Looking back to the past for the future: An entrepreneurial journey of Japanese small traditional inn under COVID-19





Crises/adversities affect all types of companies, but companies cannot avoid the crises/adversities and are forced to respond to them. In particular, the impact of crises/adversities on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which have relatively scarce management resources (Woschke et al. 2017), is immeasurable (Runyan 2006). However, there have been few studies on how SMEs respond to crises/adversities (Herbane 2010; Runyan 2006), although there have been some exceptional studies on natural disasters, especially typhoon damage (Runyan 2006) and earthquake response (Smallbone et al. 2012). We are now in the middle of the spread of COVID-19, which is raging globally, and how SMEs are trying to overcome this situation is of interest to various stakeholders surrounding SMEs.

Research on how to overcome crises/adversities has been accumulated in the field of entrepreneurship. The entrepreneurial process, in which entrepreneurs and organizations try to bravely overcome such situations, has been explained using concepts such as resilience (or resilience of entrepreneurship) and bricolage response (Branicki et al. 2018; Bullough et al. 2014; Corner et al. 2017; Gilbert-Saad et al. 2018; Senyard et al. 2012; Smallbone et al. 2012; Williams et al. 2017). Many of these SMEs are in a situation of crises/adversities due to the impact of COVID-19, and are called in question how to overcome this situation. If it is possible for SMEs to overcome the situation through their entrepreneurial process, the practices can be expected to bring important knowledge not only to many other SMEs but also to policy makers.

Most of the crises/adversities that have been examined in the field of entrepreneurship are rather localized and require time to recover from, but within a limited time span. However, crises/adversities vary widely (Doern et al. 2019), and COVID-19 we are facing now has firstly a global pandemic, secondly has a multifaceted impact as it requires people to limit their activities and refrain from business activities, and thirdly, has a long-term, sustained threat, which is different from previous crises/adversities.

This paper describes how SMEs, as a field of entrepreneurship (Wiklund et al., 2011), have tried to overcome the situation under COVID-19, keeping in mind the nature of COVID-19, which is different from the crises/adversities that have been mainly examined so far, from the perspective of the entrepreneurial process, using a specific case of a SME and an entrepreneur. Through this process, it will be revealed how SMEs have taken bricolage responses and how they have demonstrated resilience, and why they have taken and demonstrated these responses.

A unique feature of this paper is that it describes the entrepreneurial process in terms of an entrepreneurial journey (McMullen and Dimov 2013). COVID-19 has been raging in many parts of the world since the beginning of 2020. The crises/adversities of COVID-19 is still ongoing. This paper describes a specific case study of a long-lived SME and entrepreneur in the accommodation industry in Japan. The company was affected by COVID-19 expansion and had to close its business for a few months, but although it later resumed its business, it had not completely overcome COVID-19 situation. However, by describing in detail ga sequence of eventsh (McMullen and Dimov 2013) over a period of time that a SME and an entrepreneur have taken to overcome the actual impact of COVID-19, it will be revealed what "events" were, and how and why they occurred.


Theoretical Background

Entrepreneurial Resilience

The behaviors or attitudes of entrepreneurs who are willing to face and confront situations such as crises/adversities is called gresilienceh (Fredrickson and Tugade 2003). They are more specifically that entrepreneurs anticipate, adjust, and respond to adversities (Williams et al. 2017). Here, ganticipateh refers to what is likely to happen in the future and how to respond to it, rather than to imagine it before it happens. While much of the research on entrepreneurial resilience to date has focused on larger companies, even SMEs, which are little considered to have crisis management(Herbane 2010; Runyan 2006), are known to have exercised resilience and responded quickly to crises/adversities (Branicki et al. 2018; Smallbone et al. 2012).

The behaviors and attitudes of individual entrepreneurs have been found to be important factors that led to the exercise of resilience in SMEs (Branicki et al. 2018). They may have a strong and direct influence on the structure, strategies, and outcomes of SMEs (Miller and Toulouse 1986). According to Branicki et al. (2018) which qualitatively studied entrepreneurial resilience in SMEs, the emotional and cognitive capacities of individual entrepreneurs are important factors for SMEs to be resilient (Branicki et al. 2018). And, Branicki et al.(2018) found not only that there is a link between individual entrepreneurial factors and business organization, but also that firstly SMEs have social connections, specifically family-like relationships with their employees, which is also the organizational culture, secondly entrepreneurs are reticent to planning and investment, instead have the value of autonomy and high locus of control; and thirdly, even in uncertain situations, entrepreneurs feel comfortable and they not only feel confident to be able to cope with challenging events, but also take the opportunity, and fourthly, that they are gmuddling throughh, are important for SMEs to be resilient (Branicki et al. 2018).


