On 9 June, the Japan Market Expansion Competition (JMEC) held its 27th online awards ceremony. This year, there were 47 participants from 13 countries, all of whom showed dedication and hard work throughout their JMEC experience.
JMEC, an NPO, was founded in 1993 by the Australian and New Zealand Chamber of Commerce in Japan and is supported by 18 foreign chambers of commerce in Tokyo. The business plan competition begins with lectures and training, followed by hands-on experience in putting together a business plan for an assigned project client. The teams then present their business plans to the judges—a panel of successful foreign and Japanese business leaders in Japan—who decide on the winners.
This year, nine project clients—ranging from global companies, private clubs, and small to medium-sized enterprises—were involved.
At the JMEC awards ceremony on 9 June, JMEC Chairman Tom Whitson commented on how states of emergency triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic presented the teams with new challenges. “Teams had to change the way they researched and interacted to develop their business plans. The plans showed perceptive analysis and creative ideas to help our projects clients. You have all truly earned your certificates as graduates of our JMEC business training programme. On behalf of the JMEC team, I want to thank the companies that sponsored projects and to the lecturers, judges, team mentors and consultants who gave up days of their time to make this program a success”.
Due to multiple states of emergency, this year’s JMEC programme was primarily carried out virtually, with teams meeting through online platforms such as Zoom and utilising web-based market research and survey tools such as Euromonitor, ScoutAsia, Meltwater and Toluna. Michael Pfeffer, a graphic designer at BCCJ ACUMEN’s publisher, Custom Media, was a member of Team 2. The team took home the first-place prize after putting together an impressive business plan for Regemat 3D, a Spanish biotech company that focusses on regenerative medicine, particularly through the use of 3D printing.
Pfeffer spoke about his experience participating in the programme virtually. “Having worked for months with the other members of my team and having shared common goals, it’s easy to forget that some of us have never actually met in person. We had set up regular meetings and reported our progress to our client right up to when we submitted the final business plan”.
Team 2 leader Eric Lam, echoed his teammate’s sentiments. “It was a challenging but valuable experience in team building, leadership and, of course, business plan creation. Talking to real people in the industry can give insightful clues on how to further build a case for your ideas”.
Pfeffer also spoke on the JMEC experience as a whole, and how he and his teammates worked together over the many months leading up to the awards ceremony.
“The programme was unlike anything I’ve experienced before. I’ve taken lectures and been on teams in the past, but the diverse backgrounds of the people involved and the way the whole programme is structured really made this a truly unique learning experience”, he said.
Pfeffer and Lam mentioned the challenges that their team faced. Pfeffer spoke on the importance of understanding their client’s product. “The greatest challenge was understanding a very technical and cutting-edge product and marketing it to a very select audience. In particular, the market research for such a product was extremely challenging, due to it being such a specialised industry”.
Lam also commented on the challenges, saying: “It wasn’t always easy deciding on the right direction—especially what strategy would best lead to success for our client—and sometimes we had to change direction based on new evidence. But, of course, there were some great positives too. Discovering the new and exciting application of 3D printing technology in medicine was so interesting, and I am hoping that these new treatments will be developed soon”.
Eriko Hirakado was a participant in Team 3, winners of the Best Presentation Award. Their project client was world-famous soft drink manufacturing company Coca-Cola Bottlers Japan, Inc., and the team were commended on their clear communication and ability to handle tough questions from the judges during their presentation.
Hirakado, who works as a consular assistant at the British Embassy Tokyo, spoke on the challenges of juggling a full-time work schedule and JMEC. “As the programme became more intense, it was challenging for me to try and catch up with the other team members. We were very happy with the fact that we received the best presentation award after having worked on the countless team meetings and study groups every weekend—and on many weekdays too.
“The JMEC experience was a new adventure for me. Sharing it with my wonderful teammates and our awesome team mentor and team consultant—who were always there to guide us throughout the programme—was an invaluable experience for me. I came to this programme wanting to develop my potential. I have walked away with not just the skills and knowledge, but also the confidence to believe in myself”, she explained.
Next year’s goal
When asked what advice he would give to those considering taking part in JMEC 28, Lam encourages future participants to enjoy the process. “Try not to treat it as a chore. See the bright and fun side. This will go a long way into remaining positive about all the work that lies ahead. I personally treated it as a way to explore what the team and I were capable of. And, if nothing else, it is a chance to connect with some new people—socially and professionally”.
Pfeffer recommended getting off to a quick beginning: “When you receive your team assignment and project client, get started immediately. Meet the members, understand the scope of work, research the client and the industry and schedule a meeting with the client as soon as possible. The sooner you get a jump on the assignment, the more likely you will be positioned for success”.
On the same note, Hirakado offered her words of wisdom. “Have good communication with your team members and be grateful for each other. You can learn something from everyone”.
JMEC 28 begins in August 2021, and programme lectures will start on 13 November. Please visit the website for more information: www.jmec.gr.jp