see if you really are an entrepreneur.
(Visit SBA's Online Women's Business Center website.)
◁EHarvard Business Online
◁ETraci at the Pink Cow and Lauren Shannon, director of Fujimamas Restauran, host Networking Events such as the upcoming Creative Salon for Creative People on Sun., April 25th. A great way to business-network, meet people, and share information about creative businesses in Tokyo. E-mail or a call firstname.lastname@example.org or 03-3406-5597
◁EIf you are a woman, FEW is great. The annual FEW Career Strategies seminaris taking place on Saturday April 17th, 2004 at Temple University. For more information you can check the FEW website at <http://www.fewjapan.com/css/index.html>_
his year’s keynote speakers of this all day event will include Debbie Howard, President of ACCJ, and Carolyn Pover, author of Being Abroad.
◁EBeing A Broad and Caroline Pover are marvelous resources for everyone.
◁ENapoleon Hill's "Law of Success" and The E-myth by Michael Gerber are great books.
9. Who are your mentors in business?
I have been really lucky to have had some very inspirational mentors. The first one was Roger Darricarrere, a French glass artist who I apprenticed with for 5 years. <http://www2.gol.com/users/kristin-newton/darricarrere.html> I was also going to art school at the time, but the difference between being a student and being an apprentice at a professional glass studio was like night and day. That experience made me an entrepreneur! At an art studio you see the whole picture and all the parts at once. It's constant problem solving on many levels. Schools are dull, plodding, and too compartmentalized.
1987 was the year I met two major mentors in my life, Dr. Georgi Lozanov, who by using the untapped reserve capacities of the brain, developed a method to learn three to five times faster while increasing psycho-physiological well-being, and Dr.Betty Edwards, author of "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain", a ground-breaking book that rocked the art world. I took many, many courses from both of them, both as a student and as a trainee in their teaching methods. I'm certified in both methods and often combine them in my workshops. I assisted in bringing both Dr. Lozanov and Dr. Edwards to Japan several times to give workshops. Actually, they are both rather bad at business so I learned about what not to do, often the hard way.
Dr. Edward T. Hall, the father of Intercultural Communication, is another mentor. I only met him a couple of times but his books have had a profound affect on the way I think. Since my mother is French and my father Icelandic and they had friends from all over the world, I grew up in a multi-cultural environment. Then I ended up in Japan, which is like another planet. Intercultural Communication is of prime importance in doing business anywhere.
Also, as my new partners and I developed our business plan, partnership agreement, and formed our Kabushikigaisha, our advisors mentored us the whole way and they still are.
10. What makes you happy?
Seeing the look on people's faces when they realize they can do something they never thought they could do, like drawing.
I've been teaching these workshops for over 10 years and even now I'm constantly amazed at how people just blossom with abilities they never imagined they had. As students finish their self-portrait on the last day, I return the pre-instruction self-portrait they brought with them on the first day. The air is filled with screams of disbelief and astonishment. They have invariably forgotten how much progress they've made. There is proof, before their very eyes, that they can indeed do something they were positive they couldn't. It always gives me goose bumps!