Mana and I met during Startup Asia Women event, we were both volunteers for the event registration booth. The first thing that caught my attention was her nicely done grayish hairdo (I’m a fanatic of stylish hairdo), and the way she dressed herself with no-frills but chic-looking. When we chit-chatted about each other’s background, she introduced herself as not-a-typical Japanese lady. No wonder! That was not typical at all 🙂 What amazed me was this lady stepped out to build a community to help other Japanese women, a great example to show that you don’t need to be somebody to do something impactful.
Mana Ogawa, 32
Founder, Girls Bee
| Star Profile
| Skills and Passion
|| Life Motto
Mana did not live abroad before she came to Singapore but she traveled a lot. Unlike most of the Japanese who don’t even travel outside of their own country, her parents love travelling. Guess one reason was that her father worked for airlines and they always got discounted tickets. When Mana was visiting countries outside of Japan, she noticed women else where in the world act very differently compared to Japanese women. Typical Japanese ladies are very reserved, they don’t speak out about what they want or what to become, they tend to hold back. But these women she met overseas especially American ladies, they were always very confident and shining. Why were they not the same?
Journey to Entrepreneurship
Mana started her career with recruitment company, she recruited talents for hundreds of companies mainly in the financial industry. During this period of time she took a 6-month course with University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA extension in Tokyo), it was like a digest version of MBA. She had to do a mock presentation to venture capitalists on business idea, that got her thinking what she really wanted to do in future.
At the same time, more and more people got to know her, they began seeking her inputs on career, future and life decisions. She started giving advice to others, like introducing people they should meet, introducing opportunities that may help them and etc. A lot people came back to her and told her, “Thank you so much for introducing the opportunity! It has changed my life in a good way.” She received multiple feedback like this, so she decided to create a community to empower each other and make impact in our society.
Mana did not get to start her community right away as she was really busy with her job. Only until she moved on to second job with better work life balance, Mana gathered friends who understood her community concept and started with meetup event once a month. 6 months later, Girls Bee community was born officially.
Amazing Girls Bee Projects
Girls Bee mainly focuses on organizing events and projects which help Japanese women to be more confident. One of the examples is “Becoming a Column Writer” project. Mana always saw and knew that many Japanese women like to study about what they like besides their current jobs, such as fashion (i.e. style coordination, color coordination, make up, etc), health (i.e raw food, macrobiotics, kampo etc), and Lifestyle (flower arrangement, table coordination, relationship consulting etc) and get qualification for those topics. But if they get qualifications, it is still difficult for them to earn money from those topics and activities, even if they wish to do so, because they don’t have professional experience with those activities.
So, Mana provided an online platform by collaborating with tech companies to give them opportunities to write about what they have learned in their domain expertise or interest areas, to showcase things that they know about besides their day jobs. Some of them who participated in the project were offered a paid job related to their topics they wrote and became a professional in that field.
Another example is “Becoming a Bollywood Actress” project. This project is for women who have or haven’t experienced dancing before and want to do stage performance, by collaborating with a Japanese-mixed-Indian actress who was “Miss Japan”, and used to be a musical theater actress and also starred in bollywood movie before. Participants could learn dancing from her and perform at a professional stage with her. All of those projects aimed to build Japanese women confidence and take a step out to become what they want to be.
At the beginning Mana was scared about leading the community, but she conquered her own weaknesses through events. “When doing all these events and projects, I feel my soul so happy, energy comes from other places and it feels like you could do anything for them!”
What’s Up With Mana Now?
In 2015 Mana moved to Singapore, Girls Bee community paused running events but they still maintained their online presence. After 2 years living in Singapore with more things settled down, Mana started with non-profit initiatives. She’s currently going around interviewing non-Japanese ladies as role models for women in Japan. She wanted to empower Japanese women to get out from the traditional expectation: you can have a career and family at the same time and no longer just managing household chores.
SK’s Comment: All the Girls Bee initiatives that are currently run by Mana are not for profit, I really admire how she’s willing to do all these for passion only! =)
Mana’s Sharing About Being Optimistic, Easy-Going and Open-Minded
- Brain is too small to keep negative things in mind
- Easy-going is the best way to survive in this complicated world
- Being open-minded is something Mana learned when she moved to Singapore. “At the beginning of my life in Singapore, there are a lot of things that were not going as I expected in my work life and personal life. Being “open-minding” helps me a lot to handle those kinds of situation, I’ve learned not trying to control everything but anticipating things that something higher-power prepares for me 😉 ”. – Mana
- Girls Bee is a community for Japanese women to live a life they want
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