ANTON NÖFFKE (61)
AND JUNN CHEE (38)
Work: Junno Design
Hometown: Tzaneen, South Africa; Ipoh, Malaysia
Junno Design relocated from Malaysia to Japan in 2017 to launch the next phase of their business. In their search for new avenues of growth, founders Anton Nöffke and Junn Chee saw the Japanese market as an attractive proposition.
In addition to the large, developed economy and a close geographic proximity to their existing operations in Malaysia, they identified an emerging niche market among consumers. “The concept of DIY is growing in popularity in Japan and we thought that our woodcare products would be something new with the potential for future growth,” says Nöffke.
Several years later the move has already paid dividends. Supported by Fukuoka’s start-up programme, they have established a base for manufacturing wood and leathercare products, taking advantage of high-quality materials and an efficient logistics system. The brand power of “Made in Japan” has also opened doors in their quest for further expansion.
The benefits of their new base have also extended beyond working hours. For Chee, the city’s beautiful parks and scenic roads provide enticing terrain to run and cycle, while Nöffke has been impressed by the local quality of life. “Transportation is highly developed – clean, fast and efficient – personal safety is second to none and Japan is the cleanest country I have ever seen,” he says.
The startup visa is a National Strategic Zone initiative. The programme permits foreign entrepreneurs to receive a six-month business manager visa without fulfilling the usual prerequisites. Fukuoka City became the first area to start accepting startup visa applications.