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Starting a Business? Read This Book First

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If you’re thinking of starting a business, you should read this book before taking your first step

Author and socially responsible pioneer, Kay Hirai authentically documents her industrious 40 year entrepreneurial journey in her latest book, Sheer Determination : Swimming Upstream in a Downstream World.

This interactive book cites real life examples and pivotal situations in Kay’s career. It also provides actionable advice to help budding entrepreneurs who are starting a business to maintain a profitable small business with a focus on social responsibility.

Kay’s award-winning hair salon business, Studio 904 is one of Washington’s finest. It’s also known nationally for its ethical business philosophies which include its hiring practices, workforce training, economic development and community outreach programs.

Through the years Kay’s impact in the socially responsible business arena has seen her chair the Governor’s Small Business Improvement Council when she participated in President Clinton’s White House Conference on Small Business. She also helped to write a “Direct Entry to Work” bill which passed legislature in 2008.

In 2004 Kay was named the “National Minority Entrepreneur of the Year” by the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Author and businesswoman Kay Hirai is dedicated to fostering socially responsible business practices to support employees, clients and the community

I wanted the “real” news about small businesses to be heard.

Here, Kay tells Nativa World how she hopes her book will help people waken their true passion in life,  support them if they’re starting a business and change the world via social responsibility…

Kay, what compelled you to write Sheer Determination?

Writing this book has helped me feel more secure and complete as a person. I didn’t want to forget the ups and downs of going through the journey of building and starting a business and the lessons I learned along the way. I wanted the “real” news about small businesses to be heard. Most people believe that starting an enterprise instantly leads to enormous wealth. Instead of focusing on “get rich” schemes, I wanted to help people who aspire to be in business, who are already operating their own businesses, or who are looking for a sense of purpose in their lives. I wanted to help them uncover the core values that lay deep within each one of us, waiting to be stirred and awakened. It’s essential to find what truly motivates each one of us. If we don’t find out what that is, we’ll live our lives without a sense of direction or purpose.

How does your book differ from other business books?

I have read many business books and attended several workshops and wished that I could learn firsthand how to implement the things that were taught. I was able to visualize the big picture but never came away with the concrete steps in how to implement the things that were discussed. In each chapter of my book, I give specific examples of how I accomplished certain things by relaying the actual stories. My approach was to share stories using real people and the actual places involved.

Also, since I wanted to connect and develop a relationship with my readers, I inserted six videos in parts of the book to explain, in more detail, my heartfelt feelings about the events in those specific sections. Readers will also find three free downloadable gifts.

Who would benefit from reading your book?

I think this reader describes the variety of things that I was trying to accomplish with my book:

“This would make a great book for any community college or college class relating to cosmetology, entrepreneurship, or small business management.  The combination of honest personal stories of challenges and successes, gender issues…the male “expert”…, the importance of continuous training and team development, and the details about the various governmental,  financial, and legal resources that you became acquainted with along the way makes it very engaging reading…like a mystery unfolding…as well as very educative and inspiring. You really did a wonderful, wonderful job with this book! Just the right approach to keep the reader going.” Sheer Determination gives hope to all “dreamers” that with “sheer determination” and love and talent for what they do, one can accomplish anything one sets out to.”

Sheer Determination : Swimming Upstream in a Downstream World.

After many years of chasing the magic and not finding it, I discovered that most of the answers lay within me.

How is the book structured?

The chapters in this book are laid out chronologically from 1960 – 2015. Each chapter provides examples of the inspirational life lessons that I learned throughout my journey as a business owner. At the end I share a unique chapter titled “Lessons I Live By.” These sixteen guiding principles are the lessons I learned during certain critical moments of running my salons and starting a business. I now use these same principles to guide me in making decisions every day of my life.

What did you learn during the book writing process?

After completing many of the chapters I could hardly believe that I had actually taken on some of the things that I had written about. I wondered to myself, “Was I crazy to take on so many risks? What was I thinking of?” In my early years, I’d never considered myself to be a big risk taker. After writing about some of the things I did, it taught me a lot about myself and showed that I was up to making many hard decisions with uncertain outcomes.

Author and socially responsible enterpreneur, Kay Hirai

I’m able to identify what I want to see happen and hire the right people to do the specific things that I need to have done.

Who inspires you in business?

In Chapter 24 of my book, “Leaders Who Inspired Me,” I share the stories of Howard Schultz of Starbucks Co., Bill Gates of Microsoft, and Representative Dawn Mason, former Representative to the Washington State Legislature. They are a few of the many people who inspired me to maintain integrity and compassion in my business. Others who inspired me and gave me hope are those who I worked with in the community, such as people with disabilities, students who came from marginal lifestyles, single women struggling to build a better future for their children and animals who I helped to rescue.

What main advice would you offer others who are starting a business?

My best piece of advice for people starting a business would be: “Believe in your own abilities.” For many years, I thought that I was not good enough to own my own business. I hoped that someone would come along, wave a magic wand, and turn my life around. If I could just find that one missing piece, I thought that I would have it made. After many years of chasing the magic and not finding it, I discovered that most of the answers lay within me. I realized that I never gave myself permission to come up with the solutions to my problems. Now, I’m able to identify what I want to see happen and hire the right people to do the specific things that I need to have done.

Kay Hirai and her mother

Mother always reminded me that I should never forget the people who died in my place, that I should not take my life for granted and that I should always do good things for others.

At what point in your life did you discover what motivated you?

I’m sure that wanting to help others and being socially responsible was ingrained in my psyche while I was growing up. My Mother and I narrowly escaped the second atomic bomb that was meant for the city of Kokura, Japan, where I lived. Due to inclement weather, the American warplane flew south and dropped it on the city of Nagasaki instead. Thousands of people perished. Mother always reminded me that I should never forget the people who died in my place, that I should not take my life for granted, and that I should always do good things for others. As I grew my business, I realized that I could use my business to help promote goodwill and social responsibility. Because we have a large number of customers, we have the opportunity to make a powerful impact on our philanthropic programs. I feel very fortunate that our customers always step forward and totally support the community-giving projects that the hair salon offers throughout the year.

Photography courtesy of Kay Hirai

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