After 12 hours of meticulous work with felt and needle, 16-year-old Natsuki Abe can create a truly unique piece of art, and she’s turned her art into a business.
Heartfelt Treasures is Abe’s hobby turned into a startup company and she’s believes that anyone at any age can find success if they know how to network and create high-quality products.
“Because we are so young we need to conduct ourselves as professionals to be taken seriously,” Abe tells Nikkei Voice.
Image is crucial to ensure people take you seriously when you are an independent business owner, she says. The logo is meant to encompass your company, as it is on business cards, tags and your website. With the logo for Heartfelt Treasures, Abe says she had to make it look professional. “We ended up with something with colour, but more subtle and not childish,” she says.
With a big support system Abe has been able to take her figurines to the next level. Her family was able to help support her as well as Abe’s friend Ivy, who used her skills to show people Abe’s figurines.
“Ivy has been a great asset to me with her photography skills and was the one who created the Heartfelt Treasures logo and business cards.” Knotty by Nature Fibre Arts, a local business in Victoria, is also supporter of Abe’s figurines. It sells craft items on consignment, and has special commission rates for youth vendors.
Abe has also found support within the Japanese Canadian community. At the Japanese Canadian Young Leaders Conference Abe met other young Japanese entrepreneurs. They are planning to create a network of young Japanese Canadian business owners who will work as mentors for young Japanese Canadians who also want to start their own companies, she says.
Building relationships with customers is also very important for young independent business owners. As a very time consuming craft, which can take up to 12 hours to make one figure, Abe makes the effort reflects in her prices. When you know your customers, they can appreciate the time it takes to make your product, she says. “Customer service and attention to their needs are important parts of owning a business.”
Abe has some advice for other young business owners. “Think about the demographic of your audience when you think of ways of marketing your product,” she says. “For example, if you are geared towards a younger audience then social media would be a good advertising medium.”
But the most importance piece advice Abe has for young people, “Do not underestimate the power of word of mouth.”
For more information on Natsuki Abe’s company Heartfelt Treasures, you can check out her Facebook page at: www.facebook.com/heartfelttreasures462