When one thinks of Spanish food, one may not automatically think to pair it with Japanese sake but some IESE students are trying to change this perception. What started as an idea for the Summer Entrepreneurship Experience evolved into an Independent Study Project, culminating in “Sake Tomo”. This is a sake discovery event held recently in October that brought together sake brewers and local dining establishments. The organizers’ goal was to introduce and expand this Japanese beverage into the Spanish market and so far, it seems like they have managed to achieve their objective. Over 100 attendees comprising representatives from over 25 restaurants, including 7 Michelin-starred establishments such as Can Roca and Tickets, came to interact with and learn more about 14 sake breweries originating from Japan, Norway and Spain.
The three main student organizers, Kosuke Nagamine, Nakaya Sota and Shinichi Okabe, worked in partnership with the Japanese Consulate, Sake Export Association and Comerjapones.com on this event. The students spent several months doing research on an industry that they had little experience with but were driven by their passion for both Japanese as well as Spanish food and culture. The feedback from the participants have been positive, with one Michelin-starred restaurant already beginning serious discussions on building a new sake list. However, the hope is to continue hosting the “Sake Tomo” event annually to increase awareness and to strengthen its reputation among the local restaurant scene. “Our focus is to build a sustainable and long lasting network between the sake breweries and restaurants in Barcelona”, says Shinichi.
More importantly, the organizers were able to learn important lessons from this experience. Kosuke and Sota expressed, “We found out how difficult it was to monetize our business idea but by creating some value in an industry that I knew little about, I was able to gain confidence and also better understand the challenges of being an entrepreneur.”