Friday Interview: Yoko Obata

Originally from Japan, Yoko Obata came to London 20 years ago. She founded 琴KO・TO・HA葉 and won the pitching competition organised at the end of our Migrant Business Accelerator programme. Discover her experience and her story today.

With your company you combine work and passion – is it difficult to earn a living from a passion?

A lot of people would say that but I feel opposite. It was extremely difficult for me to work for a job I don’t have the passion. KOTOHA is in the very early stage of business but generally I am much happier than I used be.

Is London a good place for a migrant who wants to be an artist?

No matter if you are migrant or not, London is a tough place for artists. It is very expensive to rent a studio on top of living normal expenses. However London has got more opportunities to be discovered, I think.

Do you plan to return to Japan to expand your products?

Japan is a huge market for cosmetics and I am aiming to market in Japan. However I would like to market from here. In this way the products have more exclusiveness.

In the past, you had two jobs at the same time. How did you succeed in merging these two jobs?

It was difficult to be honest. Basically my daytime job, customer service for airline was supporting myself to be an artist. Having exhibitions around the Europe and visiting places was exciting and rewarding.  However it was too much, one day I found myself that I don’t enjoy working as an artist anymore.

How will the MBA programme help you?

It already gave me a huge impact in terms of confidence and determinations. I am self-motivated and determined person, but as I was preparing the products I started feeling that I need some kind of mentoring and guidance to make solid ground for my business. MBA has got everything I wished for. Meeting the tutors and mentors who are successful in different areas is very inspiring.