We had the good fortune of connecting with Sara Motomura-Broida and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Sara, what habits do you feel helped you succeed?
My previous experience of working in retail businesses in Japan have always helped me do an impeccable job at customer service – I learned how to speak with customers, do gift wrapping, and personalize customer follow ups. And this has become my habit… the habit that has differentiated us from our competition. I remember spending time convincing my husband, and co-owner of our business, that, for us, dealing with knives, sharpening stones, etc., are an everyday occurrence (because it’s our job), but for our customers, it’s a very exciting, special and unique event and should be treated as such. I learned this when I was working at a bakery in Japan. I once forgot to put candles on a birthday cake, and my boss had to hand deliver candles on my behalf. We were selling many birthday cakes every day and the candles slipped my mind. We are always trying to remind ourselves that each of our customers have a unique and different story that brings them to us to buy their knives, and every single time, we make sure to treat the customer experience with the great care that they deserve. We also believe we are selling very special and often one-of-a-kind knives that often need to be handled as such, so we make sure to spend a lot of time educating our customers with respect to the provenance of their knives, along with detailed information they will need to care for and enjoy using their new tools. While working as a store clerk at a clothing store (also in Japan), I had to keep track of my customers – each customer interaction, their purchase history, preferences and wish list. Remembering their names and faces was the bare minimum requirement. We also sent out letters to them when we had sales, always with personal notes attached to each card. Now, at our store, we write handwritten notes for all online orders. In today’s day and age, online businesses are plentiful – big ones, small ones, successful ones, even scammy ones. My habit of being a very detailed-oriented person with a strong retail background has helped us create a very unique company feel and wonderful relationships with our customers.
What should our readers know about your business?
When we started our business, in 2010, we decided never to be involved in price wars. We never wanted to have “price match” signs in our store or online. We know the kind of effect this can have – downward pricing will always result in pressure on the craftsmen we work with to cut their already low profit. We started when yen was stronger against USD, and yet we were able to stand by that business model and succeed. Without doing sales events – most retail stores have sale after sale for all the holidays around the calendar year- we were able to let our customers what entails our pricing philosophy. We always do our best to price our product fairly for all parties involved- the customer, the craftsmen, and our company. This made our business sustainable, and this philosophy has been beneficial for the long-term success of our business and for our business partners as well.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
During the pandemic? It certainly makes it hard… Dining-wise, I find these places safe and committed to safeguarding a safe environment while executing great quality food: Brandoni Pepperoni, Hatchet Hall, Bao Hiroo, Cha Cha Chicken (my oldest son’s favorite), and Jimmy Sugishita’s Bento Box (instagram account Jimmysugi). And personally I haven’t had a chance to buy his bento box, I’m really excited to try in the near future: Hayato – Japanese Restaurant As for the outing, because I have 6 year old and 1 year and a half old boys, covid makes it almost impossible for me to manage. The places I were able to manage to do and fun to do was Huntington Library, Franklin Cannyon, Culver City Park Trail, Kenneth Hahn State Park and of course hidden away beaches along Malibu.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
First and foremost, we want to thank our team. Without them (past and present), we would not be where we are today. I also want to thank my family- without the support of our families, getting through this crazy time would not be possible. Lastly, we want to give a shoutout to all of our restaurant friends. This has been an extremely though time for everyone, and it has been crushing, to say the least, to watch everyone we know suffer so much. We have always relied on and been there to support our restaurant communities. We stand with you through this trying time.