How a Japanese High School Dropout Built an $87 Million Tour Bus Empire

Kimi Takura was probably not expecting that his once one-man driving business would turn into a bus empire largely known all over Japan.

Takura dropped out of high school after his father’s business went bankrupt. He then started working to be able to earn money and buy his own car. At 22-year-old, Takura resigned from his job as a delivery man after he was hospitalized for exhaustion. Since he was out of work, he was forced to sell his beloved Jaguar and bought a second-hand bus to start a one-man bus business in December of 1992. Little did Takura know that this would be the start of his mega successful bus empire, Heisei Enterprises.

Takura, now 51, revealed his love for driving in an interview with Bloomberg:

“I thought it was a great idea. I could drive and earn some money at the same time,” Takura said in an interview.

At first, he started his business by driving Taiwanese visitors to destinations like Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka. A year after he started his business, Takura was contacted by the owner of a Taiwanese travel agency who asked him to make room for more tours.

Takura said that he couldn’t afford to get more buses but then, he was asked to return the man’s office in Taiwan after a few days after and was presented with a huge surprise.

“The man put a brown paper bag full of money on the desk with 20 million yen in it and said ‘now you can buy the buses,’ I was flabbergasted,” he said.

At present, Heisei Enterprise Inc. now has 400 buses meant for sightseeing, overnight travel, and school runs all over Japan.

According to Takura, they get around 60% of bookings online compared to the 30% competitors are able to get. They currently have 800 employees but revealed that hiring has been a bit challenging because of the dwindling age in their population.

So in order to attract new hires, Takura increased annual salary offers by 15%. However, he said that “people still aren’t coming.”

But there is no stopping Takura especially with his plans to list his company on the Tokyo Stock Exchange around December of next year for $87 million.

He also branched outside his bus business by buying guesthouses which also ties in well with the needs of his company. He already owns five guesthouses in Tokyo and Osaka where travelers can stay and plans to offer 50 more accommodations in the next three years.

Image via ACS

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