Saori Okada grew up in what she calls a “medical family”—one in which dinner conversations often centered around surgeries and blood tests. Learning that about her, it isn’t a complete shock to see how her career has led her to focusing on making people feel better.
Earning an International Baccalaureate diploma as a high schooler first piqued her interest in business—an attraction to the subject that inspired her to apply to the Commerce School.
“I didn’t fully know the growth opportunity I was diving into when I started at McIntire,” Okada says, noting that her classmates’ drive was a bit intimidating, as she was, like most students of college age, unsure of what she hoped to do with her life. But ultimately, her time on Grounds planted what she calls “a seed of experience that continues to spring new branches,” as she continues her professional and personal journey.
It’s a path that has given her a background working in a corporate environment, launching her own business, and coming to a deeper understanding of herself.
From the Integrated Core to the Corporate World
Okada recalls how her McIntire education prepared her for her first corporate position with global media measurement and analytics company Comscore, in New York. She credits the wide-ranging breadth of business knowledge that came with the learning experience of the Integrated Core curriculum. Additionally, taking on coursework in Business Analytics led her to find a career that aligned with her interests.
She believes that the curriculum made her well-versed in teamwork and communication and has been instrumental in her success.
“While technical knowledge is essential, I believe soft skills are just as, if not more, important,” Okada insists. “Much of McIntire’s work was group-based and allowed us to practice the soft skills we would learn in our Communication and Organizational Behavior classes. I found McIntire to be an environment that celebrated diversity and wanted us to excel by embracing our differences and differing strengths.”
Taking what she learned at the Comm School, she went to Comscore after walking the Lawn, a choice she says was the right move for her.
“Having corporate experience before founding my own company was the right journey for me. While I have been amazed by other founders starting their companies right out of school, I can see that I needed to gain the experience, maturity, and wisdom from the years in corporate to have the confidence to start my own company. It gave me the opportunity to understand the business verticals, key metrics, and structural disciples that need to be fostered when setting up a company.”
A Second Career, Another City
When the world hit the pause button during the pandemic, that major change gave Okada, like many others, more than ample time to reflect. It was then she realized she was meant to pursue a different career, one that she felt better aligned with her overall sense of purpose. Yet she says it was part of a longer period of reflection tied to many crucial aspects of her life.
“I had to first go through the personal growth journey, where I had to overcome my unhealthy obsession with my physical appearance, which manifested as an eating disorder for many years. Seeing my holistic self, including my mind, body, and soul, allowed me to accept and love myself for who I was,” she confesses.
After that mindset change, she was driven to share the benefits of self-discovery and wellness—but before she would be ready to do that, Okada felt that she still needed to further develop professionally. “I gained skills in wellness coaching via an ICF [International Coaching Federation]-accredited certification program and project management skills from my PMP [Project Management Professional] certification process.”
Fusing the two different areas that aided in her transformation, she launched Japanese wellness company Mogami in September of 2021. Okada chose to relocate to London for its many business opportunities in the wellness industry, both within the U.K. and internationally. It was also a good personal fit.
“I had a sense of community through meeting new innovative thinkers and a network of friends I came to know during my time at McIntire. Compared to other cities, there is also a strong emphasis on greenery in London, which I find very attractive, as spending time in nature is a key to long-term well-being,” she says.
And though she admits that it might seem her previous work in media analytics may appear to have little connection to wellness on the surface, the seven years she had at Comscore have helped her in less obvious ways.
“It has given me the experience and opportunity to better connect with corporate clients, as I have been in their shoes. It has enabled me to create a technology-driven marketing and operating strategy and focus for Mogami. It has also helped me effectively use data-driven processes to understand this ever-evolving wellness space,” she says.
Leading with Wellness
For Okada, the Japanese view of wellness holds a great deal of potential for the world, especially for those in leadership positions. She believes that across the globe, our holistic well-being is at risk, citing increasing obesity, mental health issues, and work-related burnout in leading economies.
“Taking a step back and evaluating our lifestyles are necessary,” she says. “Helping leaders evaluate themselves will not only improve their personal well-being, but it will also have a compound effect on their employees, their organization, and society’s overall well-being.”
As she notes that as Japan is known for its citizens’ longevity, she believes that its principles can be applied to improve everyone’s holistic well-being. This is where her company Mogami excels.
“We demystify and simplify these Japanese principles through the lens of wellness coaching to provide the daily mindset, tools, and experience to empower individuals to evaluate and transform their lifestyles,” says the company’s founder, who has reflected and changed her own life. “We look to uncover your inner knowing of who you are—with everyday practices to be present and mindful, have holistic self-care practices, be ikigai (purpose-driven), and be your authentic self.”
Okada finds that helping individuals and organizations through Mogami’s services has already proven to be a satisfying experience: “What I find most fulfilling about my work is giving power back to the individual and reminding them that they know themselves more than anyone else. They have it within themselves to take care of their holistic self and live a healthy, purposeful, and long life through everyday wellness practices.”
Being a facilitator of that process drives home critical aspects about what it means to lead: having humility and being open to collaboration and authentic to one’s real self. “I used to be scared to say, ‘I don’t know.’ I would try to hide my feelings to seem tough, and was scared of making mistakes,” she confesses. “However, I learned that embracing my holistic self, one who values teamwork, leans into both intellectual and emotional sides, and can decipher the difference between striving for excellence versus perfectionism, has thus far led to Mogami’s success and is the key to authentic leadership.”
Having overcome many structural and business process-orientated challenges in starting her company, Okada’s greatest challenge since founding Mogami has been facing her inner critic—a perfectionist voice that she says seeks out arguments to undermine her confidence.
Yet she says her work at Mogami has provided “the ultimate blessing.” She is free to practice the wellness principles that strengthen her conviction in the organization’s mission and vision. Okada silences her inner critic through daily wellness activity practices such as forest bathing, moving meditation of Japanese calligraphy, wabi-sabi authenticity journaling, and community soul care. “It gives me the moments to recognize how to be more present and kinder to myself, which gives me the resilience and energy to progress.”
An Accessible, Transformative Vision
The commitment to positively impacting society through business isn’t just a concept for Okada, it’s wholly essential to her overall mission.
With the state of the world being defined by global conflict, food shortages, energy uncertainty, accelerating inflation, climate shifts, and the lingering impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, she believes these issues are all compounded expressions of the perilous state of society’s holistic well-being. With Mogami, she aims to better society by improving individuals’ physical and mental wellness through avenues that are well within everyone’s reach.
“It is about shifting the wellness dialogue from ‘doing more’ to ‘doing less’ from ‘buying more things’ to ‘spending more quality time,’ and from ‘having to be perfect’ to ‘striving for excellence.’ These affordable and accessible daily wellness actions and mindset shifts improve well-being,” she says. “Self-worth comes from within.”
Looking ahead, Okada has been collaborating with companies to promote other Japanese wellness services that range from mindfulness and traditional arts activities to reservations at hot spring resorts. “The opportunity to help connect these Japanese partners with those looking for authentic Japanese wellness-related experiences to make a meaningful impact on one’s holistic well-being continues to drive me every day,” she says.
That motivation to empower people lies at the heart of Mogami and Okada’s personal philosophy; providing others with the tools to transform their lives much as she did for her own: “It gives me the energy to keep pursuing our vision.”