After a long hiatus to handle the demands of client work (thankfully!), I am pleased to continue our Women in Japan-US Business profile series today with another story of a dynamic woman, Shoko Sekiguchi, who has thrived as a Japanese women working in the United States both in large corporations and in her own business.
Shoko is the Founder/ CEO of Ampleen Inc, a social enterprise that educates and empowers nonprofits, corporate partners and green conscious individuals for more sustainable living in the urban environment.
Japan-US Business News: What was your educational experience? Was it helpful in getting you where you are now? What were your professional experiences?
Shoko: “I must admit that I love school and learning new things as I spent so many years in
schools. (laugh) I have a Masters degree in Linguistics from Sophia University in Tokyo and International Affairs from GW in Washington D.C.
By learning two totally different principles, I believe that I gained the balanced view. My fundamental understanding about economics and business definitely helps me to excel when I consult with companies. From Liberal Arts, I learned to look at situations and relationships with deeper insight and find that it’s a great tool for dealing with diverse people and situations.”
Japan-US Business News: How did you spot the opportunity to start your new business, Ampleen?
Shoko: “In last several years, as my view on life has changed, I also saw the big shift in people’s consciousness towards their values, lifestyle and consumption patterns. More people are seeing the long-term benefits in supporting socially responsible companies and I really believe in the movement and wanted to be a part of it. That is how I found my passion and niche in the sustainability business. I believe that when one becomes aware their true calling and surroundings, opportunities will emerge for them.”
Japan-US Business News: What were/are the most demanding conflicts you face in this new business?
Shoko: “Sustainability is such a complex subject since it is deeply related to people’s behavior and values. It takes time to make the shift happen. I usually experience conflict when I try to bring sustainability to where cost effectiveness is the most crucial key metrics and when I try to convince
consumers that cheap cloth or fast food actually hurts us for a long term.
I understand why some key stake holders in business –both Japanese and American, are hesitant to move forward with sustainability. It is usually easier to buy cheaper and more convenience goods—let’s face it, that is a fact of life. But in terms of sustainable goods, we have to take the long term view and hopefully forego some of the short-term conveniences in order to make better, healthier choices for ourselves, our families and the environment.”
Japan-US Business News: What things do you find personally rewarding and satisfying as an entrepreneur? What have been the rewards and trade-offs?
Shoko: “It’s rewarding when I see that I deliver the value to clients and their business has
been improved with my service. One of the trade-offs of being an entrepreneur is that you are thinking of your business all the time!”
Japan-US Business News: What do you want to see happen in Japanese business and in the global business arena? And specifically, what do you want to see happen for women in Japan and in business?
Shoko: “I would like to see more transparency in Japanese business and also in the government. Recently, Japan's crippled nuclear plant confirmed that it delayed acknowledging that the plant was leaking contaminated water into the sea. It concerns me greatly that these kinds of incidents keep occurring in Japan. There are deep seeded cultural reasons for it I know, but this has to change. Japanese consumers need to be more empowered and educated about the power and influence that they have. They need to hold their businesses and the government more responsible and demand the kind of transparency that should be their right.
In terms of Japanese women, I would like to see more women in Japan become more vocal in expressing their opinions and business know how. I would like them to let go of the fear of ‘sticking out’ in society."
Japan-US Business News: How do you think they should go about doing this?
Shoko: “If you really study consumerism in Japan, you will find that Japanese women hold
tremendous clout. I want them to realize this collectively, empower themselves and demand that their voices be heard and considered.”
Japan-US Business News: If you could do one thing to bring about a change to Japan, what would it be?
Shoko: "Japan is facing many issues caused by a long term avoidance of fundamental changes that needed to take place culturally and in society. The world has and is changing rapidly. Flexibility is becoming the most important element for survival today and Japan needs to realize that.
I would like to help bring awareness to the people in Japan to help them let go of old convictions and open up to new way of doing things.
Especially, I would like to inspire the Japanese younger generation to be more curious about affairs outside of Japan and how it impacts their lives.The future of Japan is in their hands and I don’t know if they fully comprehend that.”
Japan-US Business News: Thank you very much for taking the time to visit with us Shoko. We at Japan-US Business News wish you great success.
For more information about Shoko and Ampleen, please visit Ampleen.com.
Ampleen’s upcoming Sustainability Fashion Event - Fashion Evolution: Consumer Power will be held on Thursday, November 7th at the Scandinavia House in New York. Click here for more information. Hope to see you there.