"Rising from the Depths: The Dumpling Shop's Journey from Rock Bottom”
In 1972, I was born as the third son to parents who were engaged in pig farming and agriculture. My father, not content with inheriting the family's farming legacy, embarked on a full-fledged pig farming venture, transforming himself into a successful entrepreneur. He became my role model, and gradually, I began to dream, "I want to be like my father in the future."
At the age of 15, my journey with Happy Science began when my eldest brother brought home books by Master Ryuho Okawa from a bookstore. From the principles of achieving success in life to the truths of the universe's creation, I was captivated by the profound teachings that I couldn't find elsewhere. I delved into the books with fervor and, at the age of 19, joined Happy Science as a member along with my brothers, driven by the desire to learn more about the truth.
"A Family on the Brink of Collapse"
After graduating from the local high school, I joined a nationwide chain of general stores. By the time I was 28, I had been making preparations for my dream of starting my own company in the wholesale distribution of sundries. It was during this time that my father shared some shocking news with me.
"A... Actually, our Chinese restaurant's business is in trouble. Can you come help at the restaurant?"
A few years earlier, my father had shifted from pig farming and started a Chinese restaurant with my second eldest brother. However, the business proved much more challenging than anticipated, and they found themselves in substantial debt.
(It was that difficult of a situation...)
My father had never asked me for help before. I realized just how dire the situation must be. Setting aside my own dreams temporarily, I decided to assist in the family business.
As I began working, the severe reality gradually became apparent. Nonetheless, I couldn't simply watch the debt accumulate.
(I think the food tastes good, though...)
While searching for what I could contribute, I had an idea: to wholesale the homemade dumplings that my father took pride in. I visited retail stores multiple times to pitch the idea, and fortunately, some places were willing to place orders. However, turning the business around proved to be a challenge.
(If things continue like this, our family will collapse... We need to do something.)
In 2003, in a bid to find a breakthrough, I used my savings to attend the "Business Success Strategies" seminar at Happy Science.
The seminar gathered numerous business owners. Despite not having started any business yet, I joined in the midst of them. The seminar emphasized the importance of envisioning a grand success.
(I've dreamt of starting a business many times. But deep down, I felt hesitant, thinking, "Is this too much for me...?")
Looking back, I lacked confidence in myself, feeling inferior to my admired father. However, at the edge of the cliff, a switch was flipped in me. I resolved to believe in myself and give it my all. I made the decision to start a business with dumpling production and sales. I was 30 years old.
"Holding onto Hope Even Amidst Rock Bottom"
However, after a while of running my business, my father's restaurant faced closure. Our family home was on the brink of foreclosure, and the debt piled up to a staggering 30 million yen.
(My parents are getting older. Repaying this debt now seems almost impossible...)
I made the decision to repay the debt in place of my parents. I couldn't abandon my parents who had raised me.
Years ago, I transformed the warehouse of my family's former pigpen into a dumpling factory. But let me clarify, I was penniless, so I bought equipment from a hardware store and personally revamped the space.
At the time, my recently married wife joined me, working side by side and sharing the sweat. The crucial dumpling-making machine was a gift from my father's Chinese restaurant.
One day, while spending time with my father at home, something unexpected happened.
"A, I don't have any assets left. The only thing I can leave you is that dumpling-making machine."
Seeing my father, who was mumbling weakly and without strength, I made a silent vow to myself—I would ensure the success of this venture.
We wasted no time and began our work, crafting dumplings by hand and walking door-to-door through the neighborhood to sell them.
"Excuse me! How about some dumplings?"
"Thank you. Your dumplings were really delicious the last time. I think I'll buy some today too."
As we hit the streets, many customers warmly received our dumplings. Originally, I had reluctantly begun the dumpling business as a necessity.
Yet, witnessing customers' smiles, I found pride in my work, igniting a passion that surged even brighter than before.
Amidst our day-to-day life of living hand to mouth, we never let go of our hope. Thanks to the teachings of Happy Science, I believed that my envisioned future could become a reality. Instead of lamenting the present, I wholeheartedly trusted in a brighter future for our growing company.
Rather, brainstorming ideas, devising new products, marketing, and creating my own work brought me immense joy, causing me to lose myself in the process.
Challenging the Production of Domestic, Additive-Free Dumplings
Around 2007, nearly five years into the business, things were picking up. My parents also began assisting with dumpling deliveries.
One day, an elderly man contacted our factory.
"Can you make dumplings with domestically-sourced, additive-free ingredients at your factory?"
He explained he wanted to sell dumplings made with high-quality ingredients in his retail store but was struggling to find the right product. He had heard about our company and decided to reach out.
