MEGUMI HAGIUDA. A rose bud.

Larissa

I take particular pleasure in talking to considerate, intelligent and thoughtful people, especially if they are women. Megumi Hagiuda is all that, and also very delicate and beautiful on a surface, but purposeful inside. Her business is flowers, and she can too be compared to a tight rose bud – beautiful, and solid. She is a kind of person who is being critical about herself with the only purpose of challenging self to move forward.

She has set a meeting in a cafe next to her flower shop, which is only open 3 days a month. The rest of the days she is meeting her potential clients and partners, she has plans to expand her little flower empire. The current business model of the “African Flowers” allows customers to order rare Kenyan roses, a month in advance, which are then shipped from Nairobi, via Dubai, to Tokyo, where are met by Megumi at the airport customs.

“Tomorrow night I will be importing. The plane with my cargo arrives at 12 am, in the morning, after clearance will drive the roses to my shop”, – she explains, “Yes, I have a Toyota SUV”, – she adds naturally, following up my question if she’s driving it herself, as I was surprised. That was the moment I understood that despite long weaved hairs, pretty silhouette skirt and an expensive brand bag, she is a tough cookie girl. 

I take particular pleasure in talking to considerate, intelligent and thoughtful people, especially if they are women. Megumi Hagiuda is all that, and also very delicate and beautiful on a surface, but purposeful inside. Her business is flowers, and she can too be compared to a tight rose bud – beautiful, and solid. She is a kind of person who is being critical about herself with the only purpose of challenging self to move forward.

Megumi Hagiuda
Megumi Hagiuda

She has set a meeting in a cafe next to her flower shop, which is only open 3 days a month. The rest of the days she is meeting her potential clients and partners, she has plans to expand her little flower empire. The current business model of the “African Flowers” allows customers to order rare Kenyan roses, a month in advance, which are then shipped from Nairobi, via Dubai, to Tokyo, where are met by Megumi at the airport customs.

“Tomorrow night I will be importing. The plane with my cargo arrives at 12 am, in the morning, after clearance will drive the roses to my shop”, – she explains, “Yes, I have a Toyota USV”, – she adds naturally, following up my question if she’s driving it herself, as I was surprised. That was the moment I understood that despite long weaved hairs, pretty silhouette skirt and an expensive brand bag, she is a tough cookie girl. 

“My first import was a complete failure. I could not sell the flowers and felt so bad”, – confesses Megumi, “Today, after two years in business, I import around 1-2 thousands stems a month, which is still not much. But I am planning to expand by selling to large flower shops”.

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It’s been 3 years now as she has changed her career 180 degrees. “It’s been very difficult, since I really liked my job in the pharmaceutical company, and everything was very comfortable, but at some point I have also realized ‘Wait a minute’ maybe this is not something what I want. First there was a “glass ceiling” for my career professionally, and also I wanted to work in developing countries, but for security reasons my company did not allow that for a woman. Secondly, I have studied in US, I have travelled to many places, but Africa, which has always been attracting me in a cultural and spiritual way. I was 29 when quitted my job.

My boss was trying to talk me off leaving, suggesting I would just take 2 weeks vacations. But I decided to ‘close that door’, leaving no chance to return, because you need to have a full awareness and openness for new ventures, without having a back thought, that you could come back”, – explains Megumi her decision.

She has then left to Africa joining a Community Action Development Organization as a volunteer, helping building schools in Kenya. That was where she has one day discovered a flower shop with striped flowers. “What is that flower?”, – she wondered “It’s a rose, don’t you have roses in Japan”, – a guy behind the counter was surprised at the question. But roses Megumi found were very different from those she saw in Japan, they are bigger, stronger, live up to 1 month, and exclusively colored. She always had a thing for flowers, decorating bouquets, enjoying floristics.

African Roses in Japan
African Roses

Having returned to Japan, she has consulted her former boss and other colleagues with MBA degrees and decided to set up “African flowers” business. “Because we are selling African flowers with the idea of helping the Kenyan community, creating working places”, shares Megumi and it is obvious that the social impact of her business is one of the main motivating factors for her. Talking about the business side she adds: “We are not competing in the flower market, which is very saturated and is going down, we are selling our flowers as a gift, and competing in the gifts market, which is growing and going up”.

“At first I was trying to run this business while being full-time employed with an IT company. But flowers required more and more attention. Besides, inside I was facing an ethical dilemma, it felt as if I am cheating on my employer, so I decided to quit, and focused fully on African flowers”, – confesses Megumi, adding that it was a financially difficult decision, yet very rewarding morally, “I feel so much happier now! It’s more fun. The circle of people I have to work has changed and I enjoy every day of it”.

African rose in Japan

“I remember asking myself one day: if I die tomorrow, would I be satisfied with my life? I knew I could do more and contribute myself 100%, so I quit and felt so much more relieved. The only thing I would change given the chance, I would quit earlier’’

If you are not comfortable enough ‘here’, – she adds showing to the center of the chest, ‘Then you cannot get any chance. You cannot see it, if you are not committed to yourself. And there is no sacrifice, it is a commitment to being true self’, – says Megumi.

When you are looking at a person who is happy about her work you do not need many reconfirming words. I could tell from the way Megumi’s eyes lit up every time she talks about her new job, her own job. She has obviously put a lot of thinking into how her business contributes to a positive social change in Africa, which has always fascinated her.

When I asked Megumi for an advice for others, who are considering making a change, perhaps who are not happy with their current jobs, I think I have received a Japanese style sarcasm answer: “If you feel you are not happy about what you are doing, try to find things you like the most, can be hobbies, a person or a book, a music, things you enjoy, and eventually you will be satisfied.

For those, who are serious, trust yourself, and step forward. Forget about the concerns and worries, just do it. And there will be so many  who will help you”.

Today Megumi is 32, she is considering serious relationships, but believes that marriage is not important, but finding the right partner is. “With the new business I have met a lot of interesting people, more diverse, some of them are life partners, but not married, others have kids without a husband. It helped me to look at the relationships more broadly”, – thinks aloud Megumi. For those who are familiar with the conservative Japanese society and traditions, Megumi’s views are rebellious.

By the end of the meeting she asked: “How do you come with such precise questions, as if you are looking inside of me?”. I believe the answer is simple: every person who is on the verge of making the change, any kind of change, faces same fears, and is looking for an inspirational example, like the one of Megumi.

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With credits to Riarumi, an online resource to help empower Japanese women and to Sam Dabestani, who has introduced me to Ms Hagiuda. More about her at the interview here too:  http://www.riarumi.com/en/hagiuda-megumi/

  • Саша

    Great example of uniting business, personal and social goals. Thanks for inspiration!