Small is GREAT: The Digital Nomad

June 9, 2016

Launched in 2011, BCCJ Small is GREAT (SiG) events are aimed at creating an open platform for SMEs and entrepreneurs to build networks and leverage success stories in the Japan market

On June 7, 2016, BCCJ entrepreneur members came to hear Helen Iwata, President of Sasuga! Communications, share her experience of stepping out of a 20-year corporate career in Japan to launch her own business.

The evening began with networking between BCCJ entrepreneur members and guests who enjoyed a spread of delicious British pies, gourmet mashed peas, and roast potatoes provided by BCCJ entrepreneur member Swan & Lion.

Helen Iwata opened the event by introducing herself and asking the audience if they knew the term "digital nomad" used in the title of her presentation. The speaker explained that the expression refers to people who are location independent and use technology to perform their job - an increasingly popular and highly efficient way for entrepreneurs and start-ups to do business.

Helen Iwata subsequently invited the participants to introduce themselves, to state which business they were in, and to say what they most wanted to learn about in her seminar. Members and guests came from many different backgrounds spanning retail, consulting, training, and the legal profession, and were all eager to gain insights into running a successful business that derives business income remotely and online, and which develops innovative business methods and new revenue streams.

Getting into digital

The speaker revealed to the audience that upon setting up her business she wasn't at all tech-savvy and tended to pass on any digital challenges to others. "I never believed that I would one day be doing the tech side of things myself or that I would be running an online business". It was only after completing a 10-week online course which challenged her to design, create, and deliver a paid training session by webinar that Iwata realised the advantages of developing the online side of her business.

"Webinar technology is great for coaching; the client saves time and sessions can be recorded. I've taken a further step into online training by launching the mini course How to Avoid the 5 Biggest Presentation Mistakes. Participants receive a series of emails with links to instructional videos, workbooks, and checklists. I was concerned though that this automated approach provided no opportunity for interaction. So I encourage them to join the Sasuga! Community Facebook group and share their successes, struggles, and questions."

Working remotely

The speaker told the audience that the remote method of working still comes as a surprise to most. She gave the example of clients saying they looked forward to meeting her assistant when visiting her Ginza office and Iwata politely explaining that her assistant is based in Seoul, her web support in Australia, her video editor in the Philippines, and the graphic designer in Portugal! 

The audience discussed the advantages of distributed teams for small businesses: they can work on projects around the clock, strong talent can be found in less competitive markets, and that talent is easily retained by not requiring an undesired relocation.

Favourite tools

The speaker continued by introducing the digital tools she recommended for the smooth and efficient running of an online business and encouraged the participants to share ideas. The discussion resulted in a list of useful digital marketing tools (many of them free of charge) that the audience agreed were must-haves for hands-on marketers:

  • LastPass - password manager and auto form-filler:
  • Wordpress - website creation tool:
  • Buffer -  social media management tool:
  • Mailchimp - email marketing solution tool:
  • GoToWebinar - webinar communication tool:
  • PayPal - online payment system:
  • Google Calendar - free online calendar:
  • Trello-  team collaboration board:
  • Evernote - project productivity app:
  • Podcast Generator - make your own podcasts:
  • Tripit - travel itinerary planner:
  • Fiverr - marketplace for digital services:
At the end of the talk, members had time to reflect on the insights they had gained and to discuss ideas with fellow entrepreneurs and pioneers. The inspiring evening was enjoyed by all.

About the speaker: Helen Iwata

Helen established Sasuga! Communications K. K. to help people create communication habits for success and happiness in global business through in-person and online training and coaching. 

During her ten years with McKinsey & Company in Tokyo from 2003 to 2013, she managed the client communication team and trained consultants and clients in communication skills, including presentations, meeting facilitation, leadership, and teamwork.

In April 2016, Helen published the book 英語の仕事術 (Eigo no shigoto-jutsu) to share practical tips, exercises, and anecdotes from her career to help Japanese readers communicate with more clarity and confidence in global business.

Helen is a Brit who has lived and worked in Japan for 25 years. She studied German and Japanese at Aston University and holds a Master of Arts in Advanced Japanese Studies from Sheffield University. She studied conference interpreting at Interschool in Tokyo. From 2009 to 2013, Helen served as president of the Japan Association of Translators and she happens to be a karate world champion.

For more information about Sasuga! Communications, visit the website:
How to Avoid the 5 Biggest Presentation Mistakes:


Event photos on the BCCJ Flickr page HERE