The Journey from Studying Abroad to Starting a Business

Updated: Jul 25

THe founder of WOMENCANFLY, Kimiyo (Kimi), appeared as a guest on Hayapi's podcast, "Do What I Want - Tips for Living Your Life."

Hayapi-san works full-time while developing her baking business as a side hustle and also works as a life coach, fulfilling her mission of, "Don't let your passion stop being a hobby."

You can listen to the episode on Spotify where Kimi appears in Vol. 87. (in Japanese) or read this article. In the interview, Kim wias able to talk about her experiences, the struggles she went through before coming to Australia, and how she started WOMENCANFLY.

We have transcribed Vol. 87 for you! The first half and the second half will be published in two parts where we'll share how WOMENCANFLY was born.

Vol.87 of "Do What I Want" with Kimi Aizawa (Transcript)

Whatever choice a woman makes is the right choice but I would like to increase their number of choices.

Today's guest is Kimi, the owner of WOMENCANFLY.

Kimi wants to increase the number of choices for women, and she herself made the decision to go to Australia at the age of 32. There were many opinions about whether it was too late or too early but listening to Kimi's story, I think it's neither too late nor too early. If there are people who think it's too late or if there are people who have been hesitant to go abroad for a long time, your story will really give them courage. As Kimi mentioned in this episode, she also holds IKIGAI seminars to support women and help them with overseas employment.

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Now, let's hear this passionate episode with Kimi.

Hayapi: Hi I'm here today with Kimi from WOMENCANFLY. Good evening.

Kimi: Good evening.

Hayapi: Thank you very much for taking the time to talk to me today,

Kimi: Thank you too.

Hayapi: I've been following WOMENCANFLY's Instagram and have been wondering what kind of person is behind it all. On your Instagram profile, it says "Be the best version of yourself" and "Increase women's options to shine", which I really agree with, so I wondered what the person on the other side was like and that's when I sent you a message.

Kimi: I'm so glad!

Hayapi: I was really looking forward to talking to you today. First of all, could you introduce yourself and your company, WOMENCANFLY, to our listeners?

Kimi: Yes. First of all, Thank you so much for having me here, Hayapi and visiting our Instagram. I'm so happy. I came to Australia from Kansai, Japan in 2018 when I was 32 years old, and I was originally working for a foundation supporting entrepreneurs and working in the inbound tourism industry for Japan.  I started WOMENCANFLY in Sydney in November, 2019 with the intention of increasing womens' options to shine. So far, I've held events on how to write resumes in English, how to get an interview in English and social media marketing. Our motto is to hold events with the aim of helping people acquire skills that they can put into practice immediately after coming to the event.

Hayapi: Is that for people who live in Australia?

Kimi: Originally, when I came to Australia, I couldn't get a full-time job because of my visa. I wanted to do something more that I could do on a student visa and I was hoping to get a business sponsorship someday, so I started the program to support other students too so that working holidaymakers and international students who were also coming to Australia could have a smoother transition or pursue their career opportunities. However, when I look at the actual participants, I see that many of them are Japanese women in Japan as well. About half of them want to study abroad or work for a foreign company someday.

Hayapi: You support women and I was curious about what you said earlier when you introduced yourselfthat you came to Australia at the age of 32...

Kimi: I didn't make it to Australia in time for Working-Holiday- Visa Age of 31 so I came here after Working-Holiday-Visa age.

Hayapi: Why did you postpone it for so long? Did you always have a desire to go to Australia?

Kimi: Actually, I hadn't thought about Australia at that time. Can I tell you why I wanted to go abroad?

Hayapi: Yes, please.

Kimi: My last job was at a public foundation that held seminars and conferences for inbound tourism industry and entrepreneurs. It was just before the Olympics so we had events that taught people about where to put English signs and how to serve Halal (Islamic food) to people in museums etc. As I worked with government officials, I started wondering if this was really what they wanted people overseas to do, or if it was a sign they actually wanted. Even if I had doubts, I couldn't be sure of them because I hadn't been there and put myself in their shoes. That's why I wanted to go abroad and listen to the real voices of foreigners. However, when it came to Working-holiday-visas (which is a common way to go overseas), I pictured it in my mind but I was really enjoying my work at that time and if I continued, of course I would be able to build up my career so I didn't know when to quit. It was very fun to keep working, so I wasn't sure if it was worth the challenge to go overseas. Finally, I heard that I could apply for a working holiday in Australia until I turned 31, so I just applied to go on a working holiday as a good luck charm. However, at the age of 31, I still loved my job and couldn't make up my mind so in the end I didn't use the working holiday visa.

