Fashion Executive Turned Entrepreneur Rina Bovrisse Puts Designs On Education

When Rina Bovrisse realized there were no preschools that could accommodate her needs as a mother and frequently traveling fashion executive, her answer was simple: create one. But, with a demanding career and young son, for some time, she put the idea out of her mind.

Yet, three years later her dream was to become reality when she left the fashion industry to launch her “lifestyle preschool,” Chateau School. Ever resilient and positive, Bovrisse has thrived in her new venture, building the business up from a tiny space in Cat Street, Harajuku, to two locations in trendy Minato Ward.

As Chateau School celebrates its seven-year anniversary this month, Savvy Tokyo met her to find out about Bovrisee’s business journey and what’s yet to come.

Rina Bovrisse at Chateau School, the school she founded seven years ago. 

What inspired you to set up a preschool?

When I became a mom, I was working in the United States and my maternity leave was three weeks. On coming back to work, arranging childcare was so hard. I took many business trips overseas, but preschools were only available for children aged 18 months and over, so I had to take my son with me. I employed a babysitter to watch him in my hotel room—in Paris, London, New York and Tokyo—but I felt so guilty all the time for his situation.

I started dreaming of setting up a preschool that suited what I needed at that time because I didn’t want other working moms to have the same experience as me.

Why choose a lifestyle preschool?

My dream was to offer a preschool with a highly academic program. I wanted parents to be confident that they are working hard to afford to send their children to this school.

Growing up, I attended Japanese, French, US and British schools, which were great, but they weren’t international. At Chateau School we teach the children three languages every morning and more than 100 countries’ cultures in nine months.

At my own school, I wanted to provide parents with everything I myself needed as a new parent. I chose my son’s first preschool based on the [public] bus schedule. I never had the luxury to choose.

What does Chateau School that other schools typically don’t?

At Chateau School, we do a door-to-door pick-up and drop-off service based on parents’ needs. We provide a physical, social and psychological digital report on each child every day that parents can check from anywhere.  

Many parents cannot prepare lunch and dinner as they are too busy, so we provide healthy, fresh organic food at school, as well as take-out dinner, in portions for both children and adults. At school, we serve the meals on ceramic tableware, to teach the children the value of looking after things and to create a homely ambiance.

I also wanted a beautiful gender-neutral environment where parents also feel comfortable, so I made the color scheme sparkly, in lavender, white, gray and silver. I didn’t want Chateau School to be full of primary colors and animation characters.

I wanted to provide parents with everything I myself needed as a new parent.

How did you get started?

I had no background or experience in education, but I had a strong passion for it. I felt able to turn my concept into reality. I got a head of school and early education specialists involved. Even now, I leave the education to my professional teaching staff. I use my creative skills to work on the school’s vision, design and branding. I also create the school uniforms for summer and winter, as well as the children’s school bags.

What challenges did you face and how did you overcome them?

When I began Chateau School seven years ago, there was no support for women in Tokyo to start a business. People laughed at me. Moving from a high-level, dynamic job in the fashion industry to work in a new, small space, they questioned why I wasn’t doing fashion. They said, “What happened to you?”

I took every day as a learning opportunity. I stopped thinking of what I used to be because pride stops creativity and innovation. When I started thinking of myself as starting from zero every day, it made me feel so much more comfortable to let everything [in the past] go. We have all the opportunities, but pride limits what we do with them. I visualized what the business would be like in five or 10 years and kept going.

What’s next for you?

Traveling for work, I registered my baby son at preschools in three cities worldwide. Even though he was at them for mere days, I had to pay their annual fees, so my dream is to make Chateau School global. Parents can then travel with their children, checking in and out of Chateau Schools, while enjoying the same curriculum. Each child already has their own school passport for this future purpose.

How can your work help Japan?

Research shows that the richer early education is, the happier people become. It affects our vision, personality, mind, and how we think about our life—all these things are settled by age six. Japan is one of few countries that doesn’t recognize early education as education, so my goal is to make people happy and improve the quality of education here. I’ve found something to give back to society.

I stopped thinking of what I used to be because pride stops creativity and innovation.

What advice would you give to fellow entrepreneurs?

You need to drop your pride and fear; you need to see things ahead and not compare what you are doing to what others are doing. It’s so tough and it’s easy to stop because it’s your choice whether to continue or not, but you have to visualize long-term and keep going.

Have you achieved work-life balance?

Working on the business five days a week is not enough; I need eight days a week. Even when I’m doing yoga, I’m thinking about the business. It’s a passion, something I enjoy. It’s been seven years since I started, and it’s been dreadful every day, but I feel like I’ve built something from scratch and I like learning every day.

To learn more about Chateau School, see here.

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