Caroline Pover is what you can call, a true fighter. She has been an entrepreneur for more than 20 years, starting her first business only at 25 very far from her home country England, in Japan. She has written books, became a speaker and advocate and a-core-to-the-bone volunteer and philanthropist of the Tohoku area in Japan after the 2011 earthquake and power plant disaster.
But what really makes Caroline a fighter is, all of the other challenges she has come to conquer in her private life: two strokes, an abusive relationship and moving back to her home country, after having spent more than a decade outside of it, to once again, open a business of her own and make it flourish.
The power in her is palpable. She just won’t give up and if you were to run into her, you will notice she has this real fun, open vibe to her, which makes her so unique. I got the chance to meet her in a few networking events, during my own Japan-years and since then, I do see her as a source of inspiration because of her drive to move on and make things happen.
Name: Caroline Pover
Place of origin: UK
Place current residence: UK
Background: Moved to Japan in 1996, where I set up a publishing business. Returned to the UK in 2011 and spent a couple of years sharing my time between Japan and the UK, still managing the publishing business in Tokyo but also involved in fund-raising and project-management to support survivors of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Tohoku. Started a pickle business in the UK in 2013, which rapidly grew so sold all Japan-based business interests in order to focus on “Auntie Caroline’s.” Now full-time based in the UK working in the pickle business, but still involved in the Tohoku projects and return to Japan every year.
What are strong work ethics for you? Attention to detail, good customer service, focus.
Did you always wanted to be where you currently are? I have never made long-term plans as I find them too restrictive. As an entrepreneur you never know what’s going to happen, and actually in general you just never know what life’s going to throw at you, so I think it’s important to set short-term goals and focus on them, but not to the point where you cannot be flexible if required. I never, ever thought I’d be living in the UK making and selling pickled onions!
What do you think has been the most important thing you have accomplished so far? If you’re just meaning in my professional life then I have created a small business that provides me with everything I want … a house, an income, the ability to take time off to write or travel, and I make something that I personally love too. I have developed a number of products out of a passion for pickled onions, and I am very proud of the first line in my range … the pickled onions themselves. But in a non-professional capacity I think I will always say that the work I have done in Tohoku is what I am most proud of. AND as I get older I think I am proud of the kind of auntie I am to my nieces and nephews.
What do you think it will be the most important thing you will accomplish in the future? Like I said before, I don’t make plans, so I can’t really anticipate what future accomplishments might be. I set myself some goals in 2015 and all of them happened to come to fruition in 2018, so I might spend 2019 taking a little step back and not pushing myself quite as hard as I have been doing. That in itself, might be accomplishment ; )
Which has been the most recurrent stereotype you have had to deal with as an entrepreneur? I deal with this one a lot actually … I supply about 70 shops around the UK but I also do markets. I find some people’s attitude to market traders astounding, and especially to female market traders. I have lost count of the number of times people (always men) have assumed that making pickles is a little hobby of mine, making assumption about how much money I make and that it must be a little thing I do for some extra cash, and that there is a husband behind the scenes making the money for the house etc. Most of the time I just smile politely but sometimes it REALLY drives me crazy. To be fair, they make these kinds of assumptions about male traders too … some people think we are not educated, can’t do anything else, and don’t make a lot of money. Believe me … this is VERY far from the truth for many market traders! Most of us are university-educated, many have had high-level careers as heads of major corporations, senior police officers or educators, and most of us do not need another income. One market trader I know is a multimillionaire purely from working on the markets, and spends three months of the year in his house in Spain.
You have been quite the entrepreneur. It never attracted you the safety of a normal 9-5 job? I haven’t worked in a normal job for over 20 years. I started my first business age 25. It was a community magazine for foreign women living in Japan, at a time when there wasn’t any Facebook or Internet, and living in Japan as a foreign woman was incredibly isolating. I started my first business out of a desire to help others. Actually all of my businesses before the pickling came from a desire to help others. Funnily enough, I’d say it is the pickling that has been the most successful!
You are also a strong advocate about female empowerment, why do you think it is about time everyone talks about it? People have been talking about this for years. The question really is, why do I think that people should STILL be talking about it. I think we should still be talking about it because we live in a world where female-related images in the media are even more damaging to both men and women now, porn is easily accessible to young boys and girls, and adults are in relationships where viewing porn is generally considered to be normal, many men still think it is their right to be controlling in relationships, it is still unusual for men and women to share child raising and domestic responsibilities, and my nieces can’t walk down a street at night and feel safe. So, so many reasons to still be talking about it, but in addition to female empowerment, many boys and men need to learn how to be … well, decent men!
How does a perfect day look like to you? Up at 7am, spend the day pickling, boyfriend comes home and packs up the orders going out the next day while I finish off the pickling, take the dog for an hour-long walk with my boyfriend when he comes home, cook a nice dinner together, chat on the sofa, early to bed (I need eight hours sleep each night). On a market day I’ll be up earlier and at the market all day, then load up the van for the next market, and relax. Market days are tiring, especially in cold weather, so I don’t like to do anything on market evenings.