I started practicing karate when I was 14 years old — this was my first encounter with the mystical, traditional culture of Japan. It quickly grew into a love of all things Japanese. By the age of 16, I was already growing bonsai in our family's backyard in Belfast. In art class I was copying the great ukiyo-e masters, my favorite being Ando Hiroshige.
“Be the change you want to see in the world,” which is sometimes inaccurately accredited to Gandhi. Although it is an overused cliche, I think this motto has great power for world change. The power of the individual has always been underestimated; if we change ourselves first, which is the hardest thing to do, then through our actions we can have a positive influence on the society around us.
The one achievement that stands out is my latest film “Zan” that has been successful at 10 film festivals around the world. The film highlights the plight of the last of the Okinawa dugongs and the people who have been working to protect them. An important feeding ground is being destroyed right now to build a U.S. marine base. You can find out more at www.zanthemovie.com .
My mission is to develop sustainable and ethical practices for Japanese business and brands, helping them be social innovators and deal with environmental issues at the same time as making profits.
I also want to act as a bridge between Japan and international audiences; Japan has a wealth of undiscovered treasures both culturally and commercially, but falls short on sharing these stories with the foreign market.
Be patient and relentless. If you really want to do business with a company you might need to spend years cultivating the relationship before getting the break you want; the relationship with your client is more important than the actual work you do. Avoid talking about business immediately and spend time getting to know your client first. Research and preparation are paramount to demonstrating how much insight you have regarding a client's business and background. Be five minutes early for meetings and relax. As a foreigner we don't need to be perfect and Japanese are very forgiving, they just want to get to know you and have a laugh like anyone else.