Name: Chika Woodward
Tell us a random fact about yourself: I can speak Fijian. I lived in Wayasewa Island in Fiji when I was 17.
What is your current occupation? Owner/operator of Monpe Japanese catering service and a teacher of Japanese language and drum kit.
Would you class yourself as an ambitious woman? I am very ambitious to some extent. I would be even more so if I wasn’t married.
Have you always been ambitious? If not what was the turning point for you? Yes, I always had some sort of idea and plan. I would usually have to act on it straight away. Even if I was in school, if there was something I had to do, I would skip school and go and do it.
One time I got on the train to go to school and ended up in the middle of Tokyo. The journey took 2 ½ hours and a £60 train fare just to visit this place I wanted to see. I went places like Harajuku for amazing crepes, visited funky clothes shops etc. and then went to see a man who I was seeing at that time. Then I went home at night like I had just come home from school!
I’m not sure if that’s ambition or me being a selfish woman! Ha!
What is your biggest achievement to date? It’s difficult to say which is the biggest. I moved from Japan when I was 20. I had 2 children. Started teaching and carried on studying.
I had the opportunity to go on a free trip to Paris to compete in the EuroMusic Contest in 2014. Going to Paris was such a great thing to happen to my band. We came #1 in England for this online voting EuroMusic contest (please note: completely different from Eurovision!). This contest was organised by a French lady called Romy and her team. She managed to succeed in crowd funding to make it happen. (Check Euro Music contest 2014 for more info). Basically, they paid for all 10 finalists from Europe and flew us to Paris to stay in an amazing country house. We were fed well and played in an amazing venue! Unfortunately we didn’t win but if we did, we could’ve gone to Greece to record our music in an award winning studio with a swimming pool! It annoyed me that the band from Germany won because they didn’t even look happy! I would’ve been kissing, hugging and thanking everyone in the world if I had won!
I also have my own catering company. These are all big achievements in my life.
What is your long term vision for yourself? I’d love to have my cooking range in shops for people to buy and cook Japanese food at home. At the moment, I’m working on the packaging and once I’m happy with it, I’ll start knocking on doors! Not many people cook Japanese at home in this country so my mission is to spread Japanese home cooking to Britain. It will be nice to see my cooking sauces in people’s kitchen.
What have you sacrificed or willing to sacrifice to achieve your vision? There are so many things I would have done differently if I weren’t married. I got married when I was 20 and had my first child at 21. I love the fact that I am still 37 and my children are old enough to cook meals for me! But I can’t be selfish now and put myself first. I tend to choose things that I can do while taking care of them. Things I learnt as I got older is that there’s always a solution to a problem. If I had to work but I needed to take my children somewhere, I would find the best way to do both.
Planning is the key! No need to give up what you want to do because you have children, you just need to be more flexible and organised. There’s always a solution.
What advice can you give to other young women that want to pursue their dreams but are afraid to do so? It is normal to be scared if you are starting something new or making a huge change in your life. I am lucky that I don’t panic or worry about things. But I know a lot of people do worry. You start thinking about obstacles and the tasks then it becomes too much to handle. As a result, you become too scared to act on it. If you are that sort of person, preparation helps MASSIVELY! Read everything, do research and ask people who are already in the position you want to be in. Have a trial. For example, if you want to be a journalist, find someone who is working in that area and shadow them or volunteer to find out what it is like and gain new experience and skills.
If your dream seems too big, just take it one step at the time. Writing a plan helps. Get a large paper, put your goal at the top and write everything you need to do to reach that goal. Cross out things you manage to do. You can then see clearly when you’re making progress towards your goal.
I am happy when I’m doing something I enjoy. At the end of the day it’s not all about money, is it?