Women engagement

Rising Women Interview

Etsuko Tsugihara

“Others are not really focused on
how you live your life.”
When you look at life from this perspective,
doesn’t it give you some relief?

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Please introduce yourself.

I work as a CEO of Sunny Side Up Inc., a PR company. It has been 33 years since I founded it in 1985, but I have been working on its predecessor since I was 17 years old. It’s almost as if I’m disclosing my age (smile), but I have been working for a long time.
One of the responsibilities as a PR company is to make something that is small and unknown into “big news.” Our company slogan is “Our PR will move you - your emotions, your thoughts and your actions,” so we are constantly looking for new ways to promote items/events. In the process, we’re always challenging to create new standards for common sense and maybe even resolve societal issues. We aim to inspire change by raising awareness and prompting action. That is our mission as communicators.

Please tell us what you mainly do now, and how this came to be.

imageAs we started off as a very small PR company with only a few people, we were very happy when anyone decided to rely on us. We took various kinds of PR jobs. In the process, we were able to connect with many different people and industries. We were soon introduced to the sport business, and soon we were not only involved in the management/agency of athletes, but also promoting the athlete as well as the sport in a way that increased the value of and understanding for the sport. All the while, our company kept on enlarging in size. In December of 2018, we were listed in the Tokyo Stock Exchange First Section. Looking back, we had started as a company that had no money, no trust, and very limited experienced staff. From my perspective, I feel we have just been charging forward unafraid of what’s to come.
In two years, the Tokyo Olympics will be held. As we are a company that has become bigger through the sport industry, we are preparing to collaborate with like-minded companies overseas that are also unique and bold, and with their support, hope to promote this international event from exciting angles.

Please tell us what a typical day looks like for you.

If I have time in the mornings, I usually go to a martial arts gym and work out. Occasionally, I do too much and come to work injured and am often scolded by other officers of the company. By 10:30 a.m., I am at the company. I check my emails, I look at my schedule, and from then on, each day is different. Sometimes I have internal meetings, other time I go out to see a client. I often have lunch and dinner meetings too, where I am occasionally proposed something all of a sudden, out of nowhere. At times like this, I often become completely absorbed in the new proposal. I also have to make business trips and be absent from the company. Hearing all this may make you think that I am a super career woman, but in reality, I have reared two children, and curiosity is a big part of my life. I find myself head first into something completely unrelated to work, just because I was curious at the start. I consider myself a person that holds no border between work and my private life, in a really good way.

Please tell us what you have done in the past that you felt was extremely worthwhile, and other experiences where you felt was difficult.

After our company listed, I was repeatedly asked if it had been difficult for me to do so as a woman. It could be because I am quite forgetful and blunt, and I don’t quite notice the difficulties, but I really didn’t feel that way. I never felt oppressed in a male-dominant society, neither have I ever felt like I should change such a society.
When I dwell on what was worthwhile in the past, because we started off as a very tiny company, it was always nice to hear people talk about our PR work. When our work becomes news, or when someone coincidentally was on a train that had one of our ads and comes to tell us about it, it always made me feel extremely happy and satisfied. This much has not changed although we have become a much bigger group. Public relations is a job where we mold the atmosphere that surrounds us. One event, depending on how light is shed onto it, could become something that reflects positivity or negativity. Therefore, I am constantly focusing on creating news that will have positive outcomes.

At what times do you feel most relaxed, or feel like you are the most alive?

Believe me when I say that I am not trying to look or seem a certain way, but I have never been the one to just think about myself, nor have I ever held time limits for personal goals. In that sense, I have nothing inside. Because of this, when someone in front of me discloses that they need my help, or when they tell me they want me to do something, I end up putting in it my all. I find being relied upon something extremely fun.
Watching my staff acquire experience and grow has always made me blissful too. Hearing something happy happened to a staff member, or when two of my staff get married together, it truly makes me happy. If it weren’t for Sunny Side Up, the couple would have never met, and I am happy knowing I have provided this platform.

