Yuko Nakamura took a well-calculated risk leaving a safe and successful job as an executive headhunter in Japan and moving to Montreal. Wanting to elevate herself and get out of her comfort zone, she had a dream to become an entrepreneur. Montreal, with its great blend of European and North American culture, was the perfect destination. People in Montreal highly regard women with entrepreneurial skills and being Japanese added that intriguing "Je ne sais quoi" quality to the mix that made her stand out from the other executives. She now divides her time between Canada and Japan working with the Akuntsu Digital agency and serving on the CCCJ Board of Governors.
Where in Japan are you from?
What started your interest in Canada? Do you speak English and French?
When I was a teenager, I saw Alegria and dreamt of working for Cirque du Soleil, so I left for Montreal hoping to work with them. Cirque du Soleil are now one of my clients. I am fluent in English and learning French by watching movies (with subtitles) and listening to French music like French singer Charles Aznavour and Harmonium from Quebec.
How often are you in Canada?
I now spend half of my time in Canada and the other half of my time in Japan since we have clients in both countries.
You're currently with the Akuntsu digital agency based out of Montreal and Tokyo. What is your position there?
I’m a senior partner, co-founder and vice-president for strategic operations at Akuntsu. In Tokyo, I am the head of our office. Since day one, I have been working exclusively with executives and decision makers in the sport, entertainment and lifestyle industries.
What are Akuntsu’s brand liaison services in a nutshell?
We essentially help Canadian brands tap into the Japanese market and do the same for Japanese brands looking to go the other way. We believe that in a more globalized economy, there is a growing need for this kind of expertise. Currently, we mostly focus on sport, entertainment, lifestyle and technology brands.
Sum up the biggest challenge about your current position in 10 words or less…
Transitioning a strictly service-based company to a service and product development one.
What is the most innovative digital or mobile project you've worked on at Akuntsu?
Winning the worldwide contest to design the medals for the inaugural 2010 Youth Olympic Games was very special to me. We had to propose a design and get the world to vote for it via social media. From the Top 10 short list, a jury unanimously selected our design. As the IOC president at the time told us: "You have made Olympic history." The Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland now displays our design.
You’ve been a member of the CCCJ since 2012. What made you want to join and eventually become a governor on the board?
I wanted to become a governor because we need more Japanese women in business leadership roles. I am on a mission to help and inspire them to become entrepreneurs. Women's entrepreneurship is the future of Japan.
What is one thing the CCCJ could do to improve its social media presence and engage with its members?
The CCCJ has made progress in the last two years. If we continue to focus on trends, storytelling and members — similar to what The Canadian provides in each issue — it will continue to attract interest. The chamber needs to continuously take the time to explain the added value of becoming a member of the CCCJ. While it's mostly about business, the chamber at its core is about the members and its ecosystem.
What is your favorite social media platform and why?
LinkedIn by far. I've connected with many executives that have become clients, strategic partners and many of them — ultimately — friends. Most of all, LinkedIn is about business — and I love doing business with great decision makers and innovative leaders.
What are some common mistakes companies make when trying to leverage social media? What are some simple steps they can take to avoid them?
Never forget that it's social first — then media. When we launched the first Uniqlo fan page on Facebook, the byline was: "For the fans by the fans." It's about the community, not just the brand.
What's your favorite Canadian pastime? Are you a Habs fan?
Attending cultural events, like each new Cirque du Soleil show or other performances in theatre and film — especially those of my friend Francois Girard. He is well known in Japan for the show Zed and his work with Japanese artists. No, I’m not a Habs fan, but I do follow every step of the Canadian team during the winter and summer Olympics. My heart beats for the Japanese Olympic team first, though.© The Canadian