Binnovative organized Business Plan Competition 2015 (ビジネスプランコンペティション2015を開催しました)

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(Japanese follows. 日本語は英語の後にあります。)

Fall marks the season for Binnovative’s annual business plan competition. This exciting competition brings together Japanese and non-Japanese participants in Boston, to propose solutions to Japanese companies wanting to expand in the US. This year, the organization collaborated with the newly opened Ramen shop, Santouka Ramen in Harvard Square, to help expand their business in the Boston area. Santouka was founded in 1988 in Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido. In order to appeal their traditional cooking to the local palate, they needed ideas to situate themselves in the Boston food scene. Binnovative offered to help by organizing a Business Plan Competition. Teams of students and professionals from different backgrounds and cultures living in Boston, proposed new marketing ideas, products or strategies for Santouka to implement, in order to better localize itself.

The Santouka Business plan challenge kicked off on September 19 and lasted two weeks culminating in a final presentation day on 10/3. A team building session was held for like minded participants to group together and participate in the competition. During the competition, the teams visited Santouka’s kitchen and got a behind-the-scenes look into what goes into Santouka’s celebrated ramen. Participants tasted the ramen and learned why the company has been so successful for many years. They also asked executives and employees questions to validate business ideas. Finally, on presentation day, 43 participants in 8 teams presented their business plan proposals to a panel of  judges composed of various industry professionals, fellow participants and volunteers.

 A panel of five judges was tasked with selecting the winner of the event. It included Ms.Kerianne Panos – an International Communications Advisor and Coach, Ms.Alice Stein – a Brand marketer and digital strategist, Mr.Kohei Fujita – the Marketing & New Shop Development Manager for Santouka Boston, Mr.Walter Foster – a business lawyer in Boston, and Ms.Kiyoko Morita – a Japanese language lecturer at Tufts University. Due to their deep relationship with both Boston and Japan, the judges were able to objectively pick the winning idea based on practicality of the idea, deference to Japanese culture, and local appeal.

On presentation day, eight upbeat teams presented radically different ideas to the panel. The teams thought up ideas such as design, marketing and social media strategies, new promotional ideas, ways to stimulate brand engagement with campaigns and mascots, and suggestions for food trucks or flagship stores.

Team Sancha took 1st place for the overall Santouka Business plan challenge for their Japanese “Yatai” style food truck idea, while team Omoto was voted People’s Choice winner for their idea of incentivizing customers to visit during non-peak hours. Santouka has agreed, as part of the first place prize, to implement team Sancha’s idea.

Through this competition, Binnovative was able to create opportunities for local American participants to gain exposure to the Japanese culture as well as for Japanese participants to learn from the American entrepreneurial mindset. The diversity of ideas presented in this competition, feedback from participants, and positive impact on Santouka has assured Binnovative that its goal was met. So keep an eye out for Santouka’s very own food truck and Binnovative’s next event.

Comments from Judges

We interviewed to two judges out of the five. Ms.Alice Stein – a Brand marketer and digital strategist, and Mr.Kohei Fujita – the Marketing & New Shop Development Manager for Santouka Boston

1. About each team’s presentation

“Each team presented a high quality, realistic business plan that can be put into practice. I hope to utilize my experience at this event through my future business career at Santouka.”(Mr.Fujita)

“It was obvious the eight teams who participated took the competition very seriously and prepared some innovative recommendations for Santouka Ramen.” (Ms.Stein)

 2. About the winning team (team Sancha)

The winning team had a highly feasible plan with in-depth research. The team presented a rental food truck instead of purchased one. This enables us to implement the plan easily and temporarily, which is a huge plus for a small business like Santouka.(Mr.Fujita)

“The best teams had clearly been out in the field and could back their recommendations with market and consumer research. The winning team represented by Showa University won based on their thorough analysis, research and easy-to-implement recommendations. ”(Ms.Stein)

3. About the overall event

I thank you for making this event a such fascinating competition, with participants from various backgrounds. Event operation was very smooth, and I was able to focus and enjoy listening to the presentations. (Mr.Fujita)

“Binnovative stretches the international entrepreneur to new heights by exposing them to business challenges typically handled by senior executives at multinational companies. Eriko and Binnovative team has done a great job with organizing a business plan competition that explicitly addresses the challenges of Japanese businesses expanding into the US market.” (Ms.Stein)

Comment from winning team (Team Sancha)

