YOSHIOKA, Gunma -- Three young entrepreneurs here have devised a clever solution for parents who are concerned that their grown-up children living away from home aren't maintaining a balanced diet.
The solution is to send parent-funded electronic coupons to their children's smartphones, which can then be used at restaurants to buy a healthy meal.
The three innovators behind this coupon system, 23-year-old Riin Negishi, 23-year-old Satomi Nakano and 22-year-old Mao Iizuka, studied together at Kyoai Gakuen University in the Gunma prefectural capital Maebashi. They set up their electronic coupon company "Kaachan no Magokoro" (mother's heart) in April 2016.
The trio explains that they were initially inspired to come up with the business during a survey they conducted for a class on the eating habits of students living on their own. As part of the survey, the three friends went to students' apartments, and Negishi recalls, "I was shocked to see that there was only alcohol in one of my friend's fridges."
Negishi, who is president of Kaachan no Magokoro, adds, "Students cut back most on food when trying to reduce spending," even though parents are particularly worried about how their children eat.
It soon dawned on the three women that, "if students are able to eat without paying themselves, they would be able to maintain a healthy diet." Later, Negishi, Nakano and Iizuka presented their business plan at the 2015 "Gunma Innovation Awards" and won first prize in the university student division. With the support of local entrepreneurs and others, the women set up their company.
Currently, about 50 restaurants across Gunma Prefecture are participating in the Kaachan Magokoro project, which launched in June. Available items include set meals with stir-fried vegetables, as well as pork cutlets on rice, and desserts. The electronic coupons are transmitted to the children's smartphones, and once the coupon is shown at a participating restaurant, the bill is automatically settled with a parent's credit card. The trio is also aiming to launch its e-coupon service in Tokyo this autumn.