Do you have a motto, or maybe a policy that you adhere to while you are working?

Our work is committed to staying in the shadows. If ever the camera were to turn around in our direction, by reflex, we retreat to the darkness and avoid being seen. It’s more of a basic procedure than a motto, maybe.
One thing people often say of me is that I am very hard-headed, and it is very difficult to make me change my mind about anything once I have made up my mind on it. Even with various food products. When I have decided for myself that it is good, I tend to fall into a habit of going around people and persuading them that it is good. I seem very far away from what a professional PR woman should be.
However, when I think about it thoroughly, I think it is somewhat important to have strong opinions about things, and most probably, that is the reason why we have been able to grow this much as a company.
I do try to act as soon as possible, though, instead of leaving things to the very last minute. When that happens, my staff will be inconvenienced, and I don’t ever want that to happen. I’ve always believed in processing things, moving things forward without letting it sit.

What do you think Japanese women need to possess to be successful?

I mentioned of our listing earlier. In Japan, there are 1.7 million companies. Of those, there are 4000 companies that have listed onto the Tokyo Stock Exchange. Of those, only 1% of the company’s presidents are women. It is true I have never really noticed the gender differences when it comes to managing companies, but I find the low percentage embarrassing. It would be better if more women can take the leadership role. Recently, I’ve also become a member of the Japan Business Federation and actively participate as one. I go to the meetings and as the members there are mostly men, I persistently point out the unnaturalness of seeing very few women there. I am hoping these little acts will start making small changes in the business world.

imagePR is one of the fields where women can easily have a success in their career, and in my company too, there are quite a few women. I don’t think it’s just Public Relations that women can succeed in. Women have a different way of looking at things, and we have a more detailed way of communicating. You look at a female CEO of a company and wonder how difficult it must have been for her to become a CEO, and sometimes you’ll see a female CEO and think, wow, no wonder she became a CEO, she is basically superwoman. But for myself, I knew that I possessed a lot of areas where I was incapable in, and so I always relied on the people around me for help, and when an interesting opportunity came flying in, I always made sure to share them. In turn, these team members of mine are now growing successful, and the scale of their projects are expanding too. I am no superwoman. If other women can look at me and think, maybe it’s not too difficult to become a CEO like her, then I would be very happy.

What do you envision yourself to be like in a few years?

When I first started working, I was constantly worrying about getting by day by day. Would I be able to pay off this month’s bills, will I be able to pay next month’s dues? I literally had no room to dream about the future. This didn’t change much even when my company started to grow. There are not at many businesses that succeed through careful planning and preparation, and there are actually quite a lot more businesses that succeed through the strength and vigorous work. For me, I do better at working on things that are right in front of me. But now, I’ve become older, and the world has turned into a place where there is no right answer, and there are no standards. Through my work, if I can continue to make people excited and happy, it would fulfill me very much.
Simultaneously, this is something I have also told my workers a few years ago, but I am going to leave the company at 60 and become a backpacker. As I have never really been able to distance myself from this company, I want to set out into worlds I don’t know and wander around things and places I don’t know. Although when and if I find something amazing, I might phone somebody up and try to create a business out of it.

Please tell us how you felt when you drank JANAT tea. Please also provide a message for women.

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Because I drink more tea than coffee, I was able to relax when I drank the JANAT tea. Since I’d known that the JANAT brand has been putting a spotlight on women who are diligent workers, my impression of the JANAT company and tea alike is that they gently wrap people with their gentle taste of tea and warmth. In regard to the support one can give to women out there, usually people hesitate afraid of being seen a certain way by others. However, it’s true, people don’t really notice or care about what other people are doing. If you think about it that way, wouldn’t you think there’s less pressure on you to succeed? I think it’ll be worth your while to try and begin that something you wanted to start, when you want to start it. Don’t think too much!

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