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A company that endures markets itself.

A company that endures markets itself.

Mike Doane

This 1,020 year old business is a lesson in endurance.

Ichiwa has been in business for over a thousand years — here’s what modern companies can learn from this symbol of endurance.

Some of the oldest companies in the world are based in Japan. A little shop that makes grilled rice cakes called mochi is among them.

Ichiwa was established in the year 1000 and has endured ever since. While it is not particularly a profit machine, the company has sustained its owners for over a millennia. Today we explore what companies like Ichiwa do to outlast the ebbs and flows of markets and endure in a world of comers and goers.

Do one thing, and do it well

Throughout its history, Ichiwa has had opportunities to expand its offerings, to merchandise its brand, and to explore new sales channels. They’ve turned them all down.

They make delicious mochi and until that’s no longer viable, it’s the one thing they’ll do better than everyone else.

High profits, low debt

My grandfather used to tell me that I was getting too big for my britches. He wasn’t talking about my pants.

A lot of large companies grow with unfound confidence by leveraging debt. When unforeseen market events pop up, they’re left begging for bailouts or suffering from busts.

Ichiwa endures the ups and downs of markets by owning its property, keeping debt low, and keeping cash reserves greater than operating expenses.

Grow with intent

I’ve talked about mission-driven companies before.

In Japan, there’s a word for this. “Kakun” describes the values exhibited by business owners who look after their employees, support the community, and strive to make a product that inspires pride.

Ichiwa took up shop to serve pilgrims to a local shrine. That mission still drives them today, and foundation stories like these lead to a long and healthy future for businesses.

A company that endures markets itself

The headline above is a double entendre. Not only has Ichiwa endured the ups and downs of modern markets, their mere endurance serves as a way of marketing themselves.

Ichiwa doesn’t have to take out advertising or expand into new territories. People travel thousands of miles just to get their hands on its quality products simply because it exists.

It’s an example of a business that has truly stood the test of time.

— Mike