The Entrepreneur Series – Maiko Makito, Co-owner & Managing Director, Pearl FALCO

Who is she? 

Maiko Makito is the Co-owner and Managing Director of Pearl FALCO. Since young, Maiko has always harboured dreams to contribute to
the community where she can help through different contributions. In 2016, she resigned from her corporate job and took over the reins of Pearl FALCO from her father at a time when she was also simultaneously building a family and adapting to motherhood in Singapore. Maiko soon became motivated by her passion for her culture and the beauty of pearls that she wished to share with the world.


At the core of Pearl FALCO’s business, the company have always aimed to showcase the beauty of cultured pearls and how these living gems transcend the true expression of self-adornment. Since its conception, Pearl FALCO has prided itself as the leader in creating pearl jewellery pieces with the utmost love and attention to detail so that it can be passed down onto future generations. 


What sparked your interest and decision to venture into the pearl jewellery business?

“Our company’s name FALCO means Familiar, Love and Confidence which is the founding principle and motto for us. And that is what acted as the foundation of my interest in jewellery. I grew up seeing how much effort my parents have been putting for this family business and learnt to appreciate the art and great tradition behind pearls from them.


I, too, enjoy creating timeless pearl jewellery pieces with the utmost love and attention to detail so that it adds to a story. At Pearl FALCO, it is our vision to pass our knowledge of pearls globally, intricately strewn with the many stories, love and devotion behind each creation of pearl jewellery. The idea of a single pearl having a connection to bigger stories is what led to my decision to helm the reigns of Pearl FALCO.”


What is a typical morning at work?

“I start my morning by speaking with my team in Japan as they are an hour ahead of me. We discuss production progress and daily business matters.


After which, I tend to client queries and online appointments. Prior to COVID-19, I used to regularly organise workshops in our gallery but now I arrange for private viewings with proper social distancing measures.”


What are some of the challenges of the job?

“Sometimes, it is strenuous to channel equal if not more attention towards building a business while overseeing my responsibilities as a wife and mother. The industry that I belong to is traditional, handcrafted and cultural which pose different challenges too. To introduce it to another country outside of Japan has been an innovative challenge that I thoroughly enjoy. The business model I previously worked on required major restructuring when COVID-19 hit and I needed to make decisions that were robust and/or radical to break out of the previous headlock we found ourselves in. To bring Ise Shima to the world while being outside of Ise Shima was initially tougher than I expected but my team was very supportive and with technology, we managed to make it work.


There are some days that I doubt my ability to overcome these difficulties but I am adaptable to changes and believe that trying different techniques can bring the result we are hoping for despite the limited resources. Regardless of the speed (or lack of), looking forward and not dwelling on the hypotheticals helps with re-adjusting our focus towards what needs to be done.


With global warming, there have been several challenges to the cultivation of Akoya Pearl and currently, it is a rare commodity as the rapid decrease in the number of farmers along with environmental conditions. This resulted in Akoya Pearl production being a tenth of what it was previously. Of those after many years’ steady pearl cultivation, only a small proportion of cultured pearls are suitable for use in Jewellery. When it comes to the technique of pearl cultivation, I am thrilled by the prospects of making a difference through my ability to educate the masses on how the environment affects pearl cultivation.


The excitement of being a part of a rich tradition of the Japanese pearl industry and bringing it outside of Ise Shima to my adopted home, Singapore outweighs the challenges I face but being the pioneer and exclusive Ise Shima company in Singapore, I believe Pearl FALCO will be able to tap into the vast potential of the Asian market and carve a niche for itself.” 


What were some of the life lessons which you have learned along the way in your career?

“Nature and people I meet across cultures have always acted as the core of my inspiration in all things I do. I have learnt that in nature, nothing is perfect yet everything perfectly fits to create a symbiotic equilibrium. Same with people, there are so many unique traits and characteristics and looking into this helps us understand ourselves and the role we play in the beautiful circle of life.


Before joining Pearl FALCO, I was fortunate to be afforded the opportunities to travel and learn about cultural amalgamation from those travels. Being self-reliant, I backpacked across different territories and continents since I was a student and learnt so much about communities and culture that I would’ve never been able to. I grew up in a time when technology was not as prevalent as it is today, I had the fortune of being able to feel alive in that moment without having to document it for social media. It was me, the sky and the people beneath the sky. This has really taught me the importance of life and people.” 


As an entrepreneur yourself, what motivates you personally?

“I always believe that people and their connections always create happiness and pearls just help enhance the beauty in people in a very natural and timeless manner and it thrills me that I could be a bridge to facilitate these connections. This is what motivates me the most – people, who smile happily with our pearl jewellery and the people who are with me for the creation of something beautiful.


There are many stories behind one piece of pearl jewellery, which are the beautiful nature of Japan and people’s love and devotion, Japan’s history and culture that will be connected to each customer’s love and memories in their lives. Unfortunately, the Akoya pearl industry is suffering a decline due to global warming. I am inspired by my ability to make a difference to the Akoya Pearl and the opportunities to educate people of the same. I aspire to share my knowledge about pearls and stories behind one piece of pearl jewellery and wish our treasure of Japan – Akoya pearls jewellery to be a part of a customer’s life.


With many people unfamiliar with the value of pearls or having the practice of wearing or gifting pearls, I feel this puts Pearl FALCO in a pioneer position with a vision that is not easily replicable by other jewellers. By transcending a culture and breaking barriers, we are presented with many more opportunities to promote cultured pearl appreciation.


Since young, I have always harboured dreams to contribute to the community and I am blessed with the opportunities to do the same through Pearl FALCO. Keeping Pearl FALCO running smoothly goes beyond selling luxury pearl jewellery, it is also about supporting our local communities and sharing our passion for supporting the educational aspirations of children throughout Asia.


Personally, I appreciate that my team in Japan who has been working for Pearl FALCO longer than I accepted me who I am thought it’s very challenging for them under very tough situation now and we have a long road ahead of us but for now, it is important that they know that we will all see our vision come to life soon as we have all worked hard for it.”


Do you ever face biases in your work and position because of your gender?

“No, even though the pearl and jewellery industry are dominated by men, there is an unified appreciation for the contribution of generations of women. As most of the jewellery pieces are for women, the industry celebrates the role of women in our society. Most of my team in Japan and Singapore are women. Women who lead, women who encourage and women who are brave and patient to change the world with a fresh perspective.”


If I were not an Entrepreneur, I would be a _________?

“I would work for an NGO or continue to pursue my career in NEC Corporation. Since my childhood, I have always been fascinated with travelling for the development of opportunities and infrastructures. I initially embarked on my career path opportunity to work on infrastructure projects in Asia and even now, with the Pearl of Hope Project, I hope to contribute to society.”


Any inspirational quotes for all the women in business & leadership out there?

“Regardless of your reservations, know that what you do makes a difference. It might not be a difference at the scale you imagined but even the smallest ripple gives you a better understanding on where you stand and how to overcome plausible challenges. The true entrepreneur is a doer, not a dreamer.


Despite the challenges, it is all worth it when you’re following your passions. Being surrounded by people who have the same convictions as you is always helpful.”


Check out Pearl FALCO here

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