JMEC Business Plan Competition

JMEC Business Plan Raffle proceeds to help Tohoku SMEs following earthquake disruption

Winners of the annual Japan Market Expansion Competition (JMEC) business plan challenge, for aspiring entrepreneurs and executives, overcame extreme adversity and a very tight finish, said organizers. In an unprecedented move, the 51 participants from 20 countries were forced to postpone writing their business plans when the earthquake and tsunami struck northeast Japan on March 11. However, after a short break the determined and diverse participants—average age 33— got straight back to work to complete their tasks on time and to a high standard.

Sponsor British Airways’ Vishal Sinha

Sponsor British Airways’ Vishal Sinha

JMEC Program Director Laura Loy said: “We are very proud of everyone who successfully completed the program this year. The events of 3/11 were a unique challenge for the teams, but after a little time off to attend to personal matters, they got themselves back on track.” The 10 project clients—including SMEs, an NPO and global corporations—that participants had prepared individual business plans for at a fraction of the market rate, and under the mentorship of senior Tokyo-based businesspeople, praised the high quality of the entries and the dedication and hard work of the participants over the seven-month project.

Mark Ferris, co-founder of childhood-cancer charity The Tyler Foundation, said: “Our JMEC team’s business plan provided a lot of well-researched and carefully thought out information. Many suggestions we had already considered, but to see them presented by an external party and backed-up by statistics and logic was a powerful way to help us better understand our priorities. The team also highlighted several other areas that will help improve operational effectiveness. Their presentation was clear and provided concrete ‘next steps’.”

Jim Weisser, co-founder and CEO of PBXL KK, said: “PBXL would strongly recommend JMEC to other organizations looking at expanding in the Japanese market. We received a mix of insights that we could not have found internally, as well as a ready-for-production business plan.”

Second place team (project client TÜV SÜD Japan Ltd.) From left: Sheldon Wong, Maki Shiomi, Jonas Werner

Second place team (project client TÜV SÜD Japan Ltd.) From left: Sheldon Wong, Maki Shiomi, Jonas Werner

Dr. Andreas Stange, president and CEO of TÜV SÜD Japan Ltd., said: “We experienced a highly motivated team, which brought us valuable insights into the Japanese market place.”

Proceeds from the raffles at the awards ceremony held on June 10 will go to Sendai-based Tohoku New Business Conference ( to help earthquake-effected SMEs in Fukushima, Miyagi and Iwate prefectures. Since 1988, the NPO— part of a national network of non-profit business organizations— has helped companies with business strategies, advice, surveys, information and events.

“JMEC is very pleased to donate the proceeds of its raffle to this very good cause that embodies the spirit of JMEC, which is to help mostly small to mid-sized companies thrive in Japan. Due to the generous donations of the JMEC corporate sponsors and the kind individuals who bought raffle tickets at the event, JMEC is proud to say that ¥575,000 was raised to help SMEs in Tohoku to get back on their feet,” says Loy.

Judges had spent several weeks reviewing the written entries that were followed by presentations from each team.

JMEC 17 judges revealed that the competition was very close, with a difference of just 1/3 of a percent between 1st and 2nd places, and 2nd and 3rd places. And the difference between 3rd and 4th places, in other words winning a prize or not, was just 1.27%. Total time spent on each plan was about 1,400 hours, but four teams each spent more than 1,600 hours, with one close to 2,000 hours.

Third place team (project client Honka Japan Inc.) From left: Nic Swindler, Mieko Miura, Kevin Meek, Kyoko El Mahgiub, Kentaro Blumenstengel

Third place team (project client Honka Japan Inc.) From left: Nic Swindler, Mieko Miura, Kevin Meek, Kyoko El Mahgiub, Kentaro Blumenstengel

British Chamber of Commerce in Japan President Philip T. Gibb, a JMEC judge, said: “The standard of the business plans and quality of the information and research this year was extremely high. The closeness of the final scores is testament to the effort put in by all participants.”

The high-profile awards presentation, attended by key principals of Japan’s local and foreign community such as leaders of foreign chambers of commerce and embassies in Tokyo, was held at the Tokyo American Club on June 10.

JMEC participants sign a non-disclosure agreement before starting their business plans and many project clients immediately, or later, put into action the business plans, with a number becoming lucrative additions to their portfolio of products, services or business solutions.

JMEC’s Loy said: “In the end it was a very close competition, resulting in 10 business plans tailored to each project client’s specific needs in the Japanese market, bringing the total number of JMEC business plans up to 159 over the last 17 years.”