A stamping good time

Yukiko Okubo, Business Development Manager, Stampin’ Up! Japan

TOKYO —

Stampin’ Up!‘s mission statement reads: “To love what we do and share what we love, as we help others enjoy creativity and worthwhile accomplishments ... in this we make a difference.” Based in Utah, Stampin’ Up! is a direct-selling company that offers photopolymer stamps and paper crafting products through a network of independent contractors called demonstrators. Since it was established in 1988, Stampin’ Up! has become one of the top companies in the paper-crafting industry, developing a reputation for quality products, innovative techniques.

These stamps feature unique designs deeply etched into rubber and mounted on wood blocks. Additionally, Stampin’ Up!’s stamps come in sets, making project coordination simple and fun. The company also provides inks, dyes, markers, and paper products — all grouped into exclusive color families, as well as accessories to make paper crafting simpler, quicker, and more exciting.

Japan is the newest market for Stampin’ Up! which has a presence in the U.S., Canada, Germany, France, UK, Austria, Netherlands, Australia and New Zealand. The company opened its office in Tokyo’s Ginza district in October 2014. Overseeing the Japan operation is Yukiko Okubo, business development manager, who bubbles with enthusiasm. Japan Today visits the Stampin’ Up! Ginza office to hear more.

What is your background?

I began my working career with American Express. After about five years, I started a small business with a friend, importing fashion goods and accessories such as sunglasses. After I had a child, I took a break from working. In October 2013, I joined Stampin’ Up! in the U.S. and worked on launching the Japan office a year later in 2014.

What appeals to you about Stampin’ Up!?

It is quite unique. The founders were two sisters. They were moms at home and wanted to do something creative but they did not like painting or drawing pictures. They found rubber stamps at stationery stores and thought it was very interesting because you don’t need techniques or talent but you can still enjoy being creative.

I think its greatest appeal is that it is a hobby business. The craft business works because we have demonstrators who can show or teach you how to use the stamps. That is the key to our success and what makes us different from retail stories selling arts and crafts. That is very important for growing the business. If you look at stores like LOFT and Itoya, they have so many interesting things but nobody really tells you how to use them. With us, demonstrators help you with ideas and help customers to be creative.

Is the business model the same in Japan as it is in the U.S.?

Yes, it is - direct selling. We do some online sales as well, but customers always buy through demonstrators. They get a commission from the company for selling products.

Tell us about the demonstrators.

Anyone can apply to become a demonstrator. We train them here and in other cities such as Nagoya and Osaka. We have hundreds in Japan and globally, the company has more than 40,000. In Japan, demonstrators hold parties or classes at home or rent a small space or cafe, whereas in the U.S., they have larger houses, so holding events at home is more common.

What kind of people are they?

In Japan, women who used to live in the U.S. joined for the launch and we have many local crafters now. They tend to be mainly in their 30s and 40s.

How do you market the company in Japan?

We are only in our second year, so we are still in start-up mode. This year we will move on by launching lots of new products. At this stage, word of mouth is the best marketing method. Japan is one of the best markets for craft businesses because we have lots of great stationery and hobby classes.

Are there cultural differences in the business model?

One difference is that in the U.S., for example, anyone can enjoy making something. But in Japan, consumers tend to wait for instructions and want to learn first. Japanese demonstrators are very good at making something creative out of existing stamps.

What about products specific to Japan?

In addition to our catalogue that comes out once a year, we do have some unique Japan-only products with stamp sets. We also do bimonthly product launches, for four seasons, such as hanami flower stamp sets, and for seasonal events such as Halloween, Valentine and Christmas. Halloween is getting so big in Japan now that we don’t have to offer anything specific to Japan.

How do you get feedback from customers?

We get feedback online and through Facebook and Pintarest and through demonstrators. We have monthly meetings with them.

Does the CEO take an interest in Japan?

Yes, she does. She was here right after the launch in 2014 and she will come back in September for the first demonstrators event in Tokyo. 

How many staff do you have?

Right now, six including myself.

What is the most fun part about your job?

I’d have to say meeting people and seeing the pleasure they get in becoming inspired to create something.

Japan Today

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