Mixing Business with Pleasure (January 19, 2004)
Among the many new trends associated with recent advances in
information technology is the proliferation of "weekend entrepreneurs."
These are people with regular salaried jobs who manage to turn their hobbies or
talents into profitable sidelines or even full-fledged businesses. Although their
enterprises vary widely in substance, the vast majority of them are made possible
by the Internet, thanks to which an ordinary individual can now launch a commercial
venture without risking large sums of money. And while most weekend entrepreneurs
continue to wear two hats, some become successful enough to quit their "day
job" and devote themselves full-time to their own business.
|Participants attend a forum on entrepreneurship. (Weekend Entrepreneur)
Book Reviews to Bike Repairs
Evidence of the large number of actual and aspiring weekend entrepreneurs includes
the response to a series of seminars on the subject offered by 37-year-old business
consultant Fujii Koichi, the author of Shumatsu Kigyo
(The Weekend Enterprise). In just one year, membership in the Weekend Entrepreneurship
Forum, formed by seminar participants, has grown to 1,500.
A typical success story is that of S, a 48-year-old employee of a major airline.
An avid reader of business books, S had made a hobby of writing reviews and sending
them to interested readers in the form of an e-zine. Eventually he was publishing
a review a day, his readership had grown to 10,000, and he was able to collect
advertising revenue. As word of the e-zine spread, S was asked to appear on a
radio show and now has his own program.
M, a 40-year-old former editor at a large publishing house, had previously self-published
some books of his own, including one about night views of Tokyo. Then two years
ago he put together a website that recommended hotels based on their views of
the city after dark, collecting a fee from the hotels for each reservation made
through the site. Last year 2,000 reservations were booked this way, including
400 for Christmas Eve (viewed by many Japanese as an evening for romance).
Of course, successes on this scale are the exception, not the rule. Those in the
know advise against thinking in grandiose terms or even worrying about making
money at the outset. "First you need to hone your skill or your interest
until you're preeminent in that area and have something special to offer others.
If you do that, then you have a good chance of making a paying proposition out
of it," says Fukui. Examples of people who followed this path are an avid
cyclist who launched a school of bicycle repair and a man who found a way to capitalize
on his flair for acting as master of ceremonies at weddings. Those with no special
skills or knowledge to offer - just a desire to make money - are unlikely to succeed
in the world of weekend entrepreneurship.
The Changing Corporate Environment
Needless to say, weekend entrepreneurship is riskiest for those who quit their
regular jobs. By last March, M's income from his hotel website roughly matched
his salary at the publishing house, and he decided it was time to leave the company.
On the other hand, S, the reviewer of business books, still works in the office
during the week. Of these two paths, Fujii advocates the latter. "Don't quit
your job; just use your time off work to nurture your own business. That's the
new thing: low-risk entrepreneurship."
Fujii has sound advice to offer. "The three decisive factors are whether
you like doing it, whether you have the ability to do it, and whether it's in
tune with what people want. But another key to success is the use of Internet-based
management tools, such as the publication of an email newsletter to get a sense
of the market for your product."
Weekend entrepreneurs face very real obstacles, including the attitudes of their
regular employers. A 1995 survey indicated that 80% of Japanese companies had
rules prohibiting moonlighting; employees violating such rules run the risk of
being fired. Companies are especially likely to come down hard if the employee's
outside work has interfered with his or her regular job or competes with the employer's
business in any way. And of course, making use of the company's client list is
a serious offense.
That said, times are changing. Few Japanese companies today can guarantee lifetime
employment with regular promotions and raises in exchange for absolute loyalty.
In today's changing environment, many employers have begun to adopt more liberal
policies on moonlighting, turning a blind eye if the employee makes the case that
the activity in question is basically volunteer work or a matter of helping the
wife out with her home business. The fact is that the genie of weekend entrepreneurship
is out of the bottle, and it is unlikely that anyone can put it back.
Related Web Sites
Weekend Entrepreneurs (Japanese only)
Copyright (c) 2004 Web Japan. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.
"I WANT TO BE A CRAFTSMAN"
(September 2, 2003)
GRAY IS GOOD
(July 4, 2002)
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF "FREETERS"?
(February 4, 2002)
DOING GOOD WORK
(November 5, 2001)