Eri Kikunaga knew from a young age that she wanted to be an entrepreneur. She just needed to find the right business idea. Like so many earring wearers, Kikunaga had lost countless earring backs, prompting the loss of earrings as well. She decided this was going to be her niche and she was going to develop a solution. Today the Tokyo, Japan-based Kukunaga runs Chrysmela, a company designing secure earring backs, that fit with all kinds of jewelry, so you’ll never have to risk loosing your favorite earrings again.
Kikunaga’s story, as told to The Story Exchange 1,000+ Stories Project:
What was your reason for starting your business?
When I was in high school, I thought about my career and what I wanted to be – I decided then that I wanted to become an entrepreneur. For ten years I kept thinking about what I could offer to the world, and what I came up with was the idea of making locking earring backs. I came up with the idea of solving the problem of lost earrings after I lost an earring that I had received as a gift. I wanted to just be able to wear what I love with peace of mind. I thought that people all over the world would probably feel the same way.
How do you define success?
For me the definition of success is being able to make the best use of one’s natural abilities and characteristics to provide something that will make the world happy.
Tell us about your biggest success to date.
Over the past 13 years, we have been able to deliver one million earring backs to the world. Products change quickly these days, so the fact that we were able to keep making the same thing for 13 years means that our initial concept captured the essence of the product. And I believe that this is something that can only be achieved through the accumulation of trust.
What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it?
It was very important for me to team up with the right people. On product development, on manufacturing, on marketing. I couldn’t do it all by myself, so the most important thing was to meet people who love the product and are passionate about it and want to work together to bring hope to people who are feeling inconvenienced through this product.
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Have you experienced any significant personal situations that have affected your business decisions?
When I started my business, I was 25 years old and had no money or connections, so I was always thinking about how to make it happen with no money. Then at the age of 30 I gave birth just as the business was finally taking off. After that I moved to a rural area to rethink what kind of environment I wanted to live in to raise a child and work. Every turning point has been an opportunity to change the way I live, but I feel that I have always been able to get through any situation by thinking about how I can have fun with whatever life throws my way.
What is your biggest tip for other start up entrepreneurs?
Just like a child growing up, I feel like we are supporting the product’s will to grow. In doing so, I believe it is important to keep believing in the potential of the product.
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How do you find inspiration on your darkest days?
There were many times in the past 13 years when I felt anxious and wondered if I would ever make it. But I was always okay. With the trust I had built up, I didn’t feel so anxious. My belief that every moment is for the best, that everything will be okay, and do what you can do now, has served me well.
Who is your most important role model?
I am not influenced by any one person in particular, but I believe that I have learned from every person I meet. My father was the one who gave me advice from the very beginning. The chairman of the factory also worked with me to create my products, and I learned from his work ethic. It was Edison’s biography that I read when I was a small child that made me want to be an inventor.
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