Bricolage Response

The first action taken by entrepreneurs in crises/adversities is bricolage (Senyard et al. 2009), and the bricolage response is the response to the crises/adversities (Gilbert-Saad et al. 2018; Senyard et al. 2012; Williams et al. 2017). 2017). Lévi-Strauss (1966) described a bricoleur as someone who uses "whatever is at hand," while bricolage means using "whatever is at hand" in some cases. This concept of bricolage has been used at individual entrepreneur and organizational levels in the research field of business and management (Baker et al., 2003; Witell et al., 2017), and more attention are paid to the capabilities of individual entrepreneurs or organizations. Capabilities are processes, such as knowledge, skills, abilities, and routines that facilitate access to and operation of management resources (Teece et al. 1997).

Bricolage has been paid attention recently in the research field of entrepreneurship. Bricolage is embedded in a series of entrepreneurial process to create unique opportunities and higher value for customers (Vanevenhoven et al. 2011), and in this process, strategic combination of existing resources takes place (Baker and Nelson 2005; Garud and Karnøe 2003) through the search for new resources (Duymedjian and Rüling 2010: Sarasvathy 2009) for creating new business opportunities. Here, internal resources are combined or linked to a variety of external resources through networks, which is called "network bricolage" (Baker 2007), and these networks include a variety of relationships with business partners and communities, as well as relationships in finance including government support, and it is pointed out the importance of capabilities that can leverage these relationships (Kuckertz et al. 2020). It has also been pointed out that capabilities demonstrating bricolage include, in addition to links to external resources, firstly, saving resources, secondly, handling available resources, and thirdly, recombining resources improvingly (Baker and Nelson 2005; Moorman and Miner 1998a). However, it is pointed out that because bricolage depends on a particular worldview, nature and organization of knowledge, and on the existence of repertoires that have been built up over time, and therefore constitutes a capability that is deeply embedded in the organization, bricolage cannot be improvised (Duymedjian and Rüling 2010) and bricolage response can also occur as part of even carefully pre-planned processes (Baker et al. 2003; Baker and Nelson 2005; Miner et al. 2001).


Analytical Perspective

Looking at situations such as crises/adversities in relation to entrepreneurial resilience, how entrepreneurs try to face crises/adversities, and their feelings about the current and future state of themselves, their business organizations, and their businesses, are important in demonstrating resilience. However, there are factors that contribute to the demonstration of resilience: the individual attributes of the entrepreneur and the organizational attributes of the company. Assuming SMEs, the individual entrepreneur's attributes are likely to influence the business organization, and the individual's attributes can have an impact on their growth as a company (Delmar and Wiklund 2008; Wiklund et al. 2007). However, with few exceptions (Branicki et al. 2018), specific examination of how individual and organizational factors are related to the demonstration of resilience is just beginning.

In addition, the process of demonstrating resilience in entrepreneurs and business organizations can be informed by the bricolage response taken as one response in crises/adversities. In these situations, the improvisational aspect are tended to focus on, but it has been pointed out that the bricolage response can be taken as not only a improvisation, but also a pre-planned (Baker et al. 2003; Baker 2007; Moorman and Miner 1998a). In the context of crises/adversities, it is important to understand how bricolage responses are taken and then developed through the entrepreneurial process (Shepherd 2020), and what entrepreneurships are like (Wiklund et al. 2011).

In the following, a specific case of bricolage responses of a SME that lead to resilience through the entrepreneurship process will be described. Bricolage responses in crises/adversities are sometimes seen as "actions" in response to them. However, depending on the type of crises/adversities, the bricolage response may persistently be taken a period of time in the situation. In this way, when crises/adversity persists, the entrepreneurial process must be viewed within a period of time. Therefore, in this paper, from the perspective of the entrepreneurial "journey" focusing on the temporal flow (McMullen and Dimov 2013), it will be examined how responses through the entrepreneurial process are taken in the temporal flow under crises/adversities through a long-living Japanese inn, located in Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan.



Research Setting

Status of COVID-19 Infection in Japan and Kyoto Prefecture

In Japan, the first report of COVID-19 by the government (Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare)[1] was issued on 6 January 2020. The second report was issued on 7 January, the third on 10 January, and the fourth on 14 January. On 16 January, the first case in Japan was reported in Kanagawa Prefecture. The fifth report was issued on 20 January, and "Outbreak of pneumonia related to a new type of coronavirus" was reported 22 January. On 29 January, the plan of Japanese returning from overseas on chartered flights was announced. And on 5 February, an infected person was confirmed on board a cruise ship calling at the port of Yokohama, and on 20 February, the deaths of two patients on board were reported.