(We don't have the knowledge to process additive-free foods or the connections for domestic ingredients. But...)
I hesitated for a moment, pondering whether to accept the job. Then, Master Ryuho Okawa's words from "Invincible thinking" came to my mind.
"We need to keep thinking and seeking a new path to the future. We are often bound by limits of our own making, so it is extremely important to think outside the box to find our way forward and to improve our situation." Invincible thinking P. 53
(That's right. There's nothing we can't do. Let's find a way.)
I couldn't bring myself to let down the customer who trusted our company. I resolved to take on this unfamiliar challenge.
From that point on, it was a continuous cycle of trial and error. I started by gathering information on domestically-sourced ingredients like meat and vegetables. I visited farms in search of satisfactory ingredients, bringing them back to the factory to experiment with various combinations.
I also conducted research on bringing out flavor without using additives. I was determined to meet the expectations of our customers, immersing myself in product development.
Finally, the dumplings were ready. I delivered them to the customer who had placed the order, and nervously watched as they took a bite. After trying the dumplings, the customer put down their chopsticks. With bated breath, I awaited their response.
"K-san, this is delicious. This could work. Thank you for your hard work."
I felt a sense of relief knowing I had delivered a product that made the customer happy. What's more, the customer trusted my work ethic, continued to place orders, and even introduced me to other retail store owners and farmers. Thanks to these introductions, we began receiving orders for more jobs.
(Credit is the foundation of success—)
Furthermore, right after this, an incident occurred in a neighboring country where frozen dumplings were found to be contaminated with toxins, igniting widespread concern for "food safety." Our newly developed domestically-sourced, additive-free dumplings quickly gained popularity through word of mouth.
"The Mindset of the Leader Reflects in the Business"
As sales increased, we began hiring employees. The company appeared to be steadily expanding. But suddenly, our performance plummeted, and we were faced with consecutive losses and a business crisis.
(Why aren't our sales improving...?)
I was in a state of panic, not knowing the cause. Before I knew it, I was consumed by thoughts of "How much are we selling today?" I even began suspecting essential members of our team, convinced they weren't putting in enough effort.
One day, during this turbulent time, a senior entrepreneur acquaintance reached out.
"Don't be too elated or despondent over such things."
His words snapped me back to reality. My fixation on the drop in sales had caused me to lose sight of something even more important.
I began reflecting on my past mistakes one by one.
(I haven't kept up with my growth as a leader...)
President Ryuho Okawa mentions in the book of management that "The limits of the leader's capabilities become the limits of the company's development." It dawned on me that I lacked the broader perspective and future-oriented business strategy necessary for a leader.
"I was selling what I wanted to sell." Numerous improvement points in our business were identified, but at their core, they all stemmed from my "lack of determination" as a leader.
(Use this crisis as a springboard.)
I reevaluated my approach. I observed our customers, contemplated what would make them become repeat customers, and made improvements, such as introducing a variety of Chinese dishes beyond dumplings. As a result, we managed to turn the company around in about three months.
Determined to Fulfill the Mission of Daikokuten (Deity of Wealth)
During the period of business instability, I had neglected my spiritual training, being caught up in the busyness of daily life. Recognizing the importance of introspection and deepening my knowledge as a business owner, I became more actively engaged in training and prayers at Happy Science's centers.
During a meditation session at Happy Science, I had a mysterious experience. My guardian spirit joined me, revealing a vision of me visiting customers for dumpling sales.
(There are unseen forces always cheering for us...)
We, as human beings, are sustained by gods and buddhas. I realized that repaying this grace by contributing to the world is the essence of our work.
(I want to contribute even more to Japan's development!)
In the fervent depths of my heart, I embarked on a journey that would intertwine with the local livestock farmers. Together, we ventured into creating and vigorously selling a diverse range of dumplings using local vegetables and meats. Yet, it wasn't just about using local ingredients; it was about embracing the essence of these ingredients to its fullest potential.
Furthermore, I've now become part of the local farming community, lending my ear to their concerns and proposing assistance with promoting agricultural products. This approach has led to the further expansion of our business.
When I founded the company, I was burdened with significant debt and barely making ends meet. Today, we've managed to clear the debt and grow the company. All of this is thanks to the support of countless individuals and, above all, the guidance of the divine.
Had I not encountered Happy Science, both my family and I might have been lost in a sea of uncertainty by now. Looking ahead, I aspire to continue our growth with a global perspective, enriching people's lives through food. I'm willing to do anything within my power to achieve that goal. I am dedicated to fulfilling the mission of Daikokuten (Deity of Wealth), as I proceed along this path.