How I Started with 1000 Euros in Japan with Freya Augustin
Katerina: Hi, Freya. I am really, really excited to talk to you because you have such an unusual story. You came to Japan just after graduating when you were 24 years old?
Freya: Yes, that’s right. Yeah, it was very adventurous. So I always had the dream of living in a foreign country. And I studied in Japan for one year actually. So I already knew what it’s like there. And I really yeah, I enjoyed it there so much that I just went right after graduation. Like, seriously, I’m not kidding. On the day that I handed in my thesis, I got on the plane and flew to Japan. The same day. And I literally had nothing I had 1000 euros and a friend who liked me to stay at her house. And that’s that was it?
Katerina: Yeah. So you went to Japan and were you looking for a job or did you start a business? You had 1000 euros in your pocket. This is very adventurous.
Freya: I was young, you know? Some times you do that kind of stuff. So I looked for a job first because I had no idea about entrepreneurship or anything at all. So I looked for a job and I was really, really lucky. I found a job within two weeks, so my money lasted. And then I got into this job and it was really, really stressful. So I started teaching and I started teaching kindergarten kids. And I was the only teacher for 20 kindergarteners. And whoever has a kid at home probably knows that one is already pretty challenging, now imagined twenty and that’s in your job. So I got burned out really, really quickly. And I had to quit it after a year and a half because like, I had nightmares and I woke up at night like fearing something happened to the kids because I was the only person in charge there for twenty right? I woke up at night and got really, really stressed out I didn’t want to go to work any more that kind of depressed and I was just like I cannot do this any more.
Katerina: So was this an English school was it for preschoolers and elementary school kids, right? Only preschoolers, preschoolers. But that was your business…. you started a business? or was it just a job?
Freya: Oh that was that was just my job. Yeah, it would my job. And I quitted it and started teaching regularly. And after four years altogether of teaching, I kind of felt that teaching under a big company was not really for me. There were so many issues and things that I didn’t like and a lot of rules. I’m not a big fan of rules, honestly speaking. So I started my own school and that was my very first venture. And it went really, really well. I mean, in the beginning, of course, but yeah, after that, like after the first few years where I made lots of mistakes, and after that, it went well, and I’m still having it. So and I enjoy doing it.
Katerina: You still have a business? Your school?
Freya: I still have the school. Yes. Right.
Katerina: So what was the most difficult challenge you had to overcome? Starting that school business?
Freya: There were… there were a lot. Of course, finding students was difficult but the most difficult for me was the taxes like doing all the taxes, and speaking Japanese all the time was difficult and communicating with clients all in Japanese. So that was really really hard.
Katerina: Was it a private school?
Freya: Oh, yeah. So that was my private school.
Katerina: Yeah. How many students? How many pupils do you have today?
Freya: Oh, I have 50. Yeah. But not in one day and not at the same time.
Katerina: So, how many people do you employ working for you in the school?
Freya: In school, I’m working alone. Because, yeah, it’s just fine. If I do it, it’s nice.
Katerina: You just teach kids? Which subjects do you teach kids?
Freya: I teach English only.
Katerina: Okay. . Yeah. . So you have to manage all your taxes, do all your marketing and teach at the same time.
Freya: Yes, yes. But because I have so much experience teaching right now it’s, I think, eight years or so. Eight years experience teaching, it’s just like, well, a normal day, I just go in there and teach. So I don’t need much preparation. Actually, much more challenging was my second company where I sold cosmetics, cruelty-free vegan cosmetics online. And that was way more challenging for me because they had to go into real marketing before it was more like word of mouth. But now I had to go into real marketing.
Katerina: Did you have anyone to help you out? Or did you do any courses? How did you learn marketing?
Freya: Just reading stuff online, which I realise now was not the smartest. Yeah, I didn’t know anyone who had their own business or I also didn’t even know about coaching and stuff. Um, so yeah, I did this all on my own and it was really, really hard. Yeah. And, but like, I realised that I’m not really a salesperson. So I stopped this I stopped selling cosmetics and then I went into coaching when I found out what coaching is. I did a course and I’m a certified business coach now. And because coaching is just so much closer to teaching than just selling cosmetics.
Katerina: Well, you still need to find clients?
Freya: Yes, yes, yes. But for me, finding clients is more… is easier than selling real products. Yeah, I have… I have definitely experienced. So that’s what I want to talk about my experience with clients and I want to give them help so that they’re not in the same position that I was when I started out, just reading stuff online and then failing again, and trying failing, trying and failing and so on.