“I am very excited to win the first business plan competition I ever participated. Three members of our team had great teamwork, and we worked very hard for two weeks. It was also great how I got to meet other participants throughout the competition. I really enjoyed the competition, starting from the kick-off day, then Santouka visit, and ending with the final presentation. I appreciate Binnovative staff for creating welcoming and supportive vibe throughout the competition. I also learned a lot from other teams’ presentations. I cannot wait to see Santouka food truck in Boston! “(Maho Yanagisawa, Showa Boston Institute) 

“It’s starting to sink in myself that we won Binnovative Business Plan Competition 2015. Not everything went perfectly, but we did our best. I enjoyed meeting people from different backgrounds through this competition, and the experience was precious. I also learned how far we can go by working the absolute hardest. I am excited to build on my experience at Binnovative Business Plan Competition 2015 and go further! “(Yuri Ishiguro, Showa Boston Institute)

“I learned a lot through participating in Binnovative Business Plan Competition 2015. I joined the competition because my friends invited me to their team, and did not know what I was getting myself into, but it turned out to be such a wonderful experience. As a Japanese person and a tremendous ramen-lover, I am very proud to have won the competition! “(Haruna Suga, Showa Boston Institute)






Ms.Kerianne Panos – an International Communications Advisor and Coach, Ms.Alice Stein – a Brand marketer and digital strategist, Mr.Kohei Fujita – the Marketing & New Shop Development Manager for Santouka Boston, Mr.Walter Foster – a business lawyer in Boston, Ms.Kiyoko Morita – a Japanese language lecturer at Tufts University.

審査員は日本文化とボストンの市場に精通しており、提示されたアイディアは実用性、日本文化の尊重、そして地元住民にとっての魅力などにおいて評価されました。最終プレゼンテーションでは、やる気に満ちた各チームがそれぞれ、デザイン、マーケティング、SNS戦略、新マーケンティング戦略、マスコット等を用いたキャンペーン、フードトラック、旗艦店など、様々なユニークな案を提案しました。その後、審査員による評価が各チームに与えられましたが、どのチームも質の高いリサーチとプレゼンテーションが光っていました。結果、日本の屋台をイメージしたフードトラックを提案したTeam Sanchaが優勝し、アイドルタイム(店が比較的空いている時間)の来店者数増加を促すプランを提案したTeam Omotoが会場の聴衆からの投票で決まるPeople’s Choice Award に選ばれました。山頭火は優勝チームへのアワードとして、提案されたビジネスプランの実現を実際に検討する予定です。



Binnovativeは、5人の審査員のうち、代表して以下のお二人にインタビューをしました。Ms.Alice Stein – a Brand marketer and digital strategist, Mr.Kohei Fujita – the Marketing & New Shop Development Manager for Santouka Boston

1. 参加8チームの作品の全体的な感想



2. 優勝チーム作品の感想、勝因について。





“グローバルビジネスを展開する会社の経営者が実際に直面する課題を取り扱うことで、Binnovative はインターナショナルな起業家のステップアップを促進している。Erikoさん率いるBinnovativeは、日本企業がアメリカのマーケットに展開する際に直面する問題を呈示するビジネスプランコンペティションを見事に開催した。”(Ms.Stein)

優勝チーム(Team Sancha)メンバのコメント

”初めて出場したコンテストで優勝できてとても嬉しいです。3人のチームワークは完ぺきだったと思いますし、2週間必死になって取り組んだ甲斐がありました。kickoffからmentor advise、山頭火訪問、final presentationまで、他の参加者と交流する機会も沢山あり、毎回とても楽しみながら参加させていただきました。いつも和やかで良い雰囲気を作ってくださったBinnovativeのスタッフの方々に感謝しています。また他のチームのプレゼンから学ぶことも沢山ありました。山頭火のトラックがいつかボストンで走るようになったら嬉しいです。” (昭和ボストン 柳澤真帆)

”優勝したという実感が未だにわかないほど、賞をいただけたことに驚いています。プレゼン中に思いがけないハプニングも起こりましたが、今ではその出来事に感謝しているほどです。イベントの中で様々なバックグラウンドを持つ方々と交流することもでき、普段ではできない貴重な体験もさせていただくことができました。また、能力や知識に差はあれど、自分の個性や今持っているものを最大限に生かす大切さにも気付きました。この経験を活かして、自分の将来に向かって頑張っていきたいと思います。”(昭和ボストン 石黒友梨)

”今回のコンテストを通して、様々な事を学ばせていただきました。チームメートに誘われて軽い気持ちで参加したのですが、振り返ってみると、とてもいい経験になったなと思います。日本人として、そしてラーメン好きとして、優勝できたことをとても嬉しく思います!” (昭和ボストン 菅晏奈)