As COVID-19 infection spread in Japan in March, the government issued the first emergency declaration against New Influenza on 7 April 2020, and requested citizens to refrain from free movement and businesses to close their businesses in seven prefectures[2]. On 16 April, six more prefectures[3], including Kyoto Prefecture, were added to the list because they were expanding in the same manner as the seven prefectures designated earlier. The government's declaration of a state of emergency was fully lifted on 25 May as the number of new infections decreased. But in July and November, the number of new infections increased in Japan, COVID-19 is now once again raging, and the spread of the infection is unstoppable. In this way, COVID-19 situation in Japan is having a lasting impact, and the content is changing day by day.

@Although the above is the situation for Japan as a whole, the spread of the infection varies depending on the regional and temporal contexts (and furthermore, the nature of the impact also varies depending on the industry and other business realities). The spatial context refers to the geographical space where the crises/adversities occurred. The temporal context refers to the situations leading up to the crises or when the crises/adversities were faced. COVID-19 involves the spread of the infection, but the context varies greatly depending on where (space) and when (temporal) the situation took place.

The SME as a case in this paper is located in Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture. The first case of COVID-19 in Kyoto Prefecture was a woman who had stayed in China, and was reported on 30 January. In March, the number of new infections in Kyoto Prefecture gradually increased. The total number of newly infections in Osaka Prefecture, which is next to Kyoto Prefecture, exceeded 100 by 28 February. Although the number of newly infections in Kyoto Prefecture was relatively small, there was concern about the spread of infection within the area where people come and go relatively frequently. The Kyoto City Board of Education announced on 28 February that all schools in Kyoto City would be temporarily closed from 5 March until 24 March (later, closed additionally from April 10 to May 6)[4].

The spread of COVID-19 in Kyoto City became more serious when a group of students from a university in Kyoto City, were infected with COVID-19 after returning from a trip to Europe in early March. On 29 March, Kyoto City announced the fact (the 27th to 30th cases, 4 students). These students also participated in graduation celebrations and other events, and returned home to other regions, causing the infection to spread over a wider area (11 prefectures). The number of new infections in Japan increased rapidly from March 2020 (especially at the end of the year), and Kyoto Prefecture took its own emergency measures on 17 April after the government declared a state of emergency and they were lifted on 21 May 21, earlier than the government's lifting of the state of emergency. Similar to the situation in Japan, the number of newly infections in Kyoto Prefecture tended to increase in July and November 2020.


Research Method

The crises/adversities situations assumed in this paper are uncertain and complex. The recognition of crises/adversities and the creation of business opportunities in such situations depend largely on the interpretation of the situation of individual entrepreneurs and business organizations (Garud and Giuliani 2013). Therefore, the entrepreneurial process under such situations has a unique context, and in order to unravel the entrepreneurial process in a more concrete way, it is necessary to fit a research approach that is appropriate for it (Blumberg et al. 2005; Gehman et al. 2018). Therefore, in this paper, we adopt a narrative approach as our research method (Berglund 2007; Garud and Giuliani 2013; Johansson 2004). Specifically, a specific entrepreneur will be focused on, it will be conducted interviews with the entrepreneur, collected data from the interviews, and interpreted the meanings from the data.

This interpretive approach has been adopted in several studies that assume a situation of crises/adversities, not only in the fields of business and management, but also in the fields of SMEs and entrepreneurship (Doern 2016; Herbane 2010). Research approaches such as the narrative approach adopted in this paper can provide a more concrete description of how "a sequence of events" (McMullen and Dimov 2013) seen throughout the entrepreneurial process unfolds over time (Corner et al. . 2017; Johansson 2004), hopefully rediscovering things that were previously undiscovered or not considered to be that important.


Case Selection

In this paper, Watazen Ryokan (inn) (hereinafter referred to as Watazen), a long-living SME located in Kyoto City, will be taken as the case. Similar to hotels, ryokan (inn) is a lodging business that provides a place to stay and food, and is classified as a service business in the Japanese industry classification.