Katerina: So how long you’ve been doing entrepreneurship now? So you went to Japan? When did you go to Japan? How many years ago?
Freya: I came here eight years ago.
Katerina: So, you’ve had these different ventures on and off and you started the school… you still have a school and then you started the cruelty-free cosmetics brand. That didn’t really work out because you didn’t like the sales.
Freya: Yes. Yeah.
Katerina: And and now you’re doing the coaching business as well.
Freya: Yeah, yeah. Yes.
Katerina: So… so what is your vision about your businesses? What’s next for the school?
Freya: Um, the school I kind of want to keep is small. The reason for that is spent in Japan, you have a lot of schools that teach English, but a lot of them are also very expensive. And I want to give people who don’t earn that much money, the chance or their children actually the chance to also look Learn English and you have the same education that richer kids can get, right? I’m not doing… I’m not doing it for free, but it’s definitely a lot cheaper than the big English schools here. So I want to keep it small so that they can still afford it. It’s kind of like my, my baby, you know? And, yeah, but right now I’m focusing 100% of my time because of COVID right? I had to close the school. So right now 100% goes into business coaching. Yeah, yeah, that’s going well, I’m enjoying it a lot. Yeah.
Katerina: Have you thought of doing something online teaching English online kids? Yeah. Would they pay money, if it was online? Yeah, I thought about it. Um, but I really enjoyed the close contact with the kids like throwing balls and playing around and having them run around and jump around. That’s how kids learn, right? They don’t learn from reading or just talking to a screen.
Katerina: Yeah. So yeah, I mean it’s, it’s incredible to be in Japan and you know, different country, different culture. And you didn’t have a supportive boyfriend as well.
Freya: Yeah, that’s another thing.
Katerina: He wanted you to go and find the job, right?
Freya: Yeah. That is right. Well, that’s the culture here in Japan. So in Japan, you… Everyone has a corporate job basically. That’s the standard and entrepreneurship is still kind of in the baby shoes if you can say that… not many people doing it so yeah, everyone was kind of like “Yeah, why don’t you apply for real job?” right… kind of thing. So yeah, there was also hard, but my head is harder let’s say that way.
Katerina: So, what can you say to start… what can you say to students who are finishing their courses today? What advice can you give them? Should this should they be looking for a nine to five job or should they try entrepreneurship and start their own businesses? What’s your take on this?
Freya: I cannot give a clear answer. First of all, it depends on the person. Some people are more adventurous and like to take risks and others are more on the safe side, right? So if, if you were the kind of person who likes to stay on the safe side, find a job first. And if you still want to try entrepreneurship start it as a side hustle. And if you really love it, then you can still quit your job. But if you’re one of the people who’s really adventurous and does not care about income in the beginning, because that can be minimal… when you’re just starting out, then I would say sure, why not? Right now is your chance you don’t have a family that you need to support, you don’t have a house or mortgage or something. So yeah, right now it’s your chance to try it out. If you don’t like it, you can still go to corporate or try again and again and again.
Katerina: Yeah. Right. So what was the most difficult challenge in the last eight years in Japan for you?
Freya: The taxes, they… they really… Yeah, because in the beginning, I didn’t have money to hire an accountant or tax lawyer or someone can do that for me. So I did it all myself and all in Japanese. And the first, the first year was really, really scary whenever there was a letter from the tax office in my mailbox I was like, oh my god, oh my god. I was like shaking like I don’t want to open this. I don’t know what it says. So I don’t know what I’m gonna do and I was afraid that if I don’t pay my taxes correctly, and on time that they’re gonna deport me, right, because I just said, I just had a working visa. And if you don’t pay your taxes, they can legally just deport you. So yeah, that was really scary.
Katerina: Yeah, but that was due to not knowing the language that well.
Freya: Yes, yes. I mean, I can speak it almost perfectly. But my reading and writing…
Katerina: Yeah. Do you consider yourself to be an anxious person?
Freya: No, not at all. I consider myself an adventurous person and I do first and then think usually.
Katerina: How do you deal with uncertainty because obviously, you know, you went to Japan and we’re just a thousand euros in your pocket. That was very uncertain, right? How do you deal with uncertainty?
Freya: Um, I have plans. I make plans. I have a plan A, plan B and Plan C, and then an exit strategy if nothing of this works out, so I like to plan ahead.
Katerina: Great. So what’re most what’s your worst nightmare? What’s your biggest fear when it comes to your business?
