Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
I am Ichido Miyake, the founder and former CEO of Creative Connections & Commons Inc. as well as one of the founders of its holdings company KID-T Group Holdings Co., Ltd that has four subsidiaries under it including CCC International in Armenia.
The group companies mainly are engaged in multilingual Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) services and IT related services. One of our recent flagship services is manga localization and manga DTP operations. We also provide manga coloring services for Japanese publishers.
Since the business started, we have also opened a coffee exporting business in the Philippines in 2015, an IT and education company, and produced comics about the story of José Rizal, the national hero and most significant public figure in the history of the Philippines.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
In 2011, I put up a translation team by organizing my students in college who were studying the Japanese language. I was a Japanese language teacher in Davao City, Philippines back then. At that time, one of the biggest and most famous Japanese idol group was trying to gain more fans abroad and was planning to use social media to share their everyday activities in 7 languages—from their "Good morning" up to their "Good evening" posts. Each one of the members of the idol group freely posted social media content and they would be translated in English first, and from English into 6 other languages. That was the goal of the project.
Initially, as I heard from our client, the management of this idol group's project was thinking of using machine translation. However, around that time, especially Japanese-English translation quality level of machine translation was too low to reach a satisfactory level. Therefore, they needed to find a translation partner for Japanese to English who can provide the service at a good price. This was why our client started to look for partners in the Philippines where labor cost is relatively cheaper in terms of English and Japanese bilingual resources.
When I heard about this project, I immediately organized a team composed of students and graduates whom I taught the Japanese language in the past. It was my first experience running a business. However, I’d seen an increase in demand for Japanese-English human resources for a long time when I was still working in a college as a Japanese language center head. I was also getting many inquiries from Japanese companies asking me regarding the recruitment of such talents. That’s the reason why I was confident about the success of the business to a certain extent.
That was the starting point of CCC, Creative Connections & Commons Inc. Fast forward to 2019, we started a company in Armenia called CCC International to widen our language support. Now, we offer over 30+ languages across the globe.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
As we started as a Japanese-English translation service provider, the success of our product basically relied on our human resources. We hired bilingual and native Japanese speakers to create high-quality service. We decided on the project workflow which was, for Japanese to English, Translation → Native Japanese Checking → English Proofreading.
Luckily, these resources were not elusive; the business was built around and because of them. After gaining some momentum and establishing the structure of the team, we were able to market our translation service to other industries such as games, news and entertainment websites, and more recently, manga and comics. Ten years later, our current projects not just involve the Japanese and English languages, but also French, German, Arabic, Filipino, Mongolian, and many more.
Most of our first clients were engaged in BPO and non-voice customer support services, trying to expand their business in Japan through multilingual support. Although their main clients were huge companies in Japan, end users continued to increase overseas. Because of this, the business competition intensified and the market share of our clients was becoming saturated over the years.
To this day, we are still working with our very first client. However, we have seen the importance of diversifying our client and service portfolio given the ever-increasing competition in the market. In recent years, we noticed the increase of digital comics distribution platforms. We decided to venture into this field and now, manga and comics localization became one of our flagship projects.
Describe the process of launching the business.
As a B2B company, we normally launch a new business after we have virtually acquired the project. The operations team creates a business scheme and sample using an outsourced resource, propose them to potential clients, and provide actual service upon improvements according to their feedback. We do not hire new people in-house unless the sales of the new project are ensured.
Regarding the finances of our business, we borrowed a small amount for the capital. We only took less than a year to return the debt. After that, we have been self-sufficient and utilize an internal budget for new business launches and have never been financed by other sources.
The biggest lesson I learned from the process of starting a new business is that it is always our clients who can give us the best advice and the answers. They give not only feedback but also a lot of potential ideas which they even do not recognize as a business chance yet. For me, listening to clients is more important than talking about your product to them.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
For us to retain our clients, we put importance on communication. We at least try to communicate with more than one or two persons in a partner company so that we can gain important information and know their needs from different angles, even if the client is a small company. We also join business matching events and business meetups to gain potential leads.
As for digital marketing, aside from our corporate websites, we have a manga localization landing page in Japanese and a dedicated team for SEO and SMM. Our team consistently puts out informative and fascinating articles that showcase our strengths and expertise and, at the same time, provide value to the community and industry we belong to.
When reaching out to different types of clients, I do not try to sell our service. I look for what our clients can do and what we can do for them to increase their sales. For example, one of our clients was looking for a way to introduce their manga platform to the Philippine market. So I proposed to create manga content featuring the historical heroes of the Philippines and co-produced it with the client.
Had we focused on selling existing services, we wouldn't have been able to continue our business.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
We are fortunate to have been experiencing consistent growth since our launch. We target a 20% annual sales growth, and that has helped us frame our sales and marketing efforts.
For the past years, we have relied on one-on-one meetings, referrals, and events to acquire new partners, but as the business landscapes are fast evolving, especially with the current pandemic, we have to adapt as well. Now, we are boosting our digital marketing efforts to reach customers all over the world, putting out content that can be helpful to many businesses and prospective customers.
As for our goals, currently, we have businesses in Japan, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Armenia. This year, we are aiming to penetrate the European and the US market further, while maintaining our sales efforts in Japan and other Asian countries.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
To start a business is one thing; to sustain it is another. We have had several challenges, from a project discontinuing due to clients' lack of budget to project overload causing scarcity in the resources. In all of these instances, we learned that having a surplus is highly important.
Since then, we have always secured a certain amount of net profit so that in cases of emergency, we can still support our team members. We also secure a preparation period with the client when starting a project so that we have time to gradually ramp up our resources and set up their work ecosystem.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
Basically, we use Google Workspace as our main working platform. For communications we use, Slack, Skype, Zoom, and Google Meet. We also use an internally-developed translation memory tool made possible by our IT affiliate company Pistacia.
As for our digital marketing efforts, we use Google Analytics, Google Data Studio, Google search console, Creator Studio, Bit.ly, Moz, SEMRush, Snovio, Alexa, Stripo, SEOquake, Ubersuggest, and many others for SEO, competitor analysis, and email marketing.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
My top influence would be Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies by James C. Collins and Jerry I. Porras.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
I think that “who you work with” is more important than “what you do.” You can always change what you do, but it is not that easy to change people. In our case, there were many times that the business became better after changing business partners or team members.
Regarding choosing partners, believe it or not, my first intuition was almost always correct. It is very difficult to say NO after you have organized a team; thus, you should always be careful about who you work with.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
Creative Connections & Commons is always on the lookout for N2 to native Japanese speakers, as well as native English speakers for its manga projects. You may email your CV to [email protected] For CCC International, we are looking for German Language Agents. You can check them and apply here. We are also looking for Korean to German translators; you may send your CV to [email protected]
Where can we go to learn more?
You can find us on any of these platforms. Whether you are looking for a translation partner or just curious about what we do, talk to us. We're always eager to meet new people.
Want to start your own business?
Hey! 👋I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
We interview successful business owners and share the stories behind their business. By sharing these stories, we want to help you get started.
Interested in starting your own business? Join Starter Story Premium to get the greatest companion to starting and growing your business:
- Connect + get advice from successful entrepreneurs
- Step by step guides on how to start and grow
- Exclusive and early access to the best case studies on the web
- And much more!
Are you ready to boost your revenue?
Using Klaviyo will open up a massive, untapped sales channel and bring you closer to your customers!
Level up your email marketing with Klaviyo!