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.
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.
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