Maiko Makito had not anticipated taking over the family business and she definitely had not anticipated having to ensure its survival during a pandemic, but her love of the product has not diminished.
What’s your story?
I’m currently the Co-owner and Managing Director of Pearl FALCO. Prior to this, I was actually working in NEC Corporation. In 2016, I resigned and took over the reins of Pearl FALCO from my father.
Within 3 years, I expanded Pearl FALCO into Singapore and initiated programs like “Pearl of Hope” that help underserved children gain access to education and conceptualised our annual Pearl Jewellery Competition “The Grand Prix Akoya Pearl Jewellery Ise Shima” to share our knowledge about pearls with the world.
What excites you most about your industry?
With many Asians unfamiliar with the value of pearls or having the practice of wearing or gifting pearls, the pearl industry is a close-knit one that focuses on reinventing classics while keeping the style intact. There is always a story associated with every piece of Pearl FALCO jewellery as they often constitute heirlooms and the thought of keeping some traditions alive is very exciting.
I am thrilled by the prospects of making a difference by educating the masses on how the environment affects pearl cultivation and how much love and devotion people provide to make one piece of pearl jewellery.
What drives you in business to push beyond what other people consider normal?
I always believe that people and their connections always create happiness and pearls just help enhance the beauty in people in a very natural and timeless manner. It thrills me that I could be a bridge to facilitate these connections. This also motivates me the most – people, who smile happily with our pearl jewelry and the people who are with me for the creation of something beautiful.
What have been the most useful skills you have learnt and applied in your journey?
Explore the world and keep learning.
Prior to PEARL Falco, I was fortunate to be afforded the opportunities to travel and learn about cultural amalgamation from those travels. Being self-reliant, I backpacked across different territories since I was a student and learnt so much about communities and culture that I would’ve never been able to. It was me, the nature and the people beneath the sky and we are all the same beyond cultures, language and time.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Twenty-five years ago, as I was travelling across a village in Myanmar, I met an elderly veteran who was originally from Japan. He had a vast richness of experiences and wisdom. He taught me that life was a series of difficulties that I could overcome if I tried to. Of the many things he taught me, one was the importance of remaining connected with people and anchoring myself to the present.
To date, when I find myself in a difficult situation, I think of his way of living and his wisdom and aspire to have the same for myself.
Who inspires you?
Nature and people I meet across cultures have always acted as the core of my inspiration in all things I do. In nature, nothing is perfect yet everything perfectly fits to create a symbiotic equilibrium. Same with people, there are so many unique traits and characteristics, and looking into this helps us understand ourselves and the role we play in the beautiful circle of life.
Personally, my parents helped me to grow into who I am now. They have always been encouraging and taught me to be empathetic and use my privilege for the greater good.
What have you learnt recently that blew you away?
With global warming, there have been challenges to the cultivation of Akoya Pearls. Currently, it is a rare commodity with the rapid decrease in the number of farmers along with environmental conditions. The production dropped to a tenth of what it was previously. In the past two years, 80% of Akoya oysters have died due to seawater temperature change. Of those, after many years’ steady pearl cultivation only a small proportion of pearls are suitable for use in jewellery.
I am thrilled by the prospects of making a difference by educating the masses on how the environment affects pearl cultivation.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Neither my sister nor I expected to take over the family business. We have seen how tough running a company was and how hard my parents had worked since our childhood. It was only when I took over the helm of Pearl FALCO that I could learn many things — the values, stories, history, culture, and art from my team and industry.
If I had my time again, I hope to learn more about our pearl industry which itself is Japan’s great tradition and culture that I can pass on to the future generation.
How do you unwind?
Since I was a student, I have always been fascinated with exploring cultures through traveling. An avid backpacker, I enjoy visiting different locations annually to assimilate with their culture. When I am surrounded by different territories, I am taken back to the feelings of gratitude I had when I crossed the continents of Eurasia . I like being able to take a step back to appreciate new knowledge while maintaining a balance to enjoy what I have and welcome new experiences.
Before COVID-19, I had visited different Asian villages annually which lead me to start the Pearl of Hope.
What is a major mindset change, belief shift or ‘ah ha’ moment that you’ve experienced in relation to your business?
As a modest, traditional family business in the Japanese countryside, we already had the odds stacked against us due to the Japanese economic situation coupled with a declining population.
When COVID-19 hit, the mountain of challenges grew higher as that meant that Ise Shima did not see many local tourists as it once used to, negatively impacting the influx of customers who appreciated unique handmade luxury pearl jewellery.
My mission of taking over the family business became more challenging and it was then that I understood the importance of innovation, and the need to stay resilient and not give up.
Everyone in business should read this book:
The Analects of Confucius
Shameless plug for your business:
Since its conception, Pearl FALCO has prided itself as the leader in creating pearl jewellery pieces with the utmost love and attention to detail so they can be passed onto future generations. It is our vision to pass our knowledge of pearls, with the many stories and people’s love and devotion behind each piece of pearl jewellery to the rest of the world.
How can people connect with you?
Social Media Links?
This interview is part of the CallumConnects series.