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Interview - March 2005

Shige Onoda - Helios HoldingShige Onoda
President - Helios Holding Co. Ltd.

Helios Holding Co Ltd 

Shige Onoda graduated from New England College (New Hampshire, USA) with a Major in Business Management in May 2001. After working for a couple of years in the US, he returned to Japan and started Helios Holding Co. Ltd in February 2003.

The philosophy of Helios Holding, a company that manages the model utility right, and is an importer/exporter, is "Actions speak louder than words".

Interview with Shige:
1. When did you start your first business? What was it? What lessons did you take away from that experience?
I had an opportunity to work at a construction site in my young age, that experience helped me to form one of my basic ideas and attitude towards work. “Hard Working E This may sound very old-fashioned in general, but “Hard Working Ealways remained in my mind as the most important principle and classical attitude towards work. Helios Holding Co.,Ltd. is the first company I established. We have 4 projects (patent licensing, trading, whole selling, and an on-line shop). For the trading business, we mainly focus on the “silk WARAJI slippers E(hand made silk slippers). Due to competitiveness and massive pressure from the market, a large number of craftsmen have been disappearing from the industry… We would like to save one of Japan’s oldest traditional crafts and skilled craftsmen, at the same time. I would like to revive the good old times.

2. What are some of the challenges you have faced in starting your business and how did you overcome them?
It has been a big challenge for me launching the company from zero. My first 3 month s(since Dec.2003) was very challenging, I was confused and struggled. Sales were less than 100,000 Yen. Most of that sales came from people I knew…

Therefore I tried to learn more about my business field, to research customer needs, and to reconsider my marketing plans. For silk waraji slippers, I believed that it would be very helpful to export them once it became recognized in Japan. However, it was very difficult to follow my plans, in reality things did not go the way I expected. In Japan, big corporations make it difficult for a small company like us to do business with them, especially for the first time. By repeating “Tobikomi Sales Eto the potential companies, we finnally but slowly began to open up the account with big business.

We established several channels throughout Japan and will keep trying to expand as well as challenging to introduce our products to the world market. I promised myself to check my everyday plan for a year, and then I went over each plan everyday whether I accomplished it or not. I also found that it is very important to be positive in any situation, and to have great entusiam for any action.

3. How did you form your business? (Yugen Kaisha, Kabushiki   Kaisha, etc.) How long did the start-up process take?
It started as a company that manages the model utility right in Feb 2003. Since Dec 2003, I added to 4 other projects (trading, whole selling, patent licensing and on-line shop business) besides managing the model utility right. There is an idea that I would like to establish a holding company in the future. I chose a “Kabushiki Kaisha Ebecause of its status, and worked with an accountant to finish the start-up process. .

4. Where do you see your business in 5 years?
For silk waraji slipper, I would like to introduce more about this Japanese lifestyle/culture to the world and get rid of the stereotype ithat “slippers equals cheap E I also would like to create new category in the market as exclusive slippers, especially in the U.S market. A buyer told me that there is a diffrence between a private exhibition and museum. (According to him; Private exhibition for unknow yet products, museum for known products) Within five years I would like to establish my section in the museum with sales acheivement I made in Japan. I will put more effort to the products by researching more about the market and customer’s needs, and at same time I have to go out there to promote them! Also I have another business plan I have been holding, I will lanch this new project as soon as I make everything ready. No one has done this before so it would be another big challenge for me.

5. Do you see yourself as an entrepreneur? Why?
Yes, I always would like to challenge new things and I don’t like to stay in a stable position. There was a pshycological test result that showed my thinking style is in an extreme category…I tend to think too positively and I have great confidence without any grounds…

6. What is your definition of an entrepreneur?
The one who has a big heart, and attracts people with his/her sense of humour, vision, and attitude towards work.

7. What piece of advice would you give to a person wanting to start his or her own business in Japan?
I am not sure that if I could be in the advisory position….but If you have an opportunity and plan to start with, please shift into action and try it.

8. Can you recommend any resources such as books, websites, or support centers for entrepreneurs in Japan?
At first I would like to say EA Tokyo is the best place for this. You could meet people in a variety of business field and be able to share and inspire your entreprenuer mind, which I believe entreprenuers need the most. I strongly recommend this seminar!
Book: The Ultimate Marketing Plan by Dan S.Kennedy.

9. Who are your mentors in business?
Mr. Yukihito Hibi, president of Business-Art Consults Ltd., my marketing coach. His session doesn’t teach me ordinary marketing skills, through conversation with him he digs down into my mind and helps me find the keys and ways to approach a problem. Through his session I discovered a whole new way of looking at things which I have never thought or felt it before.

My family, especially I would say my father. He is on the different business field but I learn so many things from him. He had started as a carpenter when he was 21 and raised his business to one of the best companies in “Higashi Mikawa region E I grew up in his footsteps and I guess my entreprenuership originally came from this gene…

10. What makes you happy?
When I hear or see people enjoying waraji life at home. In addition, when I see all my 4 projects successful beyond expectations.

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