Freya: Um That’s a good question. My biggest fear when it comes to my business. Um, I think like not getting any clients at all any more. And having to go back to corporate. I really don’t want to do that. I don’t want to work a nine to five any more. I mean, I’m working more right now honestly, I’m working like ten hours or more every day and because of COVID, I cannot go out, so I work on the weekends too. But it’s more like a hobby. It feels like a hobby to me, because it’s so much fun. And I want for everyone who enjoys entrepreneurship to feel the same joy just like having a job where you can really wake up in the morning like, Yes, I can work on this. Yes, this is on my schedule. I’m looking forward to it.
Katerina: Yeah, you should be looking forward to Monday’s.
Freya: Yeah. I’m looking forward to Monday. Yes, yeah. And that’s another reason why I became a business coach because I see so many people stuck in corporate and in nine to five like “It’s Monday I have to go back to work. I don’t want to work.” So I want to help these people to feel the same excitement about Mondays and their business that I feel. Yeah, that’s what I want for them for everyone.
Katerina: So what you’re not good at? And if you had one superpower, what would it be?
Freya: Okay, wait first what am I not good at? Many things, let me pick one. What am I not good at? Um, I think I’m I mean, I said before I always plan ahead right? So I do plan ABC, but I’m not really good at really seeing all the possibilities, everything that could go wrong, I never see it right? I just go if A happens I do B, if B happens I do C… kind of thing, but there are so many things that can go wrong and I never see them. So I often have to improvise. Yeah, so for example, when I started my business first I did not give a single thought about taxes. And then suddenly this letter, I was like “Huh, oh my. Okay, now I need to do taxes”.
Katerina: Are you doing an accountant?
Freya: Ah, yes, yes.
Katerina: Yeah. It’s all taken care of.
Freya: Yes, it’s all taken care of. That’s right. That’s a lot better. So yeah, that’s my biggest fear and my weakness all together in one. And if I had a superpower, hmm. Ah, I think… I think I already have a superpower. And that is to make people happy. I think I can do that pretty easily. Like people always say that I’m so cheerful and that I make them happy when they talk to me. But I want also to make them feel less anxious and just think more positively. So if I had could have a superpower I would make everyone think more positively and less about negative things.
Katerina: Have you ever, ever thought of quitting?
Freya: Nope, no, no.
Katerina: No? What can you advise entrepreneurs who hit the wall of challenges and they’re about to quit on their dreams? What can you tell them?
Freya: Mm-hmm. Make sure that this is really your dream because this is what happened to me in my second business when I sold the cosmetics. My actual goal was to… to help people and to help animals. My goal was not to sell cosmetics. And that’s why in the end failed, I would say fail because I had a wrong approach to it. So if you are about to quit, um, make sure if this is really your dream, or if you have just interpreted your dream in the wrong direction right? And if it’s not the right thing for you to do, it’s just not the right thing. So it’s not, you don’t need to feel like a failure or like you’re giving up. It was just the wrong path that you were on. And you can always jump onto another path onto a new path or change directions… go back. That’s, that’s okay, right? It’s not a failure.
Katerina: Have you ever blamed yourself for making mistakes in the past?
Freya: Um, I would say not really. But that comes from my… my upbringing. Like I’m… I’m a person who always likes to drop things, breaks things. Like Yeah, ever since I was a child, I wasn’t even allowed to put the plates on the table because I would usually break one.
Katerina: [laughs] Yeah, that’s good.
Freya: That’s true. No, I grew up… I had to accept myself the way I am, that I always make mistakes. And if I make a mistake, if I can correct it, I correct it. If I cannot correct it then, well, I also cannot reverse it. I have to live with it. it’s fine. Everyone makes mistakes. It’s fine.
Katerina: What’re your strategies to safeguard your mental health?
Freya: Going out into the sunlight. I like it. I like being out in nature. Right now it’s just going for walks but other than that, hiking and jogging, camping, just being outside in nature gives me a real happiness boost. And if I feel really down, depressed, stressed, literally everything goes wrong. You probably know these days, right? Everything that can go wrong, goes wrong.
Katerina: Oh, yeah, yeah. Been there.
