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A Broad Perspective

Starting a Business in Japan

Caroline Pover in Japan
Caroline Pover speaking in Osaka, about "Being a Broad" in Japan

This year, thousands of people will make the journey to Japan in hopes of making some money teaching English. Caroline Pover did that eight years ago, and her initial wanderlust has turned into the beginnings of a global business proving you can’t keep a good broad down.

At 32, Pover doesn’t mind being called a “broad.” The dark-haired Plymouth, U.K. native and former primary teacher has made broads her business in Japan. Her focus is on providing resources that empower, inform, and support both Western and native women.

When Pover first arrived in Japan it was to no job and no place to stay. Using her two resources, a book listing English schools and a friend of a friend willing to put her up for the night, she had a full-time job within days. Six months later, realizing the lack of resources for Western women going through the same initial feelings of isolation, she decided to self-publish a magazine entitled Being A Broad. It became the information resource for foreign women in Japan. However, because of financial constraints, the magazine folded. This didn’t stop Pover.

“I felt a real loyalty to the women I came to know through the magazine. And I knew that the need was still there, so I decided to self-publish a book using the ‘Being A Broad’ name,” she explains.

Her book, Being a Broad in Japan: Everything a Western Woman Needs to Survive and Thrive, is more than 500 pages of advice, tips, and phone numbers compiled to make Western women more comfortable living in Japan. It became so popular here that it bumped Harry Potter off the best-seller lists.

That was just the beginning. The Being A Broad network now provides one-on-one or group consultations for women designed to make the transition easier. The network spawned her Broad-Minded Business, a new job introduction and information service for Japanese and foreign women. Job listings are available weekly via online newsletter.

Soon after, she started Alexandra Press, a publishing business for the international community in Japan. Next, Pover was approached to start a networking service specifically for global-minded Japanese women. And Go-Girls! was born, a service that matches female language teachers with prospective female students. Its services have expanded to workshops, seminars, and homestay programs.

These days, Pover divides her time between speaking engagements, publishing books, and consultations with authors and clients. She is also working on expanding her business internationally. So what’s the secret to being a successful entrepreneur in Japan?

“I think it’s really about staying true to yourself. Doing what you want to be doing. Creating something and having a “work life”—doing things you like with people you like doing it with. I get on well with people and I have to motivate friends and employees. It’s really all about the ability to balance a lot of things, to juggle,” Pover laughs.

If you’re thinking of moving to Japan, Pover’s advice is this: “Be prepared for the first two years to be a challenge. Especially if you’re single. Remember that challenges will make you grow in many ways. Build a network. Reach out and ask people to help. We’ve all been there. Resist the tendency to blame everything on Japan. Come with an open mind and remember the people who have helped you. This is really important. And, of course, the same applies to starting a business.”

Broad-minded advice indeed.

For More Info

If you are thinking of moving or starting a business in Japan, these are resources Caroline recommends to get you started.

www.being-a-broad.com

www.fewjapan.com, a networking organization for foreign executive women in Japan.

www.afwj.org, the Association for Foreign Wives of Japanese.

www.terrie.com, Terrie Lloyd, the publisher of Japan Inc. and president of LINC Media, holds seminars entitled “Entrepreneur’s Handbook.”

www.labourmobility.com, a site with resources and info for both international job-hunters and employers alike. The company produces a series of country-specific books entitled Looking for Work in… A Japan edition was published in September 2003.

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