Talking with Asta Kavaliauskaitė, the co-owner and founder of the Salon ‟Cozy Home” (‟Jaukūs namai”), is like looking at the fountain of impressions: she emotionally and passionately shares not only the peculiarities of small business in Kaunas, but also talks about fostering business and personal relationships with Japan, a country that could be a great and loyal friend of Lithuania, Asta has no doubts about that. ‟After all, friends reflect who you are,” says a businesswoman.
Supportive friends are important for small business
‟Small business is like a kind of art. Although we often say that ‟we are small, but we do a lot”, in reality, only good wishes and diligence is not enough. We achieve a lot because we have friends, influencers, supporters and like-minded people around us. However, you cannot have them without doing something, you have to communicate with confidence and introduce yourself.
Can a small business generate high revenues? Yes, we are living from it, but the assessment depends on the appetite of a person: before you start a small business, you have to assess your wishes, whether you need freedom, and how determined you are to pay for that freedom (with your work, lower income, etc.). For me, freedom is a fundamental need, so I enjoy working for myself.”
Central axis – communication
‟We, our business, have to communicate a lot with foreigners and Lithuanians as well. We are becoming a joint link for Lithuanians, Japanese, Koreans and university exchange students. People here come not only to shop, but also to talk, share their emotions and spend their time in a cosy place. The name of the Salon “Cosy Home” is chosen not by accident.
By communicating with the clients, I learn a lot about the community, it even becomes a kind of market research – a person tells what he/she wants and where we, as a business, should turn.
Creating a connection is very interesting, but there are not a lot of people doing this. We are doing the same in business exhibitions in Japan, where we started to go four years ago. If you bring only products there, you will be a boring ordinary lady with the goods. Meanwhile, we take the opportunity to represent ourselves and the country at the joint stand of Lithuania at the Japanese exhibition.
Before going there, I was a little afraid of Japan – it looked weird (and it IS weird, different!), I didn’t imagine what to expect, what goods to bring, what lifestyle and habits people in that country have.
It turned out, that if you place it correctly, the Japanese want Lithuania very much. Kaunas for them is and can become a more attractive place. It’s a shame that we, Kaunas residents and business of the city, have not understood that yet.
If a Japanese is a cosmopolitan, a traveling person, he/she has no limits, he/she wanders around the whole world. However, a large mass of people is extremely self-contained, and, besides their small towns, they see and know nothing. To them, Europe is like another distant galaxy. In order to reach them and become interesting to them, you have to introduce yourself in a way that they would understand, for example, through the most popular Japanese personality of all time – the diplomat Sugihara, who worked in Kaunas.”
A closer look to Japan
“For me, Japan is a unity of contrasts, it would be very difficult to describe a “typical Japanese” – all of them are very diverse. If we look solely at business, Japan’s business is slow-moving, requiring a lot of patience.
On the other hand, Japan itself has not been and is not my goal. We were fortunate enough to find the right people who sincerely communicate and are friends with us. It was interesting to see a fundamental difference from the Western business culture: Westerners appreciate the drive, conquest, entry, purchasing, and in Japan, if you are unacceptable, you will not impress anyone with such things. For them, communication, friendship is more important. For example, the elementary gifting: after all, gifts in oriental culture are means of communication. It’s non-verbal communication, saying “I want to be friends with you”.
I do not feel anywhere as good as in Japan – the Japanese radiate some special warmth. I feel a spiritual kinship. The Japanese seem to read people – if you come with bad intentions, know that you will be alienated.
My mother, the founder of this family business 25 years ago, greatly influenced the Japanese decision to open for us. Although being older, she remains extremely modern, active and a charming woman.
If you ask for my opinion about Japan – I do not have it. I am beginning to understand how diverse and mixed this country is. By the way, Lithuania is the same – although it is small and becoming even smaller, it’s important for me that it would have a good name in Japan. Because Japan is a good friend to Lithuania and could be even better. Friends reflect who you are, after all.”
Business in Lithuania
“Our products are not the cheapest and this is natural, because we are selling unitary products, collectively, hand-crafted items, made not in China or even Lithuanian factories, but by individual artists and craftsmen.
Our clients are exclusive, with their own opinions, having less time, but a lot of creativity, knowing what they want. If the client wants to create something himself, we help him/her. We transform the client into our companion – we encourage him/her to express an opinion, disclose his/her wishes.
When we created the Salon 11 years ago, our goal was to communicate with people so that they would not allow their home to be decorated by the architects who do everything for them from A to Z. No, we want to give your home an individual and personal touch, help you implement your ideas.
Another group of our clients are those who want to gift something nice or to send it, especially abroad. About two thirds of our products are traveling abroad as gifts. I do not know the place in the world where our products would not be shipped – they travel all the way from Ecuador to New Zealand. We have seen that the market of souvenirs in Lithuania is poor, uniform, boring and gaudy – so we took the challenge to create what we ourselves would like to receive. By the way, there is another important aspect: we do not have a souvenir that does not have its purpose – they are all used and applied in the household.”