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Student designer transforms insecurity into inspiration

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Gomi Hayakawa poses in a cafe in the Harajuku district of Tokyo.

By Hiromi Kanekita / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff WriterGomi Hayakawa is a university senior who founded the women’s apparel company Utsuwa Inc. in 2015. The Yomiuri Shimbun interviewed the president-cum-designer about how she designed her career and her philosophy regarding her products. The following are excerpts of comments by Hayakawa.

I am wearing a dress from my brand, double-chaca. Because I could not find clothes that suited my thin body, I ended up designing them myself. I also design undergarments for small-breasted women under my other brand, feast.

I am a senior at Tama Art University at the same time as running my apparel company, which has annual sales of ¥50 million and 10 employees. We sell undergarments and dresses on the internet.

I design clothes that alleviate the inferiority complexes of the people who wear them and that satisfy their needs.

I felt inferior because of my small breasts and other physical characteristics. There were no bras that fitted me at undergarment shops. And even when there were, the designs were less than pleasing.

That’s why I started making small but cute bras on my own. I then posted about the bras on Twitter, and received 500 orders in two weeks, mainly from women in their 20s who had the same concerns. I was a university freshman, and founded the company the following year.

I learned the joy of selling products when I was a high school student. I made printed tights on my own and posted photos of them on my blog, which got a good response. I then started selling them on the internet. As the number of orders grew, I outsourced production to a factory and participated in a sales event for artworks and other products. Many people lined up for my products, which made me really happy.

I’m majoring in advertising design and learning about theories of promotion. No matter how good products are, it is impossible to make them well-known if you aren’t good at promotion.

But running a company is hard work. I have to hire and train people, and I don’t have paid holidays.

I had been seeking employment until recently, because I thought it might be easier than running a business.

I had previously taken part in internship programs at an advertising company and a game company. I felt that the way tasks are carried out at large companies is wonderful, and also the bulk hiring system of new graduates to foster talent from scratch.

However, I was rejected at the document-screening stage by my first-choice company. And for another internship program, the company allowed applicants to attend the interview in plain clothes, so I attended in my favorite outfit. The other applicants all wore suits. I didn’t read between the lines, and failed the interview.

Although I might be that way, I can still run a company because I have pride and confidence in the fact that my products can help people. I gave up on being employed, and instead set the goal of increasing my company’s annual sales to ¥500 million before I turn 30.

I hope I can be a positive influence on other people’s lives.

■ Profile

Hayakawa was born in 1995 in Tokyo. She is a senior of the Department of Graphic Design at Tama Art University. In 2015, she founded the women’s apparel company Utsuwa Inc., and serves as its designer and president. Gomi Hayakawa is in fact not her real name — it is partly based on a pen name she used when drawing manga as a child.

Percentage of female entrepreneurs on rise

Many people start their own businesses in their 30s, according to a survey conducted last year by the Japan Finance Corporation on new entrepreneurs. Seven percent of respondents were 29 or younger, including students.

Eighteen percent of respondents were female — a record high since the survey started in 1991.

These entrepreneurs hire an average of 3.4 employees. Many of them had difficulty financing and developing sales channels when they founded their companies. After that, many have struggled to secure human resources.

“Many [people running businesses] grow through the issues they face,” an official of the JFC said. “They become more confident and find feelings of satisfaction.”Speech

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