In post-war Japan, the ideal family structure was that of a working father and a stay-at-home mother with children. Women were not expected to work, let alone start up her own business. However, things have radically changed since the mid-twentieth century. Prime Minister Abe is encouraging women to fully engage in the labour market in the midst of an aging society and impending demographic crisis. Well educated and strong-willed young women are now most welcome to enter into the business world as leaders, just like their male counterparts. However, it is still quite rare for a female Japanese entrepreneur to be successful, both in Japan and on the international stage. Is it because of an unfavourable business environment? Or is there an inherent expectation that women cannot be good enough to run their own business and therefore female entrepreneurs are doomed to failure?
In this talk, Junko Kemi, a successful Japanese entrepreneur, Founder and Lead Designer of Japanese womenswear brand kay me will discuss her business journey so far and how she transitioned from the corporate world to the creative industry. Junko will also share the challenges she faced in establishing her business in Japan as well as launching kay me overseas. She will explore the similarities and differences between British and Japanese business practices and conclude by discussing the future and ultimate vision of the kay me brand.
A video of the talk can be found here:
About the contributors
Junko Kemi began her career as a salesperson for one of Japan’s leading educational service providers, Benesse. From there, she worked as a marketing consultant for PwC and Boston Consulting Group. In these roles, she developed a passion for sales and providing cost effective solutions for corporate institutions. It was during this time that the foundations for the kay me concept were born as Junko began to identify the need for better professional womenswear that could also be appropriate for after-work activities such as entertaining clients or eating out with colleagues, while also being practical for long-hours in the office.
After launching in 2011, kay me now has five Japanese locations (a flagship store in Ginza, a store in downtown Osaka, another at Haneda international airport and concessions in two Tokyo department stores). Junko also launched kay me in London in summer 2016, with further launches planned for Singapore and New York.