Japan Creative shines a spotlight on the “different characters” of the country’s regional crafts

Japan Creative

Japan’s unique regional manufacturers are put under the spotlight by Japan Creative, an organisation that has paired them with international designers including Jasper Morrison, Daniel Rybakken and Industrial Facility to create new work.

Japan Creative

British designer Jasper Morrison has expanded on his earlier Palma project for Japan Creative, adding a second tea kettle

The non-profit organisation exhibited for the second time at this year’s Milan design week, presenting new products based on laquerware from Sabae, paper from Shizuoka, cast iron from Mizusawa and Aji inscription stone from Mount Goken.

In previous years, it has instigated projects like Stefan Diez’ Soba furniture, made using unprocessed bamboo from the groves surrounding manufacturer Taketora in Kochi Prefecture.

Japan Creative
Morrison’s homeware is made at cast-iron foundry Oigen, which has been in operation since 1852

The organisation launched in 2012 and works to bring international attention to Japanese craftsmanship, or “monozukuri”, which locally is already highly valued. Each year it picks three of Japan’s many small specialty manufacturers to focus on, and then selects a designer from overseas to complement each of them.

“Each area has a different character, and it affects the manufacturer’s techniques,” said Maho Masuzaki from Japan Creative, explaining the country’s many diverse specialities.

“We focus on whether the manufacturer has some unique material or technique, not only traditional ones. First we select the manufacturer and then we think about which designer to put together with the company.”

Japan Creative
This year Japan Creative also launched kitchen tools by Leon Ransmeier made using Aji stone by manufacturers Shimamoto Sekizai

Many of these manufacturers have been in continuous operation for centuries. Industrial Facility worked with Sekisaka to produce the Store vessels based on the manufacturer’s 300-year-old laquerware techniques, while British designer Jasper Morrison expanded on his earlier Palma project, adding a second tea kettle created at cast-iron foundry Oigen.

The manufacturer has been producing this kind of ironware – named Nambu after the former ruling family in the Iwate prefecture – since 1852.

Japan Creative
Aji stone is known as the “diamond of granites” for its texture and sheen

Also included in this year’s new launches were a sound-absorbing hood made by Norwegian designer Daniel Rybakken and the Tokushu Tokai Paper company, and kitchen tools by Leon Ransmeier made using Aji stone by manufacturers Shimamoto Sekizai.

The stone is apparently known as the “diamond of granites” for its texture and sheen, and is usually used in gravestones, but Ransmeier used it in a rolling pin, nutcracker, and mortar and pestle to showcase its potential for “everyday use”.

Japan Creative
Industrial Facility worked with Sekisaka to produce the Store vessels based on the manufacturer’s 300-year-old lacquerware techniques

Industrial Facility’s Sam Hecht likened the country to Italy in the way it has managed to preserve its traditional crafts.

“With companies like Sekisaka, it’s very similar to Italy, where they are family companies that are generally handed down through generations,” he said.

“And the thing about family companies is, you can’t just stop. You can’t just close the door and say ‘oh well I’m going to do something else’ – you keep it going by default. So that’s why they have this ability to be able to adapt and to maintain their quality and their interests.”

Japan Creative
Industrial Facility’s Sam Hecht likened the country to Italy in the way it has managed to preserve its traditional crafts

Outside of Japan Creative, the country’s strong craft tradition is a frequent inspiration for designers. Barber and Osgerby worked with regional paper-lantern makers for their Hotaru lighting, while Nendo made a ceramic speaker in partnership with a potter.

Industrial Facility frequently works in Japan, including with the country’s design megastore Muji, which makes its products locally and recently collaborated with a number of artisans to introduce the handmade Tatazumai collection to its stores.

Japan Creative
This year Japan Creative also brought together Daniel Rybakken and the Tokushu Tokai Paper company to create a sound-dampening hood

“In Japan I feel the idea of craft – and it doesn’t have to be only handmade, it can be something that is produced in significant numbers, but still the process is crafted – people are really into that,” said Hecht. “There are tons of magazines that are exposing that in Japan, and it’s constantly part of the conversation.”

Japan Creative exhibited its projects during Milan design week at Palazzo Litta, where other works on show included bikes created by Punkt in collaboration with leading design schools. Its previous collaborations include works with Claesson Koivisto Rune, Nacho Carbonell and Inga Sempé.