Watazen was established in 1830 (Edo period) (the company was reorganized as a limited company in 1956), and has a history of 190 years as of December 2020. The number of employees, including part-timers, is 40, making it a SME by law[5]. It has 27 guest rooms, all of which are Japanese-style rooms. About half of the annual number of guests are students on school excursions. School excursions are one of the special activities conducted by Japanese schools in which groups of students stay overnight, and are "activities that enable students to broaden their knowledge and experience, become familiar with nature and culture, and gain desirable experience of group life and public morality in a different living environmenth. Plans and standards for implementation are to be determined by the boards of education of local governments.

In order to find SMEs that are willing to overcome the COVID-19 situation, a questionnaire survey using Google Forms was conducted between 4 May and 24 May 2020. The survey was based on the situation one month after the declaration of a state of emergency by the Japanese government, and 364 responses were received from all over Japan. In the survey, several questions based on previous studies were set, it was found that 44 responses met all of four pointed out by Branicki et al. (2018), which are important in taking bricolage response in crises/adversities. Watazen is one of these 44 responses.

Watazen was directly affected by COVID-19, which calls for restrictions on people's behavior. Watazen experienced a sharp decline in customers from March 2020 and refrained from business for about three months from 8 April to 10 July after the declaration of the state of emergency, with no prospect of sales. However, even under these situations, the entrepreneur have tried to overcome the situation by implementing various responses. In this paper, only one SME case, Watazen will be focused on not only because Watazen is an "extreme case" (Pettigrew 1990) in which Watazen tried to do practices even though it refrained from business like other inns under the COVID-19 situation, but also because it is possible to explain the uniqueness of the organization driven by an entrepreneur (Martin et al. 1983) by exploring the personal stories of an entrepreneur who lead corporate organization and how the entrepreneur have thought, judged, and acted (Cope and Watts 2000; Perren and Ram 2004), and by focusing on individual cases,.


Collecting Data

The information sources used in this study are mainly the data obtained from interviews conducted by the author with Ms. Masayo Ono (hereinafter referred to as Ms. Ono), the young proprietress of Watazen, as well as primary information such as direct e-mails and messages exchanged with the Ms. Ono. In addition to primary information, secondary information such as blogs on the company's website, official Facebook accounts, and newspaper articles were also collected. The term "young proprietress" refers to the successor of the proprietor, while "proprietress" refers to the female manager who is responsible for internal activities such as serving guests at the ryokan (inn). Although the president of Watazen is Ms. Ono's father, Ms. Ono is practically the successor manager of Watazen, and she is also in charge of external activities.

The interview by the author was conducted with Ms. Ono (young proprietress of Watazen) using Zoom on 12 August 2020. The interview lasted 95 minutes, from 11:00 to 12:35. The questions were about the timing of the impact of COVID-19 and the response to it, specifically from late February 2020, when the COVID-19 infection was spreading, until 10 July, when it reopened for business, and about a series of events by the young proprietress, Ms. Ono. The interview was designed in a semi-structured way so that the interviewee could tell the real story. The interviews ware taped and transcribed later and asked to Ms. Ono to check for any factual errors. After the interview, the author frequently communicated with Ms. Ono individually, and exchanged messages to collect information on various points that needed to be confirmed in depth. It may be pointed out that the time for conducting the interviews was insufficient as a main method of information collection. But it was very limited to have enough time for interviews because the situation of COVID-19 was unprecedented and changing day by day.

Watazen has a blog on its website and an official Facebook account, where it posts not only what it has been working on since before COVID-19, but also images of what was going on at the time, with Ms. Ono and other staffs directly communicating their impressions. This information can be found as "a sequence of events" (McMullen and Dimov 2013) under the influence of COVID-19, and was also used to examine the case study. In 2015, Watazen was selected as one of the eight inns in Japan to participate in a model for improving productivity of inns and hotels. So Watazen is well known in the industry and has been interviewed in many media, including the popular press and business and industry newspapers. These existing public sources of information were also utilized.



The fact finding derived from the case study are the following five points. Their contents are summarized in the table.


