All I want to be is useful.
2016.8.8 Tokyo, Japan written by Petra Canan Trudell
This simple mantra is one that Sarah Everitt Furuya, founder of Clever Rebels & Curious Corporates, lets guide her in all aspects of her professional life. As an executive and life coach and facilitator, Furuya helps people see their own potential and realize their goals by getting out of their own way and that’s why we’ve chosen her as our Featured Entrepreneur of the Month.
For Furuya, a native of the United Kingdom, the final push to get her to follow her dreams to live abroad and make the move to Japan in 2001 came in the form of a serious car crash. Thankfully, Furuya wasn’t seriously hurt, but the accident made her realize it was time to just go for it. After working for various companies in areas such as training, development and human resources, she decided to take the plunge once again and start her own business, drawn by the opportunity to choose her own path and find projects she felt truly passionate about. She officially set out on her own in 2012.
“I’m more suited to freedom and flexibility,” Furuya says. “Being able to manage my own schedule, work with who I want to work with and choosing people who I think are great to work with it.”
In the beginning, the biggest practical challenge was the financial fluctuation of being a new business. Some months you’re up and some you’re down. To help build a solid reputation as well as a client base, she kept her rates low to start, offering Mindmapping sessions at discounted rates to organizations like For Empowering Women in Japan (FEW), a group she served as president of from 2011 to 2013. She said yes to every opportunity that came her way, knowing she would have step out of her comfort zone on more than one occasion. The result was invaluable feedback as well as revelations about herself and the type of coach she found herself to be.
But it’s the psychological barriers Furuya believes can be hardest to overcome, for anyone started a new business or looking to advance in their careers. It’s that nagging voice in your head asking “Am I good enough?” or “What do people think of me?” that can keep you from moving forward. She describes these thoughts as the stories we tell ourselves, written in our minds by society, our family and our own fears.
“Learning to sell is a killer, especially for women, because you have to hustle,” she says. “You have to put yourself out there.”
And that’s what Furuya did. For the first three years of her business, Furuya operated without a website, instead focusing on more personal approaches to finding clients as simple as passing out flyers. She went to countless networking events through organizations like the British Chamber of Commerce in Japan (BCCJ) and FEW. Word-of-mouth advertising became her top advertising tool. To further fuel her motivation, she also printed off the professional profiles of three women she admired and three companies she wanted to work for from LinkedIN and put them up on her wall as a reminder of where she wanted to go. She also obtained Saville Consulting International Accreditations in Wave and Aptitude, is a Qualified Lumina Learning Practitioner and an Insights Discovery Accredited Practitioner.
There were moments of success and plenty of rejection in the early days, but it’s made Furuya realize the power of having determination and humility in equal measure and why being honest about your skills as well as your limitations will help you succeed. And the effort has paid off. Her impressive client roster includes members of the automotive, financial and tech industries.
“Be prepared to be embarrassed, frightened, thrilled, scared, curious, criticized,” she says. “Just be prepared for all that. Because when you’re on your own, you’re it.”
For Furuya, the most rewarding times are those lightbulb moments she experiences with her clients. Referred to as satori in Japanese, meaning “sudden enlightenment,” these are those moments when our mindset shifts, everything seems to fall into place and we may literally make a sound like, “Ah ha!” Seeing the people she’s connected with follow their own curiosity and find what they’re looking for is what makes every step of the process worth it.
Her advice for aspiring entrepreneurs is to to find a balance between rest, play and focusing on your work. You have to put in the work and deliver on your promises, but you need to give yourself what you need as well. That means outsourcing when you can and taking breaks when your body demands them. The goal? To have all your work feel like play.
Striving towards a professional life that feels like a balance of rest and play remains Furuya’s goal as her business continues to grow and change. Her journey thus far has taught her to not be afraid to make mistakes and that there are always second chances, regardless of what naysayers may want you to believe. Her future plans include more events like conferences as well as her retreats with collaborative partner Divya Marie Kato to help connect people and enable them to tap into their potential.
Her drive to find ways to be useful never slows.
“You have to do the work,” Furuya says. “But if you can, make it feel as good as possible.”