Freya: Right. If it’s really, really bad, I usually watch a movie that can just take my thoughts away from all the problems, and then it’s better. Or if it’s not that bad, I meditate and just think about what happened and how can I solve my problems? If there are any to solve, right? So I know it’s not real meditation because when you meditate correctly, you’re supposed to clear your mind and not think about anything. But I, I do brainstorming meditation and problem-solving meditations. So I just put on meditation music, sit down, meditation posture and just let my brain know yeah, go crazy, basically. And I have a pen and paper and I write stuff down. Then again, close my eyes, continue thinking, write stuff down and so on. So that helps me to focus and to overcome challenges.
Katerina: Yeah. Do you have a supportive family? Because you’re, you’re from Germany? How do they see you living in Japan? And you probably miss them? And are they okay with you living in Japan and doing this crazy thing like running a business… several businesses in Japan?
Freya: Ah, yes. So, um, I… well, first the background is I’m from Germany… that’s right. But I’m from East Germany, right? So my parents were basically living in this cage their whole life. And my mom especially loves to travel. And she couldn’t do that when she was young, because she was living in East Germany. And now that that the borders open and her daughter is that age she said “Well, I wish I could have travelled the way that you can travel now, I wish I could have lived in a foreign country”. So go ahead and fulfil my dream basically. Of course, they are sad and they miss me but with Skype and face calling and everything that’s going on. It’s Yeah, it’s fine.
Katerina: Yeah. So what’s your plan? So you’re staying in Japan, that’s your home country now? You don’t want to go back to Germany? Because I guess you’ve, you’ve done a lot. You know, you went through so many challenges to establish yourself in Japan with the language barrier, understanding the culture, so there is no way back now, I guess.
Freya: Yeah, that’s true. But being a business coach, online, online business… I can, I can go anywhere. Of course, I would lose my students but I have a teacher friend here who could take over if I wanted to leave and for me, it’s more about the people, than the country, so if my husband wants to go somewhere else, and I say yeah its a cool country, let’s try it, and I would go. Or if I suddenly have an urge to live in a warmer country, in a tropical country you know? Sure, why not? I have not bound to this country or this place. I can live anywhere.
Katerina: So what advice would you give to women who want to start their own businesses? Of course, at the moment there’s so much uncertainty with COVID-19 and all that. And also at the same time, there are so many people who become unemployed and the job market is becoming overwhelmed now… there are so many people actually looking for jobs. So what advice would you give someone who decides to start a new business today? Is today a good time to start a new business?
Freya: Today is the perfect time to start a business. That’s what I think. Like everyone is on my… especially an online business, so it’s a perfect time to start an online business. Because everyone is online right now. And I think even after this crisis, there will be more people working from home and being online. So if you have an idea of how you can market yourself online and something that you can give to others. Um, then do it right now. It’s your chance, there’s not a better time than now.
Katerina: I agree with you… might be a perfect storm. Yeah. I guess we’ll just see more of a because a lot of people now go through barriers, learning new stuff. Today is the perfect time to learn new stuff, right?
Katerina: Yeah. And, yeah, I think what we experienced today is going to change the way we do business in the future, as well. So yeah, it might be… of course, if you think about maybe starting a business like a bakery… maybe is not the right time. But definitely, if you think of an online business that can connect people and you can spread your word.
Freya: I mean, even if you want to do physical business or something that you think would not go well right now, you can still educate yourself first, set everything up, and then go and start it after the crisis when people will go out, because it’s not just people losing jobs, it’s also businesses going bankrupt. And where one business goes bankrupt, there needs to be a new one to replace it. So why not yours?
Katerina: So what is the last word you can tell to girls, to a woman who have a fear of acceptance, fear of change, fear of the future, fear of fear… what can you tell them?
Freya: Okay, um to.. to.. I’m talking to the audience now. So to you who is afraid of many, many things that can happen. And truly they can happen and some of them will happen… but I want to tell you that I have been there, and other people have been there… and you can trust me that you are stronger than you think… you are very very strong, and you will make it through this and you don’t need to look too far ahead, just look as far as your next step and that can be really anything…. if you feel really really anxious, try to make yourself a tea, try to listen to some music, that’s the first step and then start reading your favourite book and then when you feel a little better and you can start taking another small step towards your business or to what’s scares you. And again start small like a reply to an email, study some more, try to set up a blog or write a blog post, just take it slow, its fine and just take your time. And there are people out there for you and just ask for help. People will help you.
Katerina: That’s great. Thanks, Freya, that’s very motivational as well. Okay, thank you so much for coming on the show and I wish you good luck with your businesses and new ventures in the future.
Freya: Thank you. I wish you good luck and all the best. And I hope that was helpful and have value for your listeners.
Katerina: That was great. Thank you so much.