My name is Yoko Nakazawa. I make organic miso paste and my business is called Cooking with Koji. We sell at farmer’s markets and also run cooking workshops. It started from requests – people asked me, ‘Oh, you can make miso, can you sell it to me? Can you show me how to use it?’
I’m from Japan, I was born and grew up there. I married an Australian man in Japan and we decided to move here at the end of 2012 because he didn’t speak much Japanese and I spoke a bit of English. I really didn’t think I would have an issue living and working in Australia but the cultural difference was huge. I didn’t know what the right behaviour was, or what to say, it confused me so much. What worked perfectly in Japan didn’t work here. My work wanted to fire me and that gave me a big shock because in Japan I was headhunted and I thought I was doing really well. I wanted to pull my blanket up and run away.
Somebody told me about Global Sisters in 2016 – I had the idea to sell miso and I knew there was a demand but I didn’t know how to turn it into a business. After the Sister School, I felt the possibility that there is a way I can do business and there is support. It gave me the ‘Ah!’ feeling and opened my mind – if I follow this, I can do this. I’m still struggling in a lot of things, but it gave me hope.
Every time I join a Global Sisters event, it amazes me how much is so useful or resourceful. It’s such a great help for me, mentally and also because doing business by yourself, there’s so much you have to deal with – I can ask a little crazy thing but they don’t think it’s crazy. They taught us there are tools we can use, and the importance of testing at the market. They introduce us to experts and guest speakers and we can talk to them and ask them. We’re given human connection.
Starting a business has made my life become all about miso and workshops. It’s a bit crazy. Now I realise that having a business is really quite a lot to do, quite a lot to think. But I get amazing satisfaction which I never felt when working at a company. I really like talking to customers at the market, we’re sharing and exchanging how healthy they’ve become, how happy they’ve become – the excitement makes me so happy.
I love kimono, but I realised that the important thing is merging into this community and wearing a kimono stands out. But I got really good comments, I realised people really enjoyed me wearing kimono and I was giving excitement or joy to somebody. I also feel like I’m attached to my origins and am carrying my family’s tradition and their memories. It becomes a connection with people and that was an unexpected effect.
People are starting to know me, they know what I do – media exposure has been a big thing and I just have to catch up with people’s expectations and meet the demand.
If I ignore the word ‘success’ but mention the person I want to be, it’s somebody who has room in their heart and mind as a person who has more flexibility with their time or money. At the moment, my brain and everything is so occupied.
Without Global Sisters, I definitely couldn’t start the business and I couldn’t make this my full time work. I think I would still have worked part-time somewhere because I don’t think I would have had the confidence to invest myself in this business. And without this business my life in Australia almost wouldn’t exist.
It’s given me freedom of choice over what I do and that’s quite a healthy way to be.