Today we’re happy to introduce you to Kirsty Wilkinson, a Japan, Europe & UK Food, & Wine Export Specialist, Japanese Language & Cultural Expert, Disability Advocate & Paragolf player.
Hi Kirsty, thank you for your time today! Could you please introduce yourself and share a bit about yourself?
Thanks for inviting me. I’m currently living in Melbourne but I’ve previously lived in Japan, Indonesia, London, Perth & many moons ago in Whyalla where I was born. I’ve got 2 main businesses that I run, which I’ll talk about later.
You have several hats like “food and wine export specialist”, “Japanese language expert”, you’re part of the Global Chamber of Melbourne and you’re also a speaker in several events! You might be super busy! Can you please tell our readers about your activities?
Yes, I do. I’m Executive Director of the Global Chamber Melbourne and have helped set that up and still getting members on board. Campbell Mackintosh is also a board member and has been instrumental in setting this up. We’ve got lots of plans for next year. Most recently I’ve worked with Katie from the Global Chamber London to run a webinar series on trilateral trade between Australia, the United Kingdom and Japan which has provided a lot of interest. We plan to run some follow up events next year and some other events too such as with India. Now that we are out of lockdown it will make things much easier. Melbourne has had one of the longest and most difficult lockdowns in the world.
You also founded your own company called Asia Market Makers and provide advice to companies who want to enter the Japanese Market which we think is great! What are the issues companies are facing entering this specific market and how can you help them?
Yes, I did in 2013. I was dissatisfied with the job market and decided to set up Asia Market Makers to help businesses wanting to export to Japan and now also help companies wanting to enter Europe and the UK, teach Japanese language and culture. I’ve been teaching Japanese for more than 20 years which I really enjoy too.
Finally, can you please tell our readers about your Disability Advocacy work sharing about the EDGAGOLF tour and your NDIS Support Coordinator work? How it is to play golf for a person as a female disability player?
Disability Advocacy Work
Thank you. My Disability Advocacy work has now become a big part of my work. I saw that many people with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome and Hypermobility Spectrum Disorder really needed help in getting onto the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). So, I set up a business called International Unicorn Connections & Consulting to cater for this. I now help people get onto the NDIS, help with reviews and make sure they have the supports as part of their plans. As a Support Coordinator, I ensure they have enough funding and that it’s used in the best possible way. It’s a real mind field and many people are just not getting the help they need.
When I first got my first NDIS plan I started taking lessons with an All-Abilities Golf Coach. It wasn’t the right fit. So, it took a while to find the right one. I now have a great coach. Unfortunately, due to the COVID lockdowns in Melbourne I haven’t been able to play a lot of golf this year. I’d only been back 2 weeks when I had a bad fall at home which has meant that I’ve not been able to play a lot of golf. I’m hoping that next year will be a better year and that I’ll be able to start playing in some tournaments too.
Golf as a female disability player
It’s much more challenging playing as a female disability player. Currently, there aren’t many female golfers with a disability playing but I really hope to change that. There’s an up-and-coming player doing well and am keen to see her do well. One of the challenges is sponsorship. Quite a few of the male players have sponsorship but none of the Australian female players have sponsorship. That is something that I want to also change. It makes it much more challenging for female players to play if they don’t have sponsorship due to the cost of travel and accommodation. Having the NDIS is certainly a big advantage.
Can you share about your connection to Japan? When did you visit for the first time and what made you fall in love with the country and culture?
I first visited Japan in 1991 as an AFS/BHP Corporate Scholarship holder when I attended a Japanese school and lived with a Japanese host family. The first six months were incredibly challenging as the host family I was living with had an elderly grandma who needed to move into the room I was staying in. After I was an exchange student to Japan, I studied Japanese at high school and then at Monash University where I did a major in Japanese at an advanced level along with international trade which resulted in me graduating with a double degree in a Bachelor of Arts (Advanced Japanese) and a Bachelor of Business (International Trade).
The Japanese culture fascinated me, especially the Japanese tea ceremony, Japanese calligraphy which I did at school in Japan and many of the handmade goods throughout Japan. I was really hooked when I visited different parts of Japan.
You lived in several areas of Japan, which one was your favourite one so far and why?
Yes, I did. I’d have to say living in the outskirts of Fujisawa. There were some amazing shops and gardens too. I especially loved it in summer when the hydrangeas came out. They were spectacular in the area I lived in.
We guess as a food lover you also like Japanese food! We know it’s hard to only pick one BUT because we are a culinary travel company, we need to ask you about your favorite Japanese food.
Yes, I love Japanese food! Sukiyaki would have to be one of my favourite foods. I love the way you can add so many things to it. I still love making it at home in Australia.
Is there anything else you’d like to add or any message for our readers?
I’m launching a podcast in January which I’d love your listeners to check out but the name hasn’t been decided yet!
Follow her on:
LinkedIn: Asia Market Makers