POJ Studio was born in Kyoto city, the cultural heart of Japan. Tina Koyama, founder of POJ Studio, started POJ Studio with an aim to become a bridge between worlds: Japan and the west, digital and analogue, traditional and modern living.

This time, we visited the office and warehouse of POJ Studio, located in a beautiful Kyoto machiya (traditional Kyoto townhouse), where they operate all the processes for their online store to find out more about store of Pieces of Japan as a lifestyle brand and e-commerce seller who brings Japanese traditional arts and crafts to the international customers, worldwide.

POJ Studio, bringing Kintsugi and Japanese traditional crafts overseas

POJ Studio offers contemporary lifestyle products that are sustainable and made to last, in an effort to encourage the revival of dying Japanese craft traditions. Starting from spring in 2020, they’ve started selling a variety of lifestyle products (DIY kits, tableware, decor, incense etc.). Their orders are coming from international customers, mostly from English speaking countries, including the United States, Australia, Canada, etc.

From a wide range of products in POJ Studio, Kintsugi Kits turns out to be their most popular one.

*Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repairing broken items by mending the areas of breakage with urushi lacquer followed by dusting with powdered gold.

Despite being a consumer good company, POJ Studio is setting an ambitious sustainability target by encouraging less consumption. Once customers purchase a product, that favorite piece should last as long as possible. In the pursuit of living out their mission, POJ Studio started selling Kintsugi before anything else with an aim that people are going to have their pottery repaired or repair it by themselves and continue using the same item for a long period of time.

Tina was inspired by a local artisan she met in Japan. “There’d be no next generation,” says the local artisan she met. At that moment, the word that came to her mind was “Mottainai” — the feeling of regret when something is wasted — because it  would be so unfortunate that these great local arts would be lost. Therefore, the mission of POJ Studio is to work toward giving back to the artisan community and help them to continue on to the next generation.

Japanese crafts have long been valued by global consumers. Knowing that, POJ Studio works with Japan’s independent craftspeople, creating an online platform, a contact point to bridge the gap between artisans and consumers with a yearning for the handcrafted homeware they produce.

“We work with craftspeople across Japan and quite a few happen to be located in Kyoto, probably because of the rich traditional history of this city we’re also located in. We either have an idea about what we believe our customers would enjoy and we bring those ideas to craftspeople we have a connection to. Sometimes the craftspeople learn about us and approach us, which is what happened with Kiyoe-san. We then visit their workshop to see their work in person in order to see if there’s a product we could collaborate on. What is core to our company is that the craftspeople we work with practice traditional crafts and want to pass the techniques on to the next generation.”

E-commerce might be more about the sales and profit but at POJ Studio, the philosophy behind why they start selling Kintsugi in the first place is to support sustainable and ethical ways of living and purchasing by encouraging the customers to fix the broken pottery, using Kintsugi Kit, and cherish a thing for a long time.

Instead of a quick fix, POJ Studio introduces an authentic way of using urushi lacquer. With this technique, the broken pieces could last for a hundred year. If you come to POJ Studio with cracked vessels or broken ceramics, they won’t recommend you a new product, instead they will invite you to a Kintsugi experience by giving a new life to the broken piece.

“At POJ Studio, even as consumer product brands, what we value most is an idea of sustainability. For example, there might be several Kintsugi kits in the market but most of them don’t use traditional techniques or materials, often resulting in repairs that do not last. The modern Kintsugi is easy and convenient but it is usually not a food-safe material and cannot be used in repairing a kitchenware to serve food. That’s where we see the chance and the gap to grow our business through this amazing traditional Kintsugi. ”

Digital transformation in e-commerce back-office operations

Getting a start in Kyo-machiya, traditional Japanese townhouses, POJ Studio is committed to create a sustainable way to support craftsmen in Japan. In this part, we’ll bring you to see how POJ Studio manages an e-commerce business in the local environment.

Their office and warehouse is in an old Kyoto-style Machiya that comes with a “Kura” (storehouses) and this is where POJ Studio manages the whole operation of their store.

“At POJ Studio, we operate the whole shipping process by ourselves. We found inventory management can be challenging since we manage packaging related inventory (stickers, boxes etc.) as well as products. In order to ensure a smooth shipping process, we have been using Ship&co from the very beginning.

Since we also handle shipping in-house end of the year when order numbers grow exponentially space can become an issue but so far we’ve been able to handle it. Last year we were looking for inventory management options too that often came with shipping label solutions as well, but all of them were significantly more complex from setup to the usage itself which made us quickly go back to Ship&co. The seamless integration with carriers, intuitive interface and great support has made the overall experience the best I’ve seen in the space.”

While working in the traditional space, digital transformation has been a big part of POJ Studio’s operation from the start. POJ Studio keeps their small teams productive by establishing efficient processes and streamlined workflows for the back office operation. In the shipping process, it’s important to use software that could integrate well with Shopify store and could connect with multiple carriers. Ship&co has been a great solution that helps streamline their business processes.

At POJ Studio, they use customized packaging and there is a fixed package size for each product. When creating shipping labels for FedEx and DHL, the required data is package size. Ship&co allows users to save a package preset so that users can select the right box when making a shipment. The whole process to create shipping labels and invoices requires only 2 clicks.

“We use FedEx, DHL and JapanPost International depending on which international destination we ship to and use TA-Q-BIN service of Yamato Transport to ship domestically. With our condition to use multiple carriers, we cannot find any better option. Ship&co supports both international and domestic carriers and gives us a smooth-running system.”

What's the next challenge?

The next challenge of POJ Studio is to open a flagship shop in Kyoto, starting to double down on offering DIY experiences in person with kintsugi as a focus. Having Ship&co to save them a tremendous amount of time is huge. The shipping task doesn’t bother them and they can continue to grow and achieve their business goals.

Follow along with POJ Studio by checking out their Instagram or supporting them at pojstudio.com.

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