Light Alarm Clock and Side Sleeper Pillow have become hit products.
“Recognizing the significance of doing the work ourselves”
Adopting that resolution
To expand the field of business beyond sleep.
MOON MOON inc.
“I was able to experience the joy of waking up with light.”
“My sleep has improved, and my drowsiness during the day is gone. I can’t give it up!”
“This product is revolutionary for me!”
These are comments from buyers of the “Light Alarm Clock,” which is developed, manufactured, and sold by MOON MOON Inc.,
a company headquartered in Kumamoto.
Since its release in August of 2012, the “Light Alarm Clock” has continuously been the number 1 selling alarm clock on the online retailer Rakuten. It has been featured in over 800 media outlets, including magazines and TV. Currently, the fourth-generation model, the “inti4,” is available for purchase, and has been updated and programmed with the latest features. President and CEO, Koichi Takeda, discusses the feelings and effort put into this product.
“We gained some name recognition with our first generation product ‘OKIRO’, but it was a product name that really only works in Japan. I thought that if I named the product after Inti, the sun god in Incan mythology people abroad would be familiar with the name, too, so I completely changed the name. I’m aiming for the global market.”
“I have trouble falling asleep.” “I awaken several times in the night.” One in three people in modern Japan have reported such trouble falling or staying asleep. For normal secretion of serotonin, a hormone essential to sleep regulation, it is important to wake up bathing in bright light and to feel refreshed. Waking up refreshed helps to regulate the biological clock, and it is effective in leading both the body and the mind towards good overall health.
Moon Moon has marketed this theory with the creation of the inti4, which uses a high illuminance LED light that is gentle on the eyes and creates the same amount of light as a sunrise. Just like a sunrise, the light of the inti4 brightens gradually, making for a comfortable wake up experience. With apps that track sleep data via Bluetooth, they are adamant about both clarity and convenience.
In addition to the alarm clock, they have developed a “Side Sleeper” pillow, which is said to be effective in preventing snoring, and are also currently developing a mattress for sale in the next term. The company has continuously strived to create products that have never existed before, all themed around “improving sleep.” Their range of services is not limited to the development and sales of products.
“We are creating a system where qualified ‘Sleep Improvement Instructors’ on our staff can provide support to our customers. We provide sleep consultations via phone or email to our customers, and we also go to schools and companies to offer sleep courses. We believe that spreading our knowledge about sleep is in and of itself one of our products.”
The reason he began pursuing sleep improvement was in fact because Takeda himself struggled to get a good night’s rest. Since the second grade, he spent many restless nights lying beside his mother and brother, who were fast asleep. As he became an adult, his problems with sleep only worsened, and for a long period of time he would fall asleep at dawn and awaken in the afternoon. He tried drinking herbal teas, buying new bedding, and changing the lighting—over the course of a 20-year period, he spent over 100 million yen on sleep goods.
Just when he thought he had exhausted all of his options and he was at his wits’ end, he was introduced to the “Light Alarm Clock.” An acquaintance brought it to his attention, and, thinking he had nothing to lose, he ordered one online from overseas. After using it once, his waking experience changed completely, and the quality of his sleep improved, too.
Though the light alarm instantly solved the problems he’d suffered since childhood, the main way to purchase one at the time was to order it from abroad, and the price was as high as 50,000 or 60,000 yen. “I want to spread this product all over the world and help people like me who suffer every day from a lack of sleep,” he thought to himself, so he moved to start Moon Moon.
At that time, Takeda was running a company in a completely different field. In order to start up that company, he started studying business management in earnest during college. Aspiring to meet bosses of various companies, he started working a part-time job at a high-class night club, and he built a network of connections. Using both group study sessions and books, Takeda taught himself the foundations of business management. In addition, he became more assertive in organizing parties and events, further honing his planning skills, and in his final year of college, he accomplished his goal of starting a business.
“All I have to do is add light to an alarm clock, so it shouldn’t need lots of time or money,” he thought, making light of the continuous hard work the project would ultimately require. Takeda, who had zero knowledge of manufacturing goods, simply thought the product would be completed if he drew a detailed blueprint of his idea, but the process turned out to be much more complex in reality. From the manufacturing of the metal molds and prototypes to the negotiations with development companies, Takeda faced many obstacles in the process. Although he found a manufacturer in China to undertake the production, the sample they produced was entirely different from the final product he had imagined. One year and a half after starting the company, and after an extensive trial and error process, Moon Moon finally completed their first generation of the alarm clock. However, after making the usual payment to their affiliated factory in China, they had the unfortunate and bitter experience of having the company flee.