Hayapi: So, it was postponed in the end, but when you decided to go, were you prepared? Or was there a reason why you decided to quit the job you enjoyed and go? Was there a reason why you decided to go?

Kimi: I think that when people are thinking about going to study abroad or going on a study abroad program, it's probably a 50/50 decision as to whether they should go or not. At that time, I was also in a relationship with someone, and I was thinking that if I stayed in Japan, I would get married, or if I tried, I would end up starting from zero again but I couldn't come up with an answer even after thinking about it for a long time, so when I turned 31, I only had a working holiday visa. I decided to just go and try it out, so I took Golden Week and Obon vacations (Japanese official long weekends, usually 4 days to a week each) in 2017 and went to Australia, New York and Canada for a week each by myself as a trip. I also wanted to see how it would actually make me feel. I happened to add Sydney to my trip for the simple reason that it was an English-speaking country. When I arrived, I found that it was completely different from the country I had expected. It wasn't just kangaroos or koalas. The tourism industry in Sydney was going to grow very rapidly and compared to Canada and New York, there was no time difference so there were more opportunities to do business there. That's when I made up my mind to go abroad. It took me about a year and a half to prepare for my departure.

Hayapi: I see. Rather than wondering which way to go, you took a step forward, and now you can see the next step.

Kimi That's right. It's not a question of "0" or "100", but while you are hesitating, it's a great way to actually go to the country even during short holidays.

Hayapi: That's right. No matter how much you worry about it, you will never know, so I think it is very important to see what you can do. When you made up your mind and decided to go to Australia, did you have something you wanted to do or goals in mind? Or did you just say, "I'm going! did you just go there?

Kimi: I've always been a big advocate of studying abroad in your 30's. Of course, it's good to go in your early 20's, but I think that studying abroad in your 30's is wiser than studying abroad in your early 20's, because you have been working for a while and you can do more things, and you have the instinct to make your own choices. So I think I am studying abroad more wisely than I would have in my early twenties. When I took a break during Golden week or Obon to Australia, Canada and NY, I was aware that I might leave the company the following year if I changed my mind at the time, so when I went to Sydney, I immediately participated in a lot of local events. I ended up exchanging business cards with a person I met at that time at a web media company that promoted Japanese Travel for Australians and sent Australians to Japan. When I came back a year and a half later, I started working at that company.

Hayapi: That's great!

Kimi: I think I was more conscious than in my early 20s about what I should do next, how I should connect with local people, how I should get real information from local people, and so on.

Hayapi: You're right, if you go when you're young, it's mainly for fun. We're going to have fun! I think we tend to go when we are young. When I went when I was in college, I was more interested in having fun. When you have gained a certain amount of work experience, and you know what you want to do and what your goals are, you can do that. But you are very active, exchanging business cards and going to events. I think that's great.

Kimi: I think it's great to be able to study abroad when you're young and have fun, but when you're 30, the reason you're worried about is what if you don't have a job or what if you can't find a job when you come back. That made me very anxious, so I was writing down all the things I was anxious about, and then I reversed it. Like, if I had a job, I wouldn't be anxious, or if I had the skills, I could find another job. 
No one wants to say, "Please give me your contact information at the very first time" directly! But anyway I did that at all the events when I went overseas for my holidays.(laughs) I'm in my 30s, so I'm being little more brave and confident compared to my 20's. "I have to connect!" I thought I wanted to stay in touch to start working or studying abroad smoothly in the future.

Hayapi: That's a very good way of thinking. I think it's a great way to think about what you need to do to get rid of this anxiety, instead of just worrying about it. So when you went to Australia, did you go to school first?

Kimi That's right. It's quite difficult to go to any country without a working holiday visa after 30. This is an afterthought, but Australia is the country where you can work on a student visa, and you can do business as a sole proprietor at the same time, so there are many opportunities, advantages and privileges. In that sense, I finally decided to come to Australia.

Hayapi: I didn't know there was such a thing. I didn't know that at all.

Kimi: In other countries, you can't work on a student visa, so some people do cash jobs called "Under" to make up the money. That is not good. So I think Australia is a very good English-speaking country where you can work on a student visa.

