Aki Sugiyama is living proof that great things can have small starts.
What started as a simple venture to get into shape soon became a full-on dedication to participating in bodybuilding competitions. These competitions opened up a new world with new ideas, one of which was borne out of a connection with someone who felt like a long-lost twin—a fellow lover of fitness and nutrition. Specifically, nutrition that came from Japanese cuisine.
Aki and her business partner, Lillian Rowlatt, realized that an opportunity existed to create something together: a product that they could deliver to people from all over the world who craved healthy Japanese ingredients and recipes. This product grew into the duo’s company, Kokoro Care Packages.
Handled With Care: What’s Inside
The monthly and seasonal boxes are filled with carefully hand-picked, premium quality Japanese foods that are made by local farmers and producers. The thoughtfully curated packages come with English brochures that have product descriptions, ingredients, and recipes. Everything is done with care, and in the pursuit of sharing love, the co-founders have of Japanese culture and its food. Aki and Lillian work with the heart and spirit, or kokoro, of letting customers connect with the stories and traditions of the people who make the products.
From Black & White to Technicolor
A former worker in the banking industry, Aki shared that her life, now filled with a zest and resoluteness for her work, was not always so vibrant. When looking back on her time performing quality assurance for banking software, she reflected, “At that time, I was not confident. I didn’t have the courage to step outside of the world I saw inside the bank.”
At a friend’s suggestion, Aki began to go to the gym and train regularly. Over time, she started to make the connection between nutrition and the human body, resulting in significant, positive changes. From there, she not only competed in bodybuilding competitions—she won them. A life focused on nutrition, fitness, and mental health gave the Kokoro Care Packages co-founder a newfound sense of gumption and confidence. These allowed Aki to step outside of her old view of the world, and into a new one.
Inside this new world, Aki made connections with others whose passion for their work became infectious. “When I was working for the banking industry, life and work were somehow disconnected. But then, when I was talking to the producers, their life and work are so connected. So, one of the rewards I can get from the business is that I can feel the passion from the farmers, and I can deliver that passion through the product to the customers overseas.”
The world is a better place when it’s filled with people driven by a love and passion for their work—Aki Sugiyama, now one amongst them, would like to share hers with you.
Kristen is a Michigan-born, LA-based writer. She studied abroad in Japan during college and taught English deep in the Japanese countryside after graduating. Kristen enjoys her days reading as many books as humanly possible and writing as much as she can.