Table 1. The major bricolage responses of Watazen under COVID-19


First, as the COVID-19 situation worsened, it was observed that for a certain period of time before and after the time when the company refrained from business operations due to the declaration of the state of emergency (7 April 2020), the company continuously practiced multiple bricolage responses by exploring and combining internal and external resources through networks. The three main responses taken by Watazen were (1) gTerakoya[6]h (late February 2020), (2a) lunch project or (2b) provision of lunch boxes (March-April 2020), and (3) summer festival (early July 2020). (1) gTerakoyah: As COVID-19 expands in Japan, by late February 2020, schools will be closed in Kyoto, and in order to address the fact that a part-time female employee with children is no longer able to work, Ms. Ono, an entrepreneur, took care of the local children in rooms at Watazen and purchased vegetables from a friend's grocery store (network), provided them an educational service about the food loss issue while serving food cooked by the innfs chef. (2a) lunch project or (2b) provision of lunch boxes (March-April 2020): In March 2020, COVID-19 expanded to Kyoto, and there was a series of cancellations of customers, and eventually in April, the government declared a state of emergency, making it impossible to operate. In spite of the situation, the entrepreneur wanted to offer skills of a chef to the local people, so they worked together with the local ryokan (inns) (network) to provide lunches and bento boxes (also in June). When carrying the lunch boxes, they wore stuffed panda costumes, which was appreciated by the local people, especially the local children. (3) Summer Festival: In early July, as a series of local events were cancelled, sales at nearby souvenir shops were also sluggish. Craftsmen from nearby traditional industries even came to Watazen to express their concern. Together with these local people, an entrepreneur and staffs in Watazen discussed internally what they could do for the local people, and not only did they provide handmade games based on the ideas of employees and food prepared by a chef, but they also pre-planned a concert by a saxophone player and a craft experience by craftsmen from traditional industries (network). As can be seen from above, it was observed that the bricolage responses taken under COVID-19 are not just one of the responses taken when the SME was unable to operate, but a chain of practices that continue to be taken over a certain period of time before and after that point in time, demonstrating resilience.

Second, bricolage responses tend to be emphasized improvisation as its characteristic, but Watazen took bricolage responses in both improvised and pre-planned ways in the COVID-19 situation. The only improvisational response Watazen took under COVID-19 was (1) "Terakoya" in the early stages of COVID-19's expansion. Subsequent actions such as (2) lunch planning/provision of lunch boxes and (3) summer festival were taken after pre-planned and prepared within the organization. Thus, the bricolage responses observed in the case includes improvised responses, but rather many pre-planned ones. The reason why Watazen was able to plan these in advance and put them into practice even under COVID-19 was because it had secured enough retained earnings to sustain its operations even if it did not receive sales for at least six months, and also because it was able to secure emergency loans from financial institutions as a result of COVID-19 and additional loans in May when the situation became more serious, and because it was accounted a half of the annual number of guests (school excursions) were considered to be only postponed (and eventually cancelled).


gWhen our business performance was not so good, we started by trying to keep at least two months' worth of cash on hand, and since our tourism business was good, we were able to keep at least six months' worth of cash on hand.h


gUnder COVID-19, I borrowed another 100 million yen from A (name of the financial institution). Actually, my main bank is B, and B asked me to borrow 30 million yen, but that has stopped now.h  (The specific name of the financial institution remains anonymous by the author.)


Third, in the bricolage response that Watazen took under COVID-19, external networks were utilized, but these external networks were not the everyday relationships for an entrepreneur, but rather distant-relationships where there was little contact before COVID-19. The situation brought together these distant-relationships and an entrepreneur, leading to the discovery and creation of various business opportunities. For example, (1) a Ms. Onofs attempt of gTerakoyah to provide an educational service on the issue of food loss was triggered by contacting a grocery store entrepreneur who was a friend of Ms. Ono from college. (2) Lunch project was practiced jointly with the proprietresses of three inns which were unable to open for business in the local area, and the mutual common desire of the inns' entrepreneurs to do something led to the implementation of this project. (3) Summer festival, when a craftsman from a traditional industry came to Watazen to worry about the business, Ms. Ono heard that the craftsman was good at workshops and she wanted to plan something together with the craftsman. When the saxophonist was exploring for an opportunity to perform after his concert was cancelled, Mr. Ono connected with the saxophonist through a friend while she was considering planning a summer festival, which led to practice summer festival project.


gI called my friend who works at a grocery store and asked him what was going on in the market, and he said that since school lunches are no longer offered, there is a surplus of vegetables at the central market, which leads to food loss. I'll buy the vegetables and our chef will cook with them, and we'll be able to teach the children about the problem of food loss, while also providing them with food education.h


gWe have been connected with these inns for a long time, but I don't think we've ever done anything together. I always thought that Watazen doing things on our own is not interesting, so we want to involve others. In fact, we did a lunch project with three inns in the neighborhood, including ours. It was like a lunch stroll each other.h


gAlthough a saxophonist who had no more work because all his concerts had been canceled, I knew him through my friend and asked him if he could play at the summer festival, then he approved.h