[“source-ndtv”]

Spotlight: HTC Communications Puts Team Work First

htc communications cable wifi services

Network cable and WiFi solutions might not seem like the most interesting or dynamic products. But they are pretty essential to running a business. In the Cleveland area, small businesses and other customers can turn to another local business for their cable and WiFi needs.

HTC Communications LLC is a small company that takes great pride in supplying its neighbors with the best service possible. It also takes pride in treating the members of its small team like family. Read more about this company and how its family atmosphere has helped it succeed in this week’s Small Business Spotlight.

What the Business Does

Provides network cabling services, video surveillance, WiFi, and other audio/video solutions in the Cleveland area.

Business Niche

Building custom solutions.

Caroline Hill, owner of HTC Communications, says:

“Our telecommunications experts can quickly assess the needs of a business and design a custom-fit system.”

How the Business Got Started

Because of economic troubles.

Hill explains:

“Just like many of our friends, we lost a lot during the economic downturn. We lost our jobs, had to rebuild our lives, find new jobs, learn a new career and then hope for the best. We wanted to take control of our future and hopefully help our friends find a career in our company. We started our business for two simple reasons: One, to create an awesome place where our employees could grow, be happy and make a comfortable living. And two, to provide our customers with top-notch customer service that would make us proud as owners.”

htc communications cable wifi services

Biggest Win

Making customers happy.

Hill says:

“Every happy customer makes our team proud. And having a group of people who take pride in making our clients smile is the real win for HTC!”

Biggest Challenge

Adapting to owning a growing business.

Hill says:

“Most of our obstacles seem to be related to growth as a small company. It is a challenge to create and maintain processes when things always seem to be changing. Thankfully, our team is very flexible, and they have lots of great ideas.”

How They’d Spend an Extra $100,000

Take care of employees.

HTC is currently a team of about seven employees. So, each person is incredibly important to the success of the business. And the company thinks it’s important to treat them as such.

Hill explains:

“If we had extra capital, I would first give everyone of our team members a bonus. They deserve it! Following that, I would purchase a couple more company vehicles, so my guys could each have their own work truck/van. If there is anything left after that, I would purchase some advertising space.”

htc communications cable wifi services

Business Motto

Always work as a team.

Hill says:

“We have an amazing company culture that allows us all to fall in love with our jobs. We hire based on personality and ability to work in a team. There is never anything we do as individuals — we are 100 percent a team.”

Images: HTC Communications

[“source-smallbiztrends”]

Spotlight On Moving Mountains Design: Staging Luxury Homes for Sale

This week we shine the spotlight on Moving Mountains Design. Those needing to sell a  big luxury home in the Los Angeles area call on owner Michelle Minch. She and her team swoop in and choose just the right paintings, rugs, sofas and even duvet covers to make a property fetch top dollar. Minch says she has 6 part-time employees in all and has been in business eight years.

WHAT THE BUSINESS IS KNOWN FOR: Being the luxury home stager for the Los Angeles market.

Very few professional stagers own enough inventory to stage larger homes. Even fewer have the kind of higher end furniture, Persian rugs, artwork and accessories needed to complete these jobs successfully. Moving Mountains Design has a warehouse full of beautiful accessories, furniture, artwork, linens, throw pillows and lamps appropriate to luxury homes. At the Real Estate Staging Association International Conference this year, Minch presented a workshop on luxury home staging to a standing-room-only audience. The conference is kind of like a Ted Talks for professional home stagers.

HOW THE BUSINESS GOT STARTED: A trip to Kansas City to wow some home buyers.

The first home Minch staged (and got paid for) was for an interior design client. They asked her to help them get their Kansas City home ready to sell. Minch was flown from Los Angeles. She did a lot of editing, rearranging and upgraded the kitchen with granite counters and new backsplash. The sellers expected the home to take six months to a year to sell, which was the norm at that time in Kansas City. It was the early 2000’s. They went under contract almost immediately and closed escrow about two months later – shockingly fast. Minch didn’t call what she did staging back then. She just told colleagues she was “getting the house ready to sell”. But back home, one of her neighbors was a real estate agent. When she heard about Minch’s success, she started calling her to stage listings. Word got out and other agents started calling. And the rest is history.

BIGGEST RISK TAKEN IN THE BUSINESS: Taking a line of credit for high end inventory

The biggest risk was a home equity line of credit on a rental property which Minch used to grow her company and keep it in the black. She says if her business hadn’t prospered, she could have potentially lost that property to foreclosure. The end result is that she has been able to purchase a very large stock of higher end inventory, furniture, artwork and accessories. This allowed her to position herself as a luxury home staging expert.

