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Side-Hustle to Empire

Chris Campbell

Posted May 09, 2022

Chris Campbell

In the 1990s, a small troop of Japanese boy scouts were visiting the United States for the first time.

When interviewed by a local TV station, one of them said:

"I didn't know they had McDonald's in the USA, too!”

It was a testament to just how popular McDonald’s had become all over the world -- but especially in Japan.

I found a great story about this on Twitter this morning. (Credit where it’s due: @franchisewolf.)

I thought it would be a nice break from all the fear flooding the newsfeeds — and serve as a gentle reminder that BIG opportunities still exist…

And how fortunes are really made.

Coming to Japan

In 1970, Den Fujita approached Ray Kroc to buy the rights to bring McDonald’s to Japan.

Convinced that Fujita had the business chops to pull it off, they shook on it and laid out the plans.

But when CEO Ray Kroc arrived in Japan three days before the first store was about to open, he was appalled.

Fujita hadn’t even begun construction.

Somehow, though, he was cool as a cucumber.

Kroc couldn’t believe it.

Not only did Fujita build that McDonald’s in less than 36 hours… with Kroc breathing down his neck… he went on to build and grow an absolute empire in Japan.

We’ll get to how he did it in a moment.

First, a little background…

The Side-Hustle

Fujita was born in 1926 in Osaka, Japan. Osaka, as you may know, was devastated by World War II, a war which also took the lives of his father and two sisters.

Despite that, he found his way to law school at the University of Tokyo, the most prestigious school in the country.

In school, Fujita started a side-hustle importing foreign goods to help pay for his tuition.

The side-hustle grew rapidly, turning into a lucrative business. In 1951, he stopped pursuing a law career and ran the business full time, specializing in high-end fashion.

In 1967, while on a business trip in America, Fujita ate at his first McDonald’s.

He was so impressed by how fast McDonalds had grown that, when he heard that they were expanding internationally, he immediately pulled some strings to get a meeting with Ray Kroc.

The Stars Aligned

"I told Kroc I was only interested if it was a 50-50 joint venture, with a Japanese president,” Fujita later recalled.

Kroc agreed, under the condition that Fujita wouldn’t fail.

The stars aligned: Fujita was able to obtain prime real estate inside Mitsukoshi, Japan’s largest department store.

But, there was a catch.

Fujita was told that construction couldn’t interfere with regular business hours. Therefore, he only had a 39-hour window during a holiday to build a restaurant.

So what did Fujita do? He rented out a warehouse, hired a crew of engineers, and had them practice building the entire restaurant from start to finish.

36 Hours or Less

It took several trials from beginning to end to get the build time down to 36 hours.

And then, in front of an astonished Ray Kroc, they built that store in less than two days.

On July 20th, 1971, the first McDonald's opened in Japan. From 1970 to 1999, Fujita opened 3,000 locations. That’s about two restaurants per week for 28 years.


Fujita had his business philosophy printed on every company notepad:

“Look not with your eyes but with your heart and mind. Then opportunities will find you.”

What set Fujita apart from his peers was a keen eye for opportunities. Despite growing up under horrid conditions, he found a way to a prestigious school. Then, he started small while in college, looking for an opportunity to make a little cash. Seeing the opportunity, he grew a side-hustle into a thriving business.

Then, knowing he was in a unique spot to bring McDonald’s to Japan, he seized that opportunity, too.

We only hear about the success, but I’m sure he had plenty of valleys between the peaks.

Despite the obstacles — like the impossible task of building a store in less than two days — he found a way around them.

Point is…

Right now, everyone is fearful. That means they’re not paying attention. They’re looking with their eyes and not with their minds, as Fujita would put it.

Some people (especially a few of my friends in crypto) feel like it’s over.

It’s not.

Rather than giving into the fear…

Now’s the BEST time to start looking for the moonshots.

More on that this week.

Chris Campbell
For Altucher Confidential

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