Fourth, whether improvised or pre-planned, Watazenfs bricolage responses were driven by the entrepreneur's desire to ensure that Watazenfs employees would continue to work vigorously for the company. For example, (1) "Terakoya" was created so that local women with children could continue to work due to the closure of schools because of COVID-19, but the direct impetus for implementing gTerakoyah came from a consultation with a part-time female employee who was unable to come to work. Since about half of Watazenfs annual guests are students on school excursions, a certain number of female employees must be secured, and their main job is to work at the front desk in the early morning, they arise a problem that they cannot continue working and leave the company after they get married and have children. This has been a problem for female employees for some time. In addition, (2b) the provision of bento lunches, which was implemented after the declaration of the state of emergency, was undertaken to alleviate the anxiety that employees might have due to the absence of work, although they have time during the holidays. During the period when they were requested to stay at home due to the expansion of COVID-19, they took turns coming to work, but only once a week. Even though they only worked once a week, some of them arrived late, in some cases forgot to go to work, and even got sick and missed work. Ms. Ono believed that these employees might not be able to work elsewhere when Watazen was no longer able to hire them, so Ms. Ono thought she had to take care of them on their own. Therefore, she wanted them to feel the joy of working. This reveals the entrepreneur's inclusive attitude to management, by preventing the sudden loss of jobs during crises/adversities, which would leave some employees at a loss with no other place to work.


gThe moment I got the information that school would soon be closed, one of my part-time workers told me that she couldn't come to work because her child's school was closed. I thought there must be a lot of mothers like that in local society, so I decided to take care of children and did it.h


gI think this accommodation industry is very unique, but since we deal with school excursions, there are restrictions such as only women staff are allowed on the floor with female students. This was not the case before. When women come to work here after their graduations, they quit when they get married. The reason is that check-in and check-out are morning and evening jobs, and those are the times when mothers are needed the most at home. So even if they get married and continue to work, they tend to quit when they have children. Even if I wanted to switch to daytime work, there are only a few posts available.h


gThere are a certain number of members who are very worried about us, and I think that if they lose their jobs with us, they'll be in trouble. I am very worried about those people. We need to protect those "easy-going" people who probably won't be able to survive if they quit us.h


Fifth, under COVID-19, the main customers to whom Watazen provides services have changed. Specifically, about half of Watazen's annual guests were students on school excursions, but as the effects of COVID-19 became more serious and school excursions were postponed (or even cancelled), Watazen shifted to providing services to local people. (1) Terakoya, (2) Lunch/Bento, and (3) Summer Festival, which they were taken under COVID-19, all target local people (children). Particularly, (2b) lunches were brought by children dressed in panda costumes, because Ms. Ono wanted to make local children, who were feeling stressed during the self-restraint period, happy to see a panda.


"Everyone was under a lot of stress during the self-restraint period, so when they went to the park and saw the pandas, I wanted them to forget about their personal lives and their stress, even if just for a moment. I felt that what we were doing, which seemed like a ridiculous thing to do from other people, was making people so happy.h


Ms. Ono said above because when the state of emergency was declared due to the expansion of COVID-19 and new bookings were stopped, Mr. Ono realized that the large number of school excursions he had accepted was not something to be taken for granted.h


gThe fact that we now have the time to do this makes us all realize that those busy days were not the norm, but truly 'thankful daysf. And I think it's a chance for us to start doing more detailed hospitality, which we wanted to do before but couldn't.h (https://bizhint.jp/report/417086)


In addition, Ms. Ono is grateful for the cooperation of the local community in hosting the school excursion students, and believes that he must repay the community for their support. Ms. Ono came to this conclusion because of her experience with the "Tempura Night" project, which she had made on regularly once a year since 2015. In "Tempura Night," the chef fried tempura right in front of the customers and offered them freshly at a low price. Initially, this had been a project aimed at foreign tourists, but most of the customers who came to Watazen were Japanese, and some were university students living nearby. Seeing how happy the local people were with the inexpensive tempura provided by their own chef, she changed her mind and thought that if she could give back to the local community by providing food, she did not need to attract many customers, but rather, she needed to steadily put this into practice. She decided to start by doing things close to home, such as greetings and posting, so that she could have contact with the local people.


gWhen I was talking to employees about compassion, such as standing up for the feelings of others when something happens, I wondered how much I could stand up for the feelings of others, and then I wondered what the neighbors and local people thought about Watazen. We have a lot of school excursions, and when they pass by Watazen, the excited students are always making a lot of noise. The neighbors were always smiling and greeting me, but I suddenly realized that the local people really helped me out on a daily basis. So I started posting and talking to people in local area and asking local people if they would be interested in doing something like this when I greeted them.h


