Yasmine Djoudi at ikkai’s office in Fukuoka
executive impact

Yasmine Djoudi of Ikkai: One French woman's dream to inspire Japan's next generation

By Kathryn Wortley

At 26, while on a student exchange program to Fukuoka from her native France, Yasmine Djoudi observed a way she might help address two of Japan’s pressing problems: a culture of long working hours that impedes work-life balance and a shortage of talent caused by an aging population.

Her idea was simple: to establish a website offering students one-off tasks for cash and experience to help them in their future careers. Those who posted the gigs, on the other hand, could get their chores done and have more free time to enjoy themselves. She gave the website the name ikkai (the Japanese expression for one time).

An immediate hit with students, the marketplace was expanded nationwide and Djoudi added an additional service, Career by ikkai, designed to help students into internships and find their first job on graduation. Now the Fukuoka-based entrepreneur has her sights on setting up a team in Tokyo to grow the business.

But Djoudi’s journey has not been without challenges, including overcoming stereotypes, adjusting to new business methods and finding her own work-life balance. Savvy Tokyo met the young entrepreneur to find out more.

What brought you to Japan?

I’ve always been attracted to Japanese culture. When I was a student at a business school in France we had to do an exchange program in a different country. I worked really hard to have the best grades to be able to choose Japan. My business school was in Bordeaux, which is a sister city of Fukuoka, so I ended up there.

What was the spark for your business?

I got the idea in Fukuoka in 2014 and, with my co-founder, decided to create it. But we had to leave Japan after our exchange program. We lived in New York for a year, to finish our studies and do an internship. From the start of 2015, we went to Starbucks every day after our internships and worked on our business idea until the store closed. Mid-2015, we came back to Japan and began doing marketing and research. Finally, in February 2016, we registered ikkai inc.

Teamwork: Yasmine and ikkai co-founder Thomas Pouplin are partners in business and in life.

How has the business evolved?

At first, we didn’t have a budget for promotion, so it was difficult to let people know about the marketplace service. Also, Japanese people had a bit of trouble with letting a stranger into their house to do chores. But some clients talked about ikkai to their friends and it got much better.

Click here to read more.

© Savvy Tokyo

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

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Bravo, Yasmine. The more cultural experiences introduced to Japan the better.

But only this French-Canadian's viewpoint suremont.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Je ne parle pas français. Yet, I wonder: how do you do business now-a-days when the shrinking population at the age of graduating from college means more jobs available than persons that age ready to do them?

IF, as you say, you plan to "address...[the] problem...[also] of an aging population," what are you doing besides matching elderly persons with tasks for hire, with young workers? Are you doing anything now in Fukuoka about hiring the elderly themselves? (As an old person myself, I thought a "one-time" job would be a good start to see what I can still do--or even what I can now do, thanks to the good sides of aging. Yet, I do not plan to move to Fukuoka. . . . . )

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Curious to know...if a company such as this, who's founded by two foreigners who do not speak Japanese, and rather than learn it simply hired interns to translate, why don't many of the Japanese companies (in Japan) who do international business assign bilingual interns to skilled foreigners who don't speak Japanese?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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