BIGGEST WINS? Professional Stager of the Year and More.

In 2010, Minch was voted Professional Stager of the Year by the Real Estate Staging Association. Being chosen as the best professional stager in the United States and Canada by her peers- over 1,000 professional home stagers- was a huge honor. This year she was voted RESA Top 10 Professional Home Stager in the U.S.

Winning these awards has given Minch “street cred.” It has given her great credibility with her peers, her clients and with the media. It has also been a wonderful marketing and public relations opportunity.

IF THIS BUSINESS WERE A SONG, IT WOULD BE: “Happy” by Pharrell Williams

Minch says she’s an eternal optimist. She surrounds herself with optimistic people. Her company culture is optimistic, creative and up-beat. Since the work the company does is very physically demanding, it helps to be surrounded by happy people, Minch says.

Runner up would be “High Hopes” by Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen. Minch admits her favorite version is by Jiminy Cricket.

FAVORITE TEAM FOOD:

Though Minch feels her team is a pretty diverse group, she says she’s never had anyone say no to Japanese food.

FAVORITE QUOTE:

“Big doors swing on little hinges”

The quote is attributed to businessman and philanthropist W. Clement Stone.

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Find out more about the Small Biz Spotlight program.

Image: Kevin Edge

[“source-smallbiztrends”]

Spotlight: Bornevia Offers Customer Support for an Underserved Market

bornevia team

There’s no shortage of SaaS or CRM offerings for businesses in the U.S. But there are other markets around the world that don’t necessarily have the same offerings to cater to their businesses.

As an engineer in the Bay Area, Benny Tija realized that there may be a market for a product that he could build in his home country of Indonesia. So, he and his co-founder left their other jobs to start Bornevia. Read about the business and what it offers to Asian businesses in this week’s Small Business Spotlight.

What the Business Does

Offers an SaaS multi-channel customer support platform.

The help desk platform includes channels like email, Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, live chat and SMS in one ticketing platform. So, the businesses that use it can communicate with their customers in a variety of different ways.

Business Niche

Being the first startup in Indonesia to build a SaaS CRM platform for customer service.

Tija, CEO and co-founder of Bornevia, told Small Business Trends, “Many of our clients in Southeast Asia primarily love our solution due to two things; UI/UX simplicity plus the fact that we have WhatsApp, live chat and email integrations plus analytics to monitor individual KPIs.”

bornevia

How the Business Got Started

Because of an untapped market.

Tija explains, “I used to work for a SaaS B2B tech company in SF Bay Area (now already acquired by Microsoft). Back then, I used lots of other B2B tools such as Zendesk and Jira and felt that there was untapped potentials in the growing Asia tech startup ecosystem. In April 2012, I left and went back home to Indonesia and decided to adopt the idea of SaaS helpdesk software and localize it based on popular support channels so it can fit in [an] Asian market better while we can grow our low touch tractions on the global SMB market as a SaaS product.”

Tija and his co-founder secured some angel funding and spent six months building the product before launching.

Biggest Win

Successfully switching to a free trial model.

Tija explained that early on they were worried about getting enough sign ups, so they used a freemium pricing model. But once they realized they were getting enough interest, they wanted to switch to a free trial model.

He says, “Since beginning 2015, we switched to using [a] free-trial model because we believe it’s easier to track leads this way and in October, we increased efforts on doing outbound user acquisitions locally. The results have been highly positive for our business.”

Biggest Risk

Focusing on building a product over sales.

Tija says, “ As I spent time in Bay Area as an engineer building a SaaS B2B product, my experience tells me that a great product should help market and build value itself in the long term. It was a great decision, since many people like and appreciate our product due to its stability and UI/UX design.”

bornevia screen

Team Tradition

Celebratory dinners.

Tija says, “We always do special dinner at a fine-dining restaurant with the whole team when celebrating a major milestone (raise funding, really major feature release, etc).”

Favorite Quote

“Always put your customers first, employees second, and shareholders third.” –Jack Ma

* * * * *

Find out more about the Small Biz Spotlight program.

Images: Bornevia

Top Image: (left to right) Front Row: Michaela (VP of Engineering), Theo (Software engineer), Benny (CEO, co-founder), Albert (Software engineer), Alex (software engineer), Febry (software engineer), Tjiu (CTO, co-founder); Front Row: Richard (business development), Handison (software engineer)

[“source-smallbiztrends”]