Discussion: COVID-19 as a part of ejourneyf of entrepreneurial process

gEverydayh Entrepreuring

The entrepreneurial process in crises/adversities situations focuses on a series of responses to describe how the entrepreneur tries to overcome the situation. For example, responses to crises/adversities targeting SMEs, such as typhoon damage (Runyan 2006) and earthquake response (Smallbone et al. 2012), also describe how they overcome the situation. However, crises/adversities vary widely (Doern et al. 2019), and in cases such as COVID-19, where the crises/adversity are uncertain and persistent, multiple bricolage responses can be taken continuously over a period of time to adapt to the current situation and to demonstrate resilience. The bricolage responses were improvised in the early stages of COVID-19's expansion, but since then, they have been pre-planned. In other words, the bricolage responses that could be taken were not necessarily uniform, and could change depending on the types of crises/adversities.

In addition, the bricolage responses taken under such situations is considered to include elements of the entrepreneurial process that can be called proactive and innovative (Kreiser and Davis 2010). In fact, Watazen's improvisation of "Terakoya" in the early stages of COVID-19's expansion and the summer festival were the first attempts for entrepreneurs and business organizations. However, in contrast to the Terakoya and the summer festival, the lunches and bento lunches, which were pre-planned and practiced as a bricolage responses, are "everyday" (Welter et al. 2016) that are an extension of the provision of food.

In addition, personal behaviors and attitudes are important when resilience is demonstrated in SMEs, one of which has reticent planning and investment, and the value of autonomy and high locus of control (Branicki et al. 2018). Even under COVID-19, Watazen was able to reduce the potential vulnerabilities before COVID-19 became serious due to retained earnings, additional financing, and even customer prospects (Williams et al. 2017), so an entrepreneur had the value of autonomy and high locus of control (Branicki et al. 2018). What can be pointed out here, however, is that even before the COVID-19 infections spread, Watazen had a consciousness of securing enough retained earnings to last for a certain period of time when the company's performance had deteriorated in the past. Thus the "everyday" management attitude of entrepreneurs and organizations prior to crises/adversities leads to entrepreneurs having the value of autonomy and a high locus of control (Branicki et al. 2018).

In this way, bricolage responses as responses appropriate to the situation at the time, and responses that are "everyday" (Welter et al. 2016) and "muddling through" (Branicki et al. 2018) in crises/adversities that will be faced many times in the history of business development, resilience is demonstrated from the accumulation of such responses. In other words, the entrepreneurial process in crises/adversities is part of the everyday entrepreneurial practices of entrepreneurs, described as a "journey".


Back to the Past (Review the old)

In SMEs, it has been pointed out that for resilience to be demonstrated in crises/adversities, there is an additional family-like relationship with employees (Branicki et al. 2018). As the COVID-19 infections spread, among bricolage responses taken by Watazen, the delivery of lunch boxes and the summer festival led to a joy among employees who were anxious because of the lack of work, and the practice of "Terakoya" to temporarily take care of children was a desire to deal with the fact that schools were closed and female part-timers could not come to work. This may be because there was a family-like relationship between the entrepreneur and the employees at Watazen.

However, the real reason why Ms. Ono, the young proprietress of Watazen, took these bricolage responses was because some of the employees had nowhere else to work after leaving the company, and Ms. Ono felt that they had no choice but to do something to keep these employees working for Watazen. The reason why they decided to take care of children at the "Terakoya" was originally because Ms. Ono wanted to deal with the problem of female employees not put down roots at Watazen. In this way, the bricolage responses taken by SMEs in times of crises/adversities stems from the fact that the entrepreneur have needed to do something about the problems that SMEs have generally faced before. Although being aware of these issues, the entrepreneur was too busy with their daily operations to deal with them. However, when COVID-19 situation became more serious, they refrained from doing business and their operations were suspended.

