I reached out to Anis Boudraa, the Business Development Manager of Kataoka, while researching a few “what I did on my summer vacation” posts to include on COUTURE Musings. And while he certainly didn’t disappoint on that front, when I dug a little deeper into his recent trip home to Algeria, I discovered that the story of how he found himself in Japan, and subsequently began working for Mr. Kataoka, was much more compelling than anything I could have envisioned.
Since he was a child growing up in Seddouk, Algeria, a small village not far from Bejaia, which is located close to the Mediterranean coast, Anis was drawn to martial arts. From a young age, he practiced Judo, Karate and Hapkido and attained proficiency through hours of practice and dedication. In October of 2009, he moved to Japan as a student at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, studying nanotechnology and quantum physics. Armed with a fantastic scholarship of excellence from the Japanese Ministry of Education, everything was going amazingly well–he was making progress with his research, studying, and getting healthier through intensive Aikido training. And then things took a turn for the worse….in August of 2010, he severely broke his shoulder during Aikido training. He was in incredible pain and, due to the fact that he didn’t speak fluent Japanese, the experience was scary and confusing. For three months, he did nothing but stay home and take painkillers while he waited for the pain to subside and he was able to regain full motion of his shoulder. When he finally emerged to pick up where he left off, he learned an important tenet of Japanese culture–the deadlines he missed during his recovery were not moveable.
After his scholarship was terminated, the Ministry gave Anis two choices–they would provide him with a one-way ticket back to Algeria, or they would allow him to stay in the country, but without any financial support. Resourceless, in a very expensive city in a very expensive country, he knew his family wouldn’t be able to help bear this financial burden. But even so, he decided to stay in Tokyo, resume his work on his PhD, and take a part time job.
Anis started teaching English in coffee shops. In his first month, he earned a whole $20! His savings were quickly depleting, so he had to work even more hours and up his offerings for English lessons. He started giving business English lessons, and correcting materials for researchers, anything he could do to make ends meet. In February of 2012, two new students reached out. They had just been accepted to exhibit in COUTURE’s Design Atelier, and they wanted to learn English to use in Las Vegas. These two students, were, of course, Mr. Kataoka and his wife! Over time, the three became close friends, and Anis developed a deep appreciation for Mr. Kataoka’s work and the intricate detailing of his designs which was, in a sense, similar to Anis’ studies in nanotechnology.
Inspired by great entrepreneurs and the many biographies of great minds that he’d read, Anis felt that his passion for the brand coupled with his solid scientific background could benefit Mr. Kataoka’s business, so he offered to join the team. As soon as he started, in September of 2014, he began applying different mathematical approaches to the business and pricing strategy. He also put a heavy focus on customer service, brining the average response time to customers from around 7 days, to approximately 5 hours, and he suggested implementing a lifetime warranty on all of the brand’s creations. The growth rate for the brand continues to exceed expectations, and people across the globe, including yours truly, continue to fall in love with the jewelry.
Anis is able to return to Algeria about once every two years, and this past summer that is how he spent his vacation. He visited with his 3 brothers and 1 sister, hung out with his 8 nieces and nephews and 4 dogs. He spent his time jogging in the mountains, or just walking around and restoring his energy.
As for Anis’ martial arts career? Even after breaking his other shoulder two years after his first fateful break, he continues to be passionate about martial arts.