This feature is part of an on-going series of interviews by Yinsey Wang with East Asian voices around the globe. The series aims to introduce perspectives from different walks of life.
Nanako Mizutani, the President of NOHOHON Inc., was not always in the best financial position throughout her life. However, she persevered, dreaming big and aiming high, and managed to start her own business. Now, NOHOHON TEA, is becoming something of a popular celebrity haunt, whilst it reinvents the concept of bubble tea in North America.
Nee Hao Magazine’s Deputy Editor Yinsey Wang interviews Mizutani on her plans to expand in Hawaii and how she got started in her quest to bring high quality, tasty bubble tea into the forefront.
Why did you start your teashop brand? What was the inspiration?
To start off with, I had two years of experience in the bubble tea franchise business before I opened NOHOHON. During those two years, I noticed the negative effect of artificial powders, milk and powder flavouring on my customers. I started to feel guilty about making money by selling powdered-based bubble tea, which was full of artificial and unnatural chemicals. Hence, I genuinely wanted to make my customers happy by selling something that actually is good to their bodies. Then, I came up with the idea of making healthy bubble tea, by using high quality ingredients. Also, I wanted to introduce Japanese tea to Canada in an innovative way. This is how the Japanese-styled-healthy-bubble tea store NOHOHON was born.
What is your favourite tea offered at your store?
Definitely Tokyo Fog! Matcha latte, with hint of vanilla. It’s our signature drink!
You have been visited by quite a few celebrities! Which visit has been most memorable?
I have been fortunate that celebrities have visited the store. However, all of my customers are equally special and important. I abide by the tradition of Japanese hospitality, “Omotenashi”. It offers each guest a once-in-a-life-time experience. My staff and I believe that every encounter is single and unique!
You’ve had a long journey getting to where you are; tell us about it.
When I was in high school, I worked at McDonald’s during their breakfast shifts. I saved money and moved to Canada, seeking better opportunities as a young woman entrepreneur at the age of 19 years. My first job in Canada was actually cleaning washrooms, and I was being paid a measly $5 an hour. However, after graduating from an English-as-a-second-language program and a hospitality program at college, I moved to the big city of Toronto.
After a few years of saving money and gaining my personal residency status in Canada, I invested in my bubble tea franchise business at the age of 25 years. I have worked every single day, open to close, to keep it up, with rental payments of over $8,000 a month. Most of time, I was actually staying over night in my storage room, working to the best of my abilities to keep the business alive.
At the age of 27 years, I opened NOHOHON Tea, founding a partnership. Within a year, I had found another partnership in United States and opened my second location in Manhattan, New York, USA in April 2016. It’s been a whirlwind, and I’m excited to say that my journey is not over yet!
What is the most important thing that you have learnt about being a businesswoman?
Always be genuine, without caring about how people perceive you. Stay real and honest. It helps to prime vision and focus.
What are your plans for the business in the future?
I would like to make NOHOHON a franchise one day. My ultimate goal for the business in the future is to open NOHOHON in Hawaii!
What are your tips for people taking the jump to start their own businesses?
Don’t let your ego take over in making decisions. Have meaningful reasons to start your own business.
To find out more about NOHOHON TEA, visit: www.nohohontea.com