Unveiling A Bridal Market
Wednesday - November 21, 2007
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By Karen Mukai
Vice President Best Bridal Hawaii Inc.
Masayuki Tsukada, president and CEO of Best Bridal Inc., is known in Japan as “Mr. Bridal,” with more than 40 years of experience in the wedding industry. He recognized that the bridal market was a mirror of the times and constantly changing. The traditional marriage was a family affair, but as the bridal market expanded in post-war baby boom Japan and hotels got involved, the industry changed to one that served the public with packaged products. The “company-style wedding” consisted of colleagues making up the majority of the invited guests. This is because, at the time, the company was the employer that one would work for the rest of his/her life.
The bridal market changed significantly after the collapse of the Japanese “bubble” economy. The lifelong employment system ended, and a new sense of values emerged. This change affected the bridal market. And so Mr. Tsukada started Best Bridal in Japan - a wedding business to accommodate these new customers. Best Bridal Group was now a “producer” of wedding events.
In 1996, I met three gentlemen from Japan who wanted to start a wedding business in Hawaii. I brought them to Hale Niu Formals, a tuxedo rental business founded by my uncle, Edward Kato, and after his passing, owned and operated by his son (my cousin), Bert Kato. Bert and I had added wedding gowns to become a complete wedding attire salon. These gentlemen from Japan liked that Hale Niu Formals was a 50-year-old local company.
I became a co-owner and partner with these gentlemen and operated the company here. We agreed that if we were going to own a company together, we were going to “jump off a cliff” and do things differently. People in the industry thought we were crazy because we veered off from what the Japanese were familiar with.
In 1999, we met Mr. Tsukada, and realized that we shared the same philosophy. And so, Best Bridal Hawaii was born. In 2000, we designed and built our first wedding chapel in Hawaii-Paradise Cove Crystal Chapel. Over the years, we acquired exclusive use rights and leases for other churches, and in 2006, we built our second wedding chapel at the Hilton Hawaiian Village - Ocean Crystal Chapel. Best Bridal Group includes chapels and banquet facilities throughout Japan, Hawaii, Korea and Bali. Our bridal salon and corporate offices are at the Waikiki Shopping Plaza.
As for challenges, when 9/11 hit, our business was 100 percent Japanese customer-driven. While navigating the company through recovery, I was also undergoing treatment for breast cancer and coordinating construction projects for the company. But, as a team, we made it through and came out stronger than ever.
The 9/11 crisis taught us a good lesson - the need to diversify for a wider market. We had a decrease in the number of Japanese weddings here, and an increase from the Mainland, Canada, Australia and Europe - and even from right here at home.
My advice for success: respect. You must respect everyone you work with, including yourself. The key is how the leader mentors employees to bring in their values to the company.
Personally, I have three children - Tiffany, Kelsey and Kevin. Tiffany graduated from USC and is attending graduate school at Boston College. Kelsey is a junior at Boston College. Kevin is a sophomore at Punahou School. Mel, my hubby, is retired, and my girlfriends call him “Saint Mel” because he has been married to me for 22 years! My mother, Leatrice Kato, is my hero. She is also a breast cancer survivor and “when I grow up” I want to be just like her. She is kind and generous, and never complains. She was a dedicated school volunteer when I was growing up, and I’ve been doing the same for my children. Volunteerism is instilled by example - now, my daughters volunteer in college. I absolutely love watching my children develop into beautiful and kind people!
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