Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in wellness but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Kumiko Kanayama, Founder, and CEO of Five Lights Center of Shiatsu, located in New York, NY, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

I am a shiatsu educator, practitioner, and founder of the Five Lights Center of Shiatsu in New York City. Shiatsu is an Asian bodywork method based on self-care, acupressure, and meridian healing. I've been learning and practicing for decades. As a Shiatsu Grand Master, I chose to use my experience for teaching and to share the power of shiatsu with others to feel good, feel happy, and feel joyful. My students and clients are very passionate about learning and receiving shiatsu. They find peace with their bodies and minds. I've been grateful to receive many glowing reviews and feedback on my social media platforms.

Tell us about yourself

I was born in Japan. Growing up, my mother was busy working, so I spent a lot of time with my grandparents. My grandfather taught me the Japanese shiatsu exercise called Makko Ho, a direct method to stretch meridians. My grandmother taught me how to do family shiatsu which she learned at school.

My uncle came to the United States in the 1960s, and he opened his Shiatsu Dojo in 1974. I have studied and learned a lot from him and his teachers. Shiatsu is in my blood; I am super motivated to share the power of shiatsu. The longer I live, the more I feel great and grateful for my Shiatsu learning! Shiatsu is my anti-aging essential oil. Shiatsu is my meditation, exercise, and my daily inspiration.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

During the early shutdowns of the pandemic, I could not do anything; I felt useless. I connected with shiatsu teachers and students from around the world. The shiatsu community needed a place to gather virtually, so I organized online video meetings and social media sites and created the Global Shiatsu Virtual Gatherings. I developed hybrid and online classes for our shiatsu certification training programs and offered a selection of wellness programs on our virtual teaching platform, all available to both local and distant students. Currently, in-person teaching is inspiring many new shiatsu practitioners, and we are involved in many outreach programs in NYC. Students and instructors are now able to practice their training with different groups, including the Sisters at a local convent, an AA meeting at the church, as part of a corporate wellness program, and future work with VA groups & Kids Shiatsu project are being planned.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

I am offering a unique service to people. We are the only fully shiatsu-trained center in NYC. The pandemic brought many changes to our original business model: classes were taught in person, and we worked hands-on with clients; we needed to adapt quickly. I thought I would need to close my center, but my students and clients encouraged me to stay open because we all felt that the world needed the human touch and connection of shiatsu now more than ever. Modern technology allowed this ancient art to continue and thrive throughout the pandemic. Social media, Zoom gatherings, YouTube videos, and lots of networking kept us connected with the international shiatsu community.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Listen to yourself and others. Ask questions and be curious. You have to listen to the customers and listen to yourself, then decide as a business owner what is the best solution for all.
  2. Do your best and pay attention to the details. We have to pay attention to the details so everyday responsibilities don't accumulate or get neglected.
  3. Be kind to yourself: When tired, we need to take a break or take a nap, take a trip, eat, exercise, and meet friends to talk to. It is very important to have your own private time to restore energy.

Is there anything else you'd like to share?

It is great to be my own boss. I can make my own schedule and be part of my daughter's growth. It is the freedom to be who I am. I was able to grow my business with my daughter's growth. I can see my business from her eyes, baby eyes, kids' eyes, and later, teenager's eyes. I never got bored, and I was always able to improve my business with my family at my side.

When I first started my business, I had no funds. I created a dedicated support system of colleagues, long-term clients-students, and friends. I found many free or low-cost business programs that guide new business owners like myself. Members of the SCORE program continue to give me excellent advice. They have helped me to build my website, post on social media, and taught me how to register my business. I was able to study with their resourceful website and use SCORE literature and YouTube programs. When we open our minds, there is so much free help available! Make sure to have a great support system around you. Your friends are the key essence of your success in business.

Everyone wants me to be very successful because everyone can feel how much I love what I do and how much I care about my clients, my students, and this planet. It is a lifetime friendship, and we are so much looking forward to connecting with so many other people in the world.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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