Business in Her Blood

Natalie has business written all over her DNA. From her first job at her aunt’s pizzeria takeout in Sydney during her early teens, to helping expand an IT recruitment firm’s operations in Japan as an expat many years later, everything she did lead to her starting her own company.

In August 2015, Natalie teamed up with two friends to launch a start-up that offers services catering to specific needs of women. ZOE—their brainchild—automates the delivery of sanitary products, cosmetics, and other beauty and health goods to subscribers, so they don’t have to wake up in horror one day and find an empty drawer when their monthly visitor arrives.

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At one of Natalie’s favorite hangout spots in Daikanyama

Borne out of necessity

“We wanted to do something for women. We were thinking of problems women have and one of them is always forgetting to have stuff on hand.”

“It always happens once every two months where you forget to buy things and you run out,” she says, explaining how they came up with the idea while brainstorming one Sunday afternoon at a coffee shop in Ebisu, Tokyo.

And that’s the key to any start-up, according to her. It’s all about “solving a problem no one has figured out yet; a new idea or an innovation.”

It runs in the family

“I’ve always wanted to be a businesswoman and be the head,” says our driven self-starter, who comes from a long line of enterprising Lebanese immigrants. Natalie attributes her business-savvy side to her parents who also ran their own companies in Australia, where she grew up. She recalls learning the virtues of managing time and money at a young age while observing them operate their mom and pop stores which sold fast-food and sundries. “I guess I’m kind of following their path,” she says.

Risks abound

That’s not to say the startup scene in Japan isn’t fraught with challenges, given its notoriety for being a tough nut to crack. Whether ZOE becomes a runaway success or go the way of one of Google’s many moonshot projects hinges so much on how effective they market to domestic consumers.

“Marketing is such a crucial part of it especially here because everything’s marketed so well and competition is fierce,” she says, adding “whoever can reach and engage the target audience the best” will profit the most. “But once the penny drops and you get one person to say `yes, I like this product’, then everyone will follow.” If not, plans to go overseas are already underway.

 

 

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tokyointerlopers

Finding diversity and inclusion. Breaking down barriers one post at a time. Stories and snapshots of foreigners making their way in Japan.

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