I'm absolutely thrilled to be celebrating our very first birthday, marking the 12-month anniversary since our exclusive launch at select Whole Foods Market stores in September 2022. Looking back on this incredible year, it's been nothing short of a whirlwind of experiences, challenges, and growth that have shaped us into who we are today and prepared us for the future that’s yet to come.
Our journey began with Whole Foods Market taking a chance on us when we had just a prototype. I vividly remember the intense, nail-biting days of refining our complex recipe, carefully vetting partners, vendors, and manufacturers, and personally cooking and hand-cutting 3000 lbs of mochi gummies for our very first delivery. We faced ingredient shortages, the constant fear of survival due to numerous issues, and the anxious anticipation of seeing our products on the store shelves. It was a year full of joyful, happy, inspiring times, accompanied by tears, long days and sleepless nights where I often asked myself...was I insane to quit everything to do this?
But against all odds, we made it through what many consider to be the toughest year for any startup (all while being bullied by one of the largest multinational companies in the world who told us we can't use our brand name — a legitimate Japanese word — because they have a beverage that resembles it and that we have to sign an agreement that gives them the right to decide the fate of my company). Statistics show that around 90% of new businesses don't make it past their first year, yet here we are, just getting started.
For me, creating a remarkable product that's deeply rooted in heritage, culture, and innovation and highlighting its inherent value is a profound mission. Mochi Gummies, beyond being a delicious treat, serves as a bridge between cultures, a means to raise awareness about our shared history, and a space where my children can take pride in their heritage. However, our vision extends far beyond the product itself. It's equally important to foster a vibrant, positive, joy-inducing work culture — a place where people genuinely appreciate and support each other, where creativity knows no bounds, and where we collectively build something extraordinary.
I've spent years working in environments where competition, criticism, secrecy, and internal politics often overshadowed the pursuit of joy and excellence. These places not only create toxic work atmospheres but also stifle creativity and inhibit the true creation of value. My mission is to create a company where every individual feels genuinely valued, and in turn, they value each other. Together, we spark joy and make magic happen daily, overcoming the challenges startups face with positivity, grit and hard work.
Over these past months, I’ve been winging it in an industry I knew nothing about. I didn't know anything about manufacturing, packaging or distribution. I had only a simple landing page that resembled a wedding photo website and two posts on a freshly created Instagram account. I was unfamiliar with food industry jargon, and knew only a fraction of what I now understand. It’s far from perfect, and there's still so much to learn and improve upon. But through it all, you've stood by our side.
I want to take this moment to sincerely thank you for your unwavering support, for giving us a chance, and for being here with us long enough to read these words. We are committed to improving, to becoming better, and we hope you'll continue to be part of our journey.
As we move forward, we remain dedicated to our mission of spreading joy, embracing innovation, celebrating diversity, empowering women, and caring for our planet. We are proud of our heritage and excited to build a community — with you — that shares our values.
We hope you will join us in celebrating our next birthday and many more milestones to come.
With love, gratitude, and excitement for the future,
Mika and the Issei Team