The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

Entrepreneur Megumi Iguchi always looked up to her parents as guiding lights for life’s journey. From childhood, Iguchi admired her father, an executive in a trading company, and her mother, a stay-at-home mom.

Both, she told The ACCJ Journal, struck a good balance between success at work and stability at home, something Iguchi herself has sought to achieve.

To this end, she left the corporate world to create an ecosystem that supports aspiring entrepreneurs—especially women. At the same time, she has freed herself to realize her ambitions.

Kanatta Inc., the startup she founded in 2016, promotes women via technology, financing, and networking platforms. Iguchi is also the company’s president.

Kanatta has developed three business pillars:

  • Community of female drone pilots and educators
  • Women-only crowdfunding platform
  • Events and networking platform for aspiring female founders

What began with only a handful of members, projects, and events today counts hundreds of supporters and activities on its platforms. Kanatta not only has an increasingly busy community calendar, it is also generating revenue.

For Iguchi, this means she has taken a step closer to the kind of work–life balance that inspired her to create the company in the first place.

What’s more, she is laying down plans to extend Kanatta’s ecosystem across Japan—and in new business sectors.

GLOBAL AMBITION
Iguchi was born in Osaka and, due to her father’s work, her family lived in Hyogo Prefecture, as well as Yokohama and Chiba. At age seven, she and her family relocated to the United States and lived in Connecticut and Oregon for six years. They returned to Japan when Iguchi was 13.

Later, she attended Yokohama National University, where she majored in international business. While in college—desiring to maintain her English—she attended private lessons at the United States Fleet Activities Yokosuka, a US Navy base in Kanagawa Prefecture.

An avid tennis player in college, it was not uncommon for Iguchi to play the game six days a week. However, toward the end of her first year, she noticed something worrisome: many of her seniors were struggling to land jobs on graduation.

“I was very surprised. I thought that, being in a national university, getting a job would be really easy.”

To navigate her next steps, Iguchi sought advice from her parents. Her dad advised her to seek a professional qualification even while still a student, which she did.

“That’s why I took the CPA exam to become an accountant,” she explained, referring to the certified public accountant exam.

Taking correspondence lessons in accounting while playing tennis and being an undergrad proved too demanding, however. In her second year, Iguchi left the tennis team.

When she graduated and simultaneously gained the CPA qualification, it was not surprising that she would land a job with a global professional services company—even at the height of the Global Financial Crisis in 2009.

It was, in part, her experience in the workplace that moved her to leave the corporate world and create Kanatta.

FINDING BALANCE
Iguchi began her career within the audit division of an interna­tional accounting company in Tokyo. While she enjoyed her team and work there, the days were extremely long and most ended with a ride on the last train or a taxi home.

“Pretty much everyone did that, so I thought that’s what you did when you started work,” she remembers.

What’s more, Iguchi noticed a distinct dearth of women at the company, especially in managerial positions.

“I liked my job and I liked working, but I noticed that there was only one female in a management position. I recognized that it’s really difficult to become a manager and a partner.”

At age 26, having spent three years at the company, Iguchi decided to make a change.

As she was interested in fashion, her next move was to join an international luxury goods maker with offices in Tokyo. She was also attracted by the brand’s reputation for having a women-focused workforce, she said.

Once there, she noticed not only that most employees were female, it was also not unusual for many of them to be mothers.

Workers were expected to leave the office at around 6:00 p.m., she remembers, in part so that they could make it home in time to enjoy their family.

“So, my life changed a lot. It was a really good atmosphere, and I really liked my team.”

After two years with the brand, however, a nagging concern resur­faced: Iguchi noticed that, at the highest levels of the company, women were still scarce.

“There were many women, but not in the really high positions,” she recalls.

With her dream of balancing ambition and success on one hand and family on the other still in suspense, Iguchi decided to lay plans to strike out on her own.

INSPIRING WOMEN
During her time with the luxury brand, and with more time in the day for herself, Iguchi reached out to the startup ecosystem and began attending events.

“I saw new people, because I was going home earlier, and a lot of them had their own businesses. So, I started thinking about having my own company.”

Not knowing how to start a business, Iguchi at first sought the advice of business owners in her new network.

“I also went to a school for entrepreneurship, and they had a lot of entrepreneurs—and people who wanted to be one.”

To that end, she transitioned from the brand and attended a two-year course in entrepre­neurship at Shimamura Juku, a private institution in Tokyo.

“They had workshops on things like team building, commu­­nication, and finance, and access to role models and networking events. That was really good for me.”

The result was Kanatta. The company, perhaps surprisingly, initially had a focus on the drone business. Why?

“I had this feeling that I wanted to create a business that would support women and make them financially inde­pendent,” Iguchi explained.

While Iguchi had an interest in drones, she didn’t have exten­sive knowledge of them. To bridge this gap, she enlisted the support of a friend who was a drone pilot.

Hearing her friend’s stories about piloting drones, Iguchi wondered if there might be opportunities for other women to do the same. There were.

Kanatta began recruiting participants who would eventually create the company’s first female drone piloting team, called Drone Jo Plus—or “Drone Girls Plus.” But that isn’t to say there were no challenges.

“I started by inviting my friends, and then they brought their friends. But it’s not like the number of participants just increased—for the first few years, we had a really hard time [attracting people]. But then the members finally increased.”

The community’s initial goal was to train women to become self-employed drone pilots. As things have turned out, most of them have kept their day jobs, choosing instead to supplement their income as drone pilot educators.

Paid by Kanatta, drone girls provide a variety of services—such as kids’ lessons on drone piloting, video production, and programming. The community of service providers has grown to about 100 drone girls.

DREAM WEAVER
With the drone girls program gaining traction, Iguchi felt it necessary to expand her business and offer more opportunities for more women.

The accountant-turned-entrepreneur says her background as a CPA—and the challenges she faced financing her own company (Iguchi funded the development of Kanatta mostly herself before raising angel investment)—inspired her to create a women’s-only crowd­funding platform.

“I thought that money—or lack of it—was one of the biggest things people have to overcome when they want to take on new challenges. Crowdfunding is low risk and something that you can try.”

Iguchi created the social funding platform, also called Kanatta, in 2017. To raise awareness, she hit the events trail in Tokyo, delivering lectures about crowdfunding platforms and the benefits such funding can offer women.

“At the first event, only one person came,” she remembers ruefully. “It was like a private class,” she laughs.

After six months or so, the number of attendees—mostly self-employed women who wanted to accelerate their business or people interested in crowdfunding—began to increase.

During such presentations, attendees and Iguchi herself learned valuable lessons. For attendees, there was the realization that crowdfunding is not just a platform for financing projects; it is also a method of creating buzz around a product or service, or a way to test the market.

For Iguchi, there was the understanding that, because most entrepreneurs in Japan are men, there really weren’t that many opportunities for aspiring women founders to meet.

To make up for the latter, in 2018 Iguchi founded a third pillar for her business—a networking event platform for women called Kanatta Salon.

Looking ahead, she is quietly confident about the future and the ecosystem she is creating. “I don’t know if this will be realized in five years, but my vision is to have lots of startups starting from Kanatta. It would be best if people from our community began starting their own business—especially ones owned by women.”

This vision is in accord with the company’s name, which is derived from the Japanese phrase, yume ga kanatta: Dreams come true.

John Amari is a writer and editor from the UK who specializes in articles on startups, entrepreneurs, science, tech, and business.
I wanted to create a business that would support women and make them financially independent.