BEYONDTHEREEF CO.,LTD.Kae Kusunoki
Tell us about BEYOND THE REEF.
BEYOND THE REEF CO. are currently operating a fashion brand specializing in knitting products. Our mission is to create a system that allows senior and pre-senior people in the rapidly aging nation of Japan to participate in society by tapping into their passion and strengths regardless of their age. We are currently focused on the management of a fashion brand specializing in knitting products.
I started this company alone with my mother, who is a creator of our products. Today, we work with 40-45 creators who joined us after hearing about us or through introduction. The ages of the creators range widely from the 40s to 80s. Most of them are housewives and retired elderly ladies.
As for the composition of sales, 70% of our sales are from our website and 30% are from our pop-up shops set up in department stores. Our creators also work as staff at our shops in department stores and directly explain the work they put into products to the customers. Through such sales activities, we try to create connections with people and empower senior women. Customers are also enjoying their conversations with our staff. I would like to create more opportunities where customers can directly see and buy our products in the future.
We are proud that we have a fairly high ratio of repeat customers; nearly 20% of our customers have bought our products more than ten times.
Although it is easy to acquire more customers by decreasing prices, we have avoided such sale campaigns as we would like to sell them at appropriate prices rather than unreasonably cutting down labor costs (compensation) for our meticulously crafted products.
Tell us what made you start your own business.
My mother-in-law was the person who gave me the motivation to start a company. As a typical housewife from the Showa era, taking care of her husband and children was what her life was all about. However, after my father-in-law passed away and her children left home, she had nothing to do and rapidly grew weaker and weaker. Looking at what she was going through beside her, I did not want to let her down like that.
Knitting was my mother-in-law’s hobby and she often gave me her knitted creations. As I received many creations, I started to think that we could discover new roles for senior people if we could find different values in knitting techniques in today’s world.
Since I loved clothes and magazines, I was working at a publishing company as a fashion magazine writer at the time. So, I was aware of designs that were popular among young people. I decided to create new products by incorporating such designs with senior women’s knitting techniques.
Tell us about the future developments.
We are planning to open a real shop that will be used as an atelier and showroom this July. I would like to make it into a place where our creators can directly communicate their passion to customers. Although we have sold our products mainly online, I started to feel uncomfortable with selling handmade products on the internet in such an instant manner. This is why I decided to establish a real store where creators and customers can directly communicate with each other. As I wanted to create a store that has a strong connection with the local community, I chose Hiyoshi Station on the Tokyu Toyoko Line, which is near to our base of activity, instead of the central Tokyo area. I would like to grow our shop into a place where local people can gather and connect with each other.
In terms of business growth, I would like to grow strong brand recognized across the nation, and spread it over to overseas countries. I hope that our products will be recognized by more people so that we can employ more creators and help women under various circumstances participate in society.