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The Journey from Studying Abroad to Starting a Business

Updated: Jul 25, 2022

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.

------*Excerpts: ------

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.

Hayapi: Are you all living in Australia?

Kimi: In Thailand, Japan and Australia. We are all working remotely.

Hayapi: I think that's really interesting. I thought it was really interesting to have a team of people from Thailand, Australia, and many other places.

Kimi: In the end, we have a lot of people who attend our events and seminars remotely, so having meetings with the team remotely is very helpful for us to know the situation of the people we want to reach. I am very happy to have them as teams.

Hayapi: Are the seminars and events that you are planning now free of charge? Or do you have to pay to participate?

Kimi: At the moment, we have both free and paid events. For B2C, we have a 60-minute IKIGAI WORKSHOP once a month and it's free.

Hayapi-san: What are the other overseas employment programs like?

Kimi: Job hunting Overseas Employment Program is $199. (*2020) It cost about ¥25,000 Japanese yen last year, and is a series of four days. On the first day, we had a staffing agency person teach us how to write an effective resume, and on the second day, we had an HR person from a company teach us how to have an effective interview in English. Since we were specialising in Australia, the third day we had an accountant teach us about Australian tax law knowledge, and the last day we had a lecturer talk about English skills and attitudes that work overseas. We had homework for each session. It would be very difficult to write a resume in English by yourself. The reason why I wanted to do this program is because when I got a job in Australia, it was a huge hassle for me to write a resume in English. But if you don't make one, you can't even start. You can't apply for jobs, you can't go to interviews. But it was too much things you work on, so I kept putting it off, and in the end, I really didn't like putting everything off. If you come to one of the four seminars, the first day you are asked to prepare a personal summary as homework, which is the part of your resume in English that introduces yourself, the second day is a skills summary, which is what you can do, and the third day is your work history. On the fourth day, I asked them to put all of these together. On the fourth day, they were asked to combine all of the above and a program aimed to make them feel that their English resume was ready in some way. so They are ready to apply!

Hayapi: That's good, It's hard to make it by yourself. It's difficult because it's in English but if you divide it into small parts and work together, I think the progress will be totally different.

Kimi: I know that some people don't do homework because they don't want to be bothered by it and it'll be easier for you do it later so I would chase after them to say "Let's do it now, when do you think you can submit, etc" and email them to submit their work. This is possible because we have a small group. 

Hayapi: I think that's good support. It's hard to do it alone.

Kimi: Once you make original one first, all you have to do is edit it, but making it from scratch is very troublesome. I think that's the motto of the seminar management. It's hard to get to the place where you can make an effort in other countries, as well as in Japan, you spend so much time before you get there that you can  make an effort. By the time you get there, you are exhausted, which I think is a waste of time, so I would like to support people as much as I can, up to the point of having a resume or creating a model. Once they get to that point, it's up to them to make the effort, which is something I'm always conscious of.

Hayapi: I see. I'd like to ask you again why you wanted to increase the number of choices for women in life, what motivated you to do so, and what you hope to achieve with WOMENCANFLY.

Kimi: When I decided to go abroad at the age of 32, I talked to my friends and family about it, and they were all very much against it. What they said to me was, "Don't you want to have children already? They said things like, "Don't you want children already? No one supported me. However, I didn't take that as a negative thing. They didn't want to oppose me outright but they were saying these things because they were really worried about me. So, I am very grateful to them, but on the other hand, I feel that I may not be able to have a child because I may miss the right moment by going abroad. Of course, there are people in their 40s and 50s who are still having children, so it's not an absolutely impossible but there is a possibility that it will become more difficult. Also, since there is no guarantee, I might not have a job, or I might miss the timing of my marriage and I used that as an opportunity to really ask myself if I still wanted to go. I asked myself, "Do I really want to go even if I can't get married? Even if I couldn't have children? Then I would still like to try working overseas. I don't regret it at all now, but it took me a long time to come up with an answer, and it was not easy. When I look back on that experience, I realise that women's advancement in society has been the subject of a lot of controversy, both positive and negative, and that there are not many women in their 30s who can make the choice to go abroad. I realised that not many women can choose to go abroad in their 30s. Even if they would say they want to stay because they want a child, they may not be able to have a child because of their physical condition. It's a very important and sensitive issue that no one can take responsibility for but when you are forced to make a choice between that and what you want to do, it's not about inequality, it's about the burden, expectations, and responsibility that women have, and I wanted to support them.  However, it is up to me to give the answer, so this goes back to our motto, whether you want to be a housewife, work at outside, have a child, or not have a child, I believe that any option is right which option You choose. It really doesn't matter what choice you make, as long as you feel that this is what you want to do. That's why, at WOMENCANFLY, we never say, "Working is good." It is up to you to give the answer.  so that's why my motto is to "increase the number of options, even if it's just one more."

Hayapi: I think it is very important to have choices, like you said earlier that you can be a sole proprietor in Australia which I did not know the opportunities, and it's very different if you don't know about those options.

Kimi: Yes, that's right! It's like "if I had known that, I would have gone!" with regret. If you knew about it and didn't choose it, it's understandable. I think it's an accumulation of things like that. When I was 32, I was surprised when someone asked me, "Don't you want children? if I wanted a child. In the end, it's my responsibility, so I went to a seminar on egg cryopreservation and so on. That's how I came to Sydney, and I thought about it so much that I could say that even if I were to miss the timing to have a child because I was so absorbed in my work, the 32-year-old past me would still choose to come overseas. I don't blame anyone because I'm convinced of it myself. I hope you will make that choice.

Hayapi: That's right. So that you can make your own choices that you won't regret. In order to do that, as the number of options increases, if your closest friends and family don't support you, they may say, "I guess they're right. I guess I should stay in Japan. " I'm sure there will be people who will think the way, I think it would be a shame if that were to lead to regret, so I hope that Kimi's message will help people make more choices.

Kimi: I think it's even more difficult for women because many of them want to do something for someone else. Not only do they want to be opposed and have their dreams supported, but especially women want to show their mothers or grandmothers their children to make them happy. And I'm sure that's one of the things they will be happy. When I think about it, I understand that it's my life and I should do my own thing, but when one of the things I want to do is to make my family happy too, it makes it even more difficult to make a choice. So, I'm still searching for what kind of support I can provide, and what kind of support I can use to fill in the gaps in my feelings as well, so I don't have an answer yet, but I do my best and share with others too. So if only women can have children,  I still think that women need more support than men since they live in under uncertainty of biological parts.

That's it for the first half.

The second half will be published next time, so stay tuned!

You can listen to this podcast here. (In Japanese)

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