As a high school student, UDS founder Fumio Kajiwara was drawn to the issue of famine in Africa and aspired to become a doctor to help children in need. However, he felt that perhaps this path wasn't right for him due to doubts about his suitability and lack of academic achievement. Amidst this uncertainty, he attended a lecture where he encountered a physician whose words would serve as a guiding light for Kajiwara's future.
I talked about wanting to become a doctor who could contribute to Africa. In response, the physician mentioned an interesting article and later sent it to my home. The article focused on entrepreneurs in the United States who established businesses to generate funds and donate to children in need around the world. The article came with a letter that said, 'There are various choices in life. What if you could achieve what you want to do without necessarily becoming a doctor? (Founder Fumio Kajiwara)
With these words, Kajiwara made the decision to support children in his own way, aligning with his passion, and he resolved to contribute to society through entrepreneurship.
Helping others, contributing to the society, and having fun at work
To develop the physical, mental, and leadership attributes required for entrepreneurship and to make a difference for people and society while enjoying fulfilling work, Kajiwara joined a prominent university's rowing team. While juggling his athletic commitment, he pursued his interest in architecture.
After graduating, he underwent three years of apprenticeship at a real estate developer before embarking on entrepreneurship. At that pivotal moment, his focus was on ensuring that if he was going to work, it would be in a field that he found "enjoyable."
He questioned what exactly constituted "enjoyable work" for him, methodically exploring and organizing his thoughts.
Through this process, he began to discern what he considered "enjoyable work":
- Helping others and being appreciated
- Engaging in tasks that he found interesting and appealing.
- Collaborating with like-minded colleagues to achieve things beyond individual capacity.
- Taking on roles within a team and being appreciated.
- Creating systems that expand and contribute to a better world.
Earning a reasonable income.
Among these, his primary motivation was the desire he held when aspiring to be an entrepreneur: "Help others and contribute to the society."
Enriching the town through the pursuit of "what it would be like to be like this
In pursuit of the goal of creating "enjoyable work that contributes to others and society," and leveraging his architectural background, Kajiwara initially tackled the social problem of "housing" in urban areas that lacked communities, freedom, and affordable options.
He single-handedly established Urban Design System and launched the "Cooperative House" business as his first endeavor. This project involved creating custom communities within residences while reducing costs like advertising expenses.
While considered challenging in Japan, Kajiwara overcame issues related to financing and insurance to make this vision a reality.
After dedicating a decade to the "Cooperative House" project, Kajiwara shifted his focus to the hotel business with a sustainability consciousness and from a perspective of providing recommendations to overseas friends. Subsequently, he explored initiatives such as experiential facilities for children, student cafeterias, coworking spaces, and more. Departing from the conventional, he envisioned and realized spaces from the standpoint of end-users with the aim of proposing novel solutions to society.
It's been 30 years since the company was founded butstill the core of UDS lies in the unwavering commitment to "help people and contribute to the society." Each individual working at UDS carries forward this sentiment, dedicating themselves to this mission every day.