Even so, though, the tail wind blew. Around the time they launched the side-sleeper pillow, the media began to cover the news story that quality of sleep can be improved by sleeping on one’s side, which attracted attention to the company. The light alarm clock came to be very well-known among people who have trouble sleeping.
Then, a turning point came in his fifth year of business. Just as business was starting to go steady, he experienced a major unforeseen problem: the magnitude 7 earthquake in Kumamoto.
The office building was on the verge of collapse. Employees who lost their homes in the disaster were forced to move long distances away, and some resigned. Even in such dire circumstances, Takeda continued the company’s online sales out of his own home. He received orders from all over the country as part of the campaign to purchase goods from Kumamoto to help the area stricken by disaster. Ironically, sales increased significantly from the previous year.
The business performed even better after the disaster. The improvements were not solely due to the disaster relief efforts, nor the increased awareness in ways to better one’s sleep. While employees left one by one after the massive earthquake, the team member that Takeda had predicted would be the first to leave actually stayed firmly in his position. The employee, who often threatened to quit over every little issue at work, did a complete 180 and drastically changed his approach to work. He studied, gradually increased his knowledge, and is now an indispensable part of the growth of the company.
“Up until that point, I was practically overworking my employeesd. I thought of the company as my own possession, and the employees were my ‘servants,’ and I was ‘allowing’ them to work for me. That’s how I thought about it. But after being rescued by my loyal employees and customers from all over the country, I realized that a company is a place that connects people. I thought to myself, I’d like to move forward by working to create a company for the good of all of my customers and employees alike.”
Takeda feels it is his mission to expand the company, for the sake of both hisemployees and customers. Currently, the company is focused on developing mattresses.
Takeda consults with his development company as soon as he comes up with a newidea. Using the prototype they created for him, he “brushes up” the product to bring itcloser to his ideal. However, that’s not to say that he throws products togethercarelessly.
He makes a point only to sell items that his employees like, and that hisconsumers cannot buy anywhere else. “I’d like to further advance the mattress we arecurrently developing, as well as the light alarm clock and the side-sleeper pillow,” he says. He hopes to aggressively perfect products that can only be created by MoonMoon.
As the boss, Takeda often tells his employees, “Teamwork and communication are the keys to successful work.” He schedules parties and get-togethers for workers at regular intervals. Even before a call for a change to working culture became popular all over the world, Takeda was strict with limiting overtime work, and insists that staying overtime is a sign of incompetence. As a company that deals in sleep goods, Takeda’s motto for his employees has been “early to bed, early to rise.” Work is finished within the standard working hours, and employees should be able to achieve a healthy work-life balanc.
Having just expanded to the “Global Sleeper Power,” the United States of America, with a new branch opened in New York City last year, the company looks ahead to expansion overseas. While furthering the company’s specialization in sleep related business and products, Takeda is always envisioning the next stage in his head.
“In the future I’d like to try food products and IT, as well. For that purpose, we must now lay the groundwork for the organization, so now is the time for us to dedicate ourselves to the sleep business, and build up a good track record. I don’t want to stop at becoming a local celebrity , nor will I be satisfied just with our products selling well inside Japan. I want our products to be used abroad as a matter of fact, as common products. I’d like to continue to grow as a company that is capable of things that no one else is, and the kind of company that can turn a seemingly absurd idea into a concept everyone knows and understands.”
Widely known in the press as the leading expert in solving sleep related problems, and highly sought after by both television and magazine media, Takeda is both president of his business and a gifted PR man. Immediately after deciding to expand to the US, he incorporated a US subsidiary, demonstrating his ability to read the flow of change and take swift action. It certainly helps to draw attention to Kumamoto media outlets and more generally to prefectures throughout Japan, as well. The kindness he and his company showed our press courts in the interview process is another sign of his expanding influence and circle of supporters.
Interview & Editing: MItsuya Kakihata, Noriko Aoki, Mayuko Tsutsumi Photography: Sho Kinoshita
Koichi Takeda was born in Kumamoto prefecture in 1982. Beginning during his time as a student at Kyushu Lutheran College’s School of the Humanities, he worked with content planning and sales over the internet. In 2006, the same year he graduated college, he founded his own business. For over six years since, he has constructed a highly profitable business model with a small number of elite employees. In 2011, after discovering a product that dramatically improved a sleeping disorder he’d suffered from for many years, he decided to establish a company specializing in sleep products. He assumed the role of President and Representative Director at the time he established MOON MOON, Inc. Licenses and Qualifications: Sleep Improvement Instructor