It was when he was 40 years old that president Nakagawa quit his job at a major trading company and went independent.
His business began in a small room in an apartment. There was only one desk and one phone. That was his corporation.
I want to do this!
I want to do that!
Contrary to his strong enthusiasm, sales would not grow… Father of 3 growing daughters, still paying the mortgage, he had to cut corners. Life was hard.
“Men work outside and women work inside.”
Not like today, men seldom took care of the things inside the house. He left house matters to his wife and fully concentrated on work. Day after day, he walked all over Kobe, looking for business.
It was not until several years later that his business finally got on track. Being visited daily with a great smile on his face no matter how many times he had been declined, customers gradually began to have conversations with him.
Of course, newcomers seldom get business. But Nakagawa keeps coming, happily. Little by little they started exchanging some words with him. Some drank tea, and some ate lunch with him. And on days when he did not appear, some even worried he might have gotten sick.
Years passed, and his customers began introducing him to other customers, saying there was a funny guy. Referrals led to more referrals and Nakagawa came to receive more and more business from various companies.
Looking back on those days, Nakagawa says what he received was not business but ‘the importance of relationship and smile.’
Nakagawa’s basic philosophy,
“Think primarily for the good of customers. Listen carefully to their words.”
-comes from his experience of being saved by the relationship between his customers.
At last business was growing steadily and he could increase the number of employees. Managers grew and Nakagawa could take it easy and relax for a while. By then, his daughters had already grown up. He had had his wife take care of everything in the house until then.
He paid great respect to his family and thought, “Women and mothers are so strong.”
Perhaps this is why WOODY PUDDY has many female staffs today.
It was not only by his power that he could get there. Customers, employees, and his family had always been there for him.
Yet, rather than being full of gratitude, he found himself feeling a sort of emptiness within him. Like filling the open space he had left till then, he built his family a solid wood house.
“Wood” is one of the things Nakagawa loves. He grew up in the countryside of Fukui prefecture. All he could see around him were mountains and fields. Nakagawa did not like his life in the countryside and later chose to work in cities.
However, though he had aspired to work in a city, when faced with a challenge, he often found himself returning to his house in Fukui. There, he spent some time in the mountain behind his house and filled his mind with calmness.
Nakagawa’s first business involved “natural wood.”
He loved touching wooden furniture. To relax and instantly calm down, he would knock on wood. It is strange why that always works.
And “wood” became the core of his business.
The ‘one thing’ Nakagawa regrets in his life is that he could not take part in raising his daughters.
Parents are everything to children.
Children are everything to parents.
That is what he feels when he looks at his wife and daughters, and that, “No other bond is as strong as this.”
He found that family bonds form as children and parents grow together.
Though more men are getting involved in taking care of their children nowadays, there still must be many husbands who share this kind of loneliness during their “time with children.”
I want to help families deepen and strengthen their fading bonds. Could I make that a business!? It is not until I succeed in this business that I could contribute to and receive approval from society.
Nakagawa has a thing about wooden products not just because he likes it or because he grew up in the countryside. He found that things made of “natural wood” nurtured family communication. It was something different from what you could get out of high tech gadgets or strong materials.
“Communication” grows where incomplete, natural material exists. That is “emotional development & knowledge” and “love towards children,” Nakagawa thought.
And then, away from the central office inside the Kobe Commerce, Industry and Trade Center Building at Sannomiya Kobe, the flagship store of ‘Wooden Toys & Kids Furniture WOODY PUDDY’ opened on Rokko Island.
He says that when woodcrafters were told that the luxury furniture and crafts they were making were going to be delivered to Japanese children, they felt proud and enjoyed the hard work.
Back then, there were few giant shops of our size specializing in children’s goods. Many kinds of media covered us.
They introduced the building as a ‘shop.’ But actually, it was also a business showroom. Many of the ongoing nationwide sales of WOODY PUDDY products in major department stores, shopping malls and local toy stores began from the business meetings held there. Today, you can find our goods in shops all over Japan.
‘Wouldn’t it be wiser to use the building as a B2B showroom and cut costs?’
…but Nakagawa thought otherwise.
“We must own a direct source where we can gather the voices of our customers.”
Without constant contact with end-users, moms and dads who raise their own children, business would lose its meaning.
Many of the designers who took part in making the first WOODY PUDDY products were women who loved children but some were not mothers. They had never taken care of their own children. Come to think of it, perhaps a great portion of the product development then was based on imagination.
After making the shop, we communicated with customers, took surveys, launched monitor campaigns, and gathered requests, taking voices of customers into our product making process.
Many of the products made based on creative imagination and basic marketing became great hits.
Online shopping had just started becoming popular among common households.
WOODY PUDDY gave it a try and opened a shop on Rakuten Ichiba. In the beginning, when one of our central office staffs was in charge of the online shop, there were not many orders. And Nakagawa let the staff in charge of the Rokko Island shop run it. The idea was that “the one that knows best about the customer must run the shop.”
He was right. Sales increased rapidly. Soon, the Rakuten online shop sales grew to the point where it became difficult to run the Rokko Island shop at the same time.
Nakagawa made a decision.
“To give every customer the same level of service, we will close the Rokko Island shop and make it a base for the online shop”
In January 2009, WOODY PUDDY Rokko Island store closed. And we changed it to a business office and warehouse.
After that, the WOODY PUDDY Rakuten shop sales grew even more successful.
We only had to keep going for further success! Yet…
Rakuten Ichiba gradually increased restrictions involving direct communication between individual shops and consumers. Nakagawa’s philosophy could not be carried out 100%.
“Think primarily for the good of customers. Listen carefully to their words.”
He found it impossible to act up to the idea within the system.
Then, Nakagawa thought, “We’ll open the once-closed Rokko Island flagship store one more time and make it a brand new, official online store.”
“We’ll get in direct touch with customers there. Based on the gathered information and ideas, we will make various new products.”
With a whole new design and many new features, the former company web site was renewed as the WOODY PUDDY Official Online Shop to open in September.
From September 2011, the WOODY PUDDY flagship store restarted as an online shop! We feel very grateful to our past and present customers, and to the customers we shall meet in the days ahead. Thank you