“People think we’re a couple but we’re actually business partners. She’s from Vietnam, I’m from Thailand, and we met in university while I was a student and she was working in the admissions office of our campus. At first I was just helping out, making promotional videos for the university when it suddenly hit us–why not do this professionally? So we combined our skills. Together, with my creativity and her business-savvy side, we formed a small digital marketing and production company in this little town called Beppu City. She’s the brains behind the business. I direct and produce promotional video content for Japanese companies that want to market overseas.”

“After graduating from a Japanese university, I went back home to Vietnam with my husband, who’s Japanese. I worked there for a bit but decided to move back to Japan after giving birth to our first child. While working for my alma mater, making PR material for the university, I met this talented student and YouTuber from Thailand, who I never thought I’d team up with, especially since my first impression of him was that he’s always late. But he impressed me with the quality of his videos and he was always helping us produce content. So I returned the favor and started giving him business advice since he wanted to do this professionally. Then we thought, why not launch our own venture! We finally did last year. It’s funny because he’s so young and sometimes Japanese clients don’t believe he’s the president. They would ask to meet the guy whose signature is on our company papers, and I would tell them, you’re looking at him. Although I guess it’s because he sometimes shows up in jeans and T-shirt. They’re always inviting him to speak at events even though I’m the one handling corporate communications and I speak fluent Japanese. I think because they see so much potential and energy in him and that’s what we’re trying to do to Japan’s countryside–giving it some life.”

Bill and Phuong hail from Thailand and Vietnam, respectively. They specialize in commercials, promotional videos and photos, as well as creative content for social media and web marketing for Japanese companies who wish to target overseas markets.

Working mother

“In Japan, the work environment is not very welcoming to working moms. I really want to create an environment that’s more flexible for women. I grew up in Vietnam, where as a kid, I could go to my mom’s office anytime, especially during summer. Of course we couldn’t distract people while they were working, but we were always welcome there if for some reason we couldn’t go to school that day. I’ve never seen that in Japan. You’d have to get someone else to take care of your child at home or somewhere else, but not bring them to the office. Yet they expect you to carry out both responsibilities at home and at work equally, as a mother and employee. That’s why I started my own business, to help change that mindset by setting an example. Because I see so much inequality here in Japan between men and women at the workplace. I also see so much inequality between permanent staff or regular employees and contract workers. Contract workers have very limited chance to become permanent. Plus there’s an age limit restricting them even when they’re really good.”





【翻訳:Junko Kato Asaumi】

Master of My Fate

“I’m from Bangladesh. I quit working for my family business to come to Japan. I knew I could do so much more than just sell shoes. Someone once said, ‘You are the captain of your ship and master of your fate.’ That really struck a chord with me. So when I got a scholarship from a Japanese university, I left my stable life in Bangladesh, even though my parents were a bit disappointed. They said, ‘Why Japan? No one speaks English there.’ But I was determined to come here. If I was going to study abroad, it was going to be Japan. Our shoe factories would get a lot of orders from Japanese customers, so I’ve seen their discipline, the quality and their philosophy towards work, which motivated me.

“When I got to Japan, I wanted to do so many things. I wanted to be in the shoes and bags business. I wanted to be a filmmaker. Unfortunately, things didn’t pan out. Finally, I came up with an idea to develop an app that would connect people based on major interests. So someone interested in AI would find another person who’s into the same thing. Of course there were many hurdles to overcome. Finding people and money was the hardest part, especially since I was just a student and didn’t have enough money. But after much hustling and failing, pitching at business contests and launching crowdfunding campaigns, I was able to find an investor and engineers who helped make my ‘social consulting network’ app a reality.

I think if you try something hard, eventually you get some kind of push or support from around you. That’s why I’m grateful to many Japanese people who’ve had my back. I probably couldn’t have done this back home, where imagination is limited.”

(For more on our enterprising interloper’s app, UniTwo, visit




【翻訳;Junko Kato Asaumi
📸 Tim Franklin Photography