President of a Minority-Owned Firm Shares his Export Story and the Importance of Supplier Diversity.
The economy is shifting towards a global, innovative, fast-paced environment. While the world is experiencing this transition, it can be difficult for minority-owned businesses to see their role in this growth and expansion.
Shin Kishioka, President of I.T.A., spent most of his professional career in economic development. Kishioka spent six year working for a Fortune 20 mega trading company in Japan called Itochu Corporation, before taking over his father’s company, I.T.A., in 1998. Following his father’s footsteps was no easy task, but due to his experience in developing various new businesses and import-export and distribution creation in the industrial sectors, Kishioka was able quickly establish himself into this role and grow the business, a true testament to the value and impact a minority-owned business can have in modern markets.
I.T.A. Inc. is an MBE Industrial Distributor, which support US-JAPAN Technology and Business by addressing needs in sourcing/sales expansion to connect with new technology partners and integration. They specialize in inbound trade activities, helping companies from Japan enter the U.S. market, as well as, outbound trade activities for U.S. companies want to expand to Japan and Asia. I.T.A. assists companies with developing sales and marketing strategies, building their sales channel, and providing local sourcing and technology support.
Many U.S. companies are hesitant to export to countries in Asia, such as Japan, due to various high risk factors. However, Kishioka has a different opinion, being a firm who helps businesses through this process.
“We would think exporting is difficult and labor intensive. However, selling in the U.S. is much more difficult, as the market, physical size, and demands are very diverse compared to the Japanese market. In Japan, for instance, if one company see demand for its products or services, it will be much easier to sell there because of monotone market with very similar demand and density.” Kishioka recommends to seek help by building a partnership with a company local to your entry market.
“We believe that Minority Business Enterprises (MBEs) should pursue exports with the right partner to expand their business and learn how to make the products and services better and help you localize. The market and partners will brush up and polish them for you.”
Minority businesses face similar challenges when competing with large Fortune 500 companies. Kishioka shares his challenges as a minority business and gives advice on how he continues to overcome these roadblocks.
“The major challenge between us and Fortune 500 companies is the size difference. In comparison, their internal systems, number of people, fast-paced changing demands, terms and conditions, all are vastly different.” Minority businesses must continue to develop new and efficient processes to keep up with larger companies. Kishioka says,
“We must consider how we can compete with them and make ourselves more efficient (automate or semi-automate much of our processes) to fill the resource gaps.”
One way I.T.A. continues to compete with larger firms is through partnerships. “We formed alliances and partnerships with more than 30 companies who would help us as suppliers, logistics, distribution, and forefront sales arms.” Not only do partnerships benefit current business processes, but also future processes by building a community for minority-owned firms and supplier diversity.
Kishioka states three major benefits of being a minority-owned company:
With growing demand for supplier diversity, potential Fortune companies and the companies with supplier diversity team keep an eye on us and at least we have the opportunity to pitch our products and services to them.
Being a member in the minority business community allows small firms to meet influential people and industry leaders to learn new trends and key business and industry directions.
Getting to know other MBEs and learn from them.
Kishioka says that the future of business is supplier diversity and inclusion.
“The world is becoming smaller and smaller, but the demands, players and resources are becoming diverse. Now is the time to push for supplier diversity. MBEs must learn from one another and create partnerships. Uniting together is a great way for everyone to have a vast opportunities to challenge themselves and transform from good to great.” The best way to expand and grow is by doing business together.
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