Hayapi: This is the first time I've heard that story, so I think that listeners who are listening to this may have made a new discovery that such a thing is possible. You are now giving seminars at WOMENCANFLY, aren't you? Is that something you like to do? Do you do it because you like lecturing and teaching? I would like to ask you why you empower people in this way.

Kimi: I've always liked people very much, and the reason I started WOMENCANFLY is supporting people so that they can be more active as in overseas. For example, if you are an expatriate of a big company, or if you have already graduated from a prestigious university and you are getting many headhunters, you have a lot of opportunities. But I was just an ordinary office worker who graduated from a women's university, I didn't have such great opportunities or connections but I wanted to do more. I also want people who want to do something more to be given a chance. I don't think I'm at the stage where I'm ready to teach others yet, so basically, WOMENCANFLY always invites top professionals to give lectures. So, we want people to learn from professionals. The reason I craeted it like this was because my previous company, a public foundation, was a semi-governmental, semi-private organisation that mainly held events and conferences with the government and since we were collaborating with the government, we basically offered any event for free or for a very small fee. I worked there for a total of about four years, and the quality of the content was really great, as they invited professors from various universities and other top-notch people to hold events. However, what I personally found to be a disadvantage was that since the seminar was run as a company, it was basically held in the afternoon on weekdays, and the participants were only middle managers and above. To a certain extent, all the people who came to the seminar were people who had already held a position in the company, because they were the ones who were asked by the company to go to this seminar. However, the content of the seminar included support for startups and entrepreneurship, so I thought, "It would be really useful if newly graduated adults could come to this seminar," or "It would be really useful if college students who don't have money could come to this seminar. Making the price affordable, I felt that I was not reaching the people I wanted to reach and I wanted to make that happen. I've also had people who have come to the events tell me, "I didn't have high expectations but when I came, I had a lot of fun and it has changed me, thank you!," or "I took the eight lectures, and even though I didn't want to take some of them which I though it didn't need but I did it because it parts of the course and It was great!! I learned something from that, too." As an administrator, I was looking at the feedback from people like that made me really happy and believe, If we can deliver something really good to people who really need it, we may be able to change someone's life. I believe I might be able to change someone's life, even one and that includes myself, so that's why I'm doing the WOMENCANFLY events. I don't want to make people say, "I wish I had known that at the time..."  I'm the type of person who likes to look up things and attend seminars on my own anyways, so when I attend and find, "This is good," if there are others who need the same thing, I would like to share it with them and we can all move forward together. It would be nice if I could do it together, not just by myself. It's not that I like to teach, but I like to see people feel that way. "I thought I couldn't do it, but now I can! I really love to see the look on their faces.

Hayapi: Kimi and her team members created a place where people who wanted to learn and do things on their own could participate, rather than people who just came because they were told to. I thought that there would be good stimulation among the participants. Going back story a bit, did you already have the idea of creating WOMENCANFLY in mind when you went to Australia? I would like to hear your story.

Kimi: Originally I had no intention of starting a business. I like to work as team, I like to be in a position where I know what the boss is trying to achieve and support him/her to get there faster, so I like to serve others. However, when I went to Australia, I first had to go to school and change my visa to a student visa due to visa requirements, so I chose business school at that time. I had been supporting entrepreneurs in Japan, so I decided to take an entrepreneurship course in Australia to see how they felt. I took an entrepreneurship course in Australia to try to put myself in their shoes. If I could learn how the people I had supported were feeling about starting up their own businesses. I chose to the major in business school at first. After the business school started, I came here because I was in my 30s and enjoying my work, so I started getting a lot of questions about studying abroad, events, and careers. At that time, I was asked to invite a professor from a business school to come to Japan to give a lecture. At that time, I had quit from my previous company, so the proposal would be under my own name, "Kimiyo Aizawa." However, when you plan an event as an individual, it lacks credibility for the clients, or rather, an event planned by someone you don't know doesn't have much credibility. As a result, there was a possibility that I would be rejected even if I invited people to the event, so I started thinking about becoming independent at that stage of planning. My first event was with the city of Kobe and the Australian general-consulate in Japan, so I knew that if I was going to work with these organisations, I needed to have a proper website, a domain name, and a registered business name, so I decided to start my own business naturally. That's probably a big reason. Rather than wanting to do something on my own, I wanted to do what I could to meet the demand. If I was going to do what I could do, I wanted to make sure it was trustworthy, and I wanted to do my best so that people would be glad that we worked together, which is how I ended up starting my own business.

Hayapi: You are running a team of four now, aren't you?

Kimi Yes, that's right.