With loads of ambition and a backpack full of shirts and jeans, Japanese junior high school teacher Saori Kawano immigrated to the United States in 1978 determined to start a business that would last many decades.
With limited English skills, she found work as a waitress in a Japanese restaurant. Learning the operations of a successful restaurant, Kawano saved her tips and later started Korin Inc., an importer of Japanese kitchenware, tableware and kitchen equipment.
“It took a long time to come to this point. Looking back now, it’s not just about the business. It is about relationships that I build. I always think to myself: What else can I do? What else can I offer to American customers? I just kept trying and I didn’t really seek investors nor partners when I started my business. I just wanted to do things at my own pace,” Kawano said.
“Along the way, I’ve met many wonderful customers, vendors and friends. Whether Japanese or American, or any nationality, they all helped, encouraged and supported me,” she added.
By sharing her story, Kawano wants to inspire more Japanese companies and business owners to take the risk and to promote and celebrate their culture. By believing in themselves, success is assured, she said.