Plans for
the Future

JMEC entrants show their business know-how

The aspiring executives and entrepreneurs in this year’s Japan Market Expansion Competition (JMEC) were better team players and more capable, decisive and research-driven than ever before, said Ron Huber, who was the representative of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Japan (CCCJ) throughout JMEC 25.

And because they bring so many ready-made skills to the table, Huber said, it’s getting harder and harder for the mentors and consultants to keep pace with them. “Compared to previous years, I would say that it is becoming more of a challenge to keep up with the knowledge that a lot of these young businesspeople already have,” said Huber, who is from Edmonton and is the chief marketing officer for Mystays Hotel Management Co., Ltd.

Introduced by the Australian and New Zealand Chamber of Commerce in Japan in 1993, JMEC is a training program in which participants attend a series of lectures and then work in teams to draw up a business plan for a product or service being introduced to the Japanese marketplace.

The competition has grown to be so successful that 18 foreign chambers of commerce in Japan — including the CCCJ — support the event, which utilizes the know-how of mentors and consultants from across the business spectrum.

“They became experts in a very short space of time”


The chamber’s representative with responsibility for JMEC since 2013, Huber said he was impressed by the 2019 crop of entrants. “They showed high levels of professionalism and they became experts in areas that they knew very little about previously in a very short space of time,” he told The Canadian.

This year’s awards ceremony was held at Tokyo American Club on June 5, with entrants from 14 countries, spread across 12 teams. Each team was vying for the top honours in a competition that is widely recognized for giving its participants a very thorough grounding in the world of business in Japan.

But it is never easy. “All the team members gave up friends, family and sleep but I hope they all recognize that the learning and camaraderie were worth the sacrifice,” said Tom Whitson, chairman of JMEC and a former president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ).

“It is a wonderful thing to get people into the real world and enable them to learn new skills that they can take back to their companies and then change those companies with the things they have learned,” said Deborah Hayden, one of the judges. “I know it has been a hard journey and that you have had plenty of nights with no sleep, but we the judges were very impressed.”


Third place went to Team Three, which assisted Pearson Education Systems and was made up of Marisa Cassidy, Charlie Subramoney, Maria W. Domingo and Yoichiro Ishikawa. Jay Johannesen of Portfolio Research KK acted as mentor to the team, while Gareth Allen, an analyst with Bloomberg L.P., was the team consultant.

The second-place award went to Team Six, which aided jewellery firm Palmetto Inoue Co., Ltd., and comprised Henriikka Saarela, Kyoko Kanuma, Sawako Kuboyama and Hidemitsu Asai. Andrew Newman, manager of Capgemini SE, served as the team mentor and Verna Holder acted as consultant.

The winner of the 2019 competition was Team 12, which drew up a business plan for heating control firm Plugwise B.V. and was made up of Mary Joy Tolentino, Keiko Muratani, Hiroyuki Kosuge and Masaomi Tsunoda. Justin Dart, a former JMEC participant and now senior strategist for Wunderman International Tokyo, acted as mentor to the team, while Akira Havermans served as the team’s consultant.

Members of the winning team each won a round-trip ticket with Finnair to any one of the airline’s destinations in Europe, as well as a one-year membership to the ACCJ and admission to an ACCJ event of their choice.

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