Watazen also served many to the local people when COVID-19 situation became serious and its business was not conducted. This was because when the number of customers decreased drastically during COVID-19, Ms. Ono thought back to the past when many customers had come as "thankful days," and also felt grateful for their cooperation of the local community by accepting many students on school excursions, and wanted to make the local people happy by serving foods. Furthermore, as COVID-19 became more serious, Ms. Ono wanted to work together in some way with their friend, the grocer, and the proprietress of the local inns, with whom they had had an estranged relationship, and this eventually led to several bricolage responses by working together. In practicing bricolage response,  "network bricolage" (Baker 2007) may be needed, which links the internal resources of the company with external resources expressed as various relationships with business partners and communities, and the accumulation of knowledge and experience that contributes to this linkage. In addition to entrepreneurial factors such as knowledge and experience accumulation (Duymedjian and Rüling 2010), capability (Kuckertz et al. 2020), and the availability of external resources (Duymedjian and Rüling 2010), which contribute to the linkage, were pointed out. However, the grocer's friend and the proprietress of the nearby inn were resources that had not been used before and were not perceived as valuable (Baker and Nelson 2005), but by making new connections, they created new use values (Jack et al. 2010), and led to the creation of business opportunities (Sarasvathy 2009). The important point here is the various relationships centered on the entrepreneur. The grocery store has been a friend of Ms. Ono since her university days, and she has been following her efforts through SNS. The proprietress of an inn in the local area has been in contact with her through a meeting. In these ways, the experience and knowledge that the entrepreneur had before the crises/adversities, as well as the distance-relationship with the entrepreneur, came back to the mind of entrepreneur under such situations, and the entrepreneur could utilize them.



This paper focuses on SMEs as a field of entrepreneurship in the context of COVID-19, which is different in nature from previous crises/adversities, and describes the entrepreneurial process of how a SME have tried to overcome the situation from the perspective of "journey" with specific case of a SME. In the entrepreneurial processes are described from the perspective of "journey", more diverse and continuous bricolage responses are taken to overcome crises/adversities, and then resilience is demonstrated in SMEs. This paper reveals two points. First, the bricolage responses were "everyday" ones, an extension of what SMEs had been doing before the crises/adversities, and the "everyday" management attitude was the background that made them possible. Second, in crises/adversities, the human resource challenges that the company had before the crises/adversities, the experiences and knowledge of the entrepreneur or organization, and the distance-relationship with the entrepreneur are rediscovered and utilized in a way that reflects on the past. In other words, they leads to the practices of bricolage responses in crises/adversities.

In general, "journey" brings a fun to experience the days away from the everyday. When the journey is over, we return to our daily lives, but sometimes we feel nostalgic as we remember the extraordinary world (experiences, knowledge, encounters with people, etc.) we experienced in the past. The entrepreneurial process of SMEs described as a "journey" may be different from a typical "journey" in that while there are some extraordinary experiences, most of them are geverydayh. However, entrepreneurial journey and a general journey are common in that they recall experiences, knowledge, and people encounters in the past, and these can be utilized in crises/adversities. In Japan, there is a Chinese proverb, "Onko-Chishin," which means to look back to the past and use the experience and knowledge gained to succeed or fail in the future. By looking at the entrepreneurial process by SMEs in times of crises/adversities as a "journey," the experiences, knowledge, and relationships gained through every days and looking back on the past, not only at the time of the crises/adversities, but also long before that time, can be used to help SMEs in crises/adversities. This leads to the practices of bricolage responses by SMEs and makes them resilient.

In this paper, we examined the entrepreneurial process under COVID-19, where crises/adversities persists. From the perspective from SMEs in a field of entrepreneurship (Wiklund et al., 2011), this paper contributes to research in management, entrepreneurship, and crisis management in that it examines the entrepreneurial process in a case where crises/adversity are different from the previous local crises/adversities with a somewhat limited time span (Doern et al., 2019), However, there are some limitations of this paper. First, not only has COVID-19 not been completely overcome, but because the research for this paper was conducted in the COVID-19 context, it does not provide enough information to explain "a sequence of events" (McMullen and Dimov 2013). The situation of COVID-19 is changing day by day, and it will be more difficult to get entrepreneurs to recall their feelings as the days go by. Secondly, the narrative approach adopted in this paper relies on the interpretation as a conversation, and is biased toward the individual speaker and listener (Berglund 2007), which has certain limitations as an analytical method. Third, although the entrepreneurial process has been explained from the perspective of the entrepreneur, the perspectives of various actors must also be taken into account in order to describe the interactions with peers and residents in the local area (Steyaert and Katz 2004). Fourth, although the case in this paper is a SME located in Kyoto, Japan, it is needed to considered how the contexts of space, such as Japan (or Kyoto), and temporal, such as the time of the study, will affect the implications of this paper (Zahra et al. 2014). These are all challenges in the future.




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Table 1. The major bricolage responses of Watazen under COVID-19


Late February 2020

March/April 2020

Early July 2020



Summer Festival


Eeducational services to local children about food loss issues

Efree and paid lunches to local people

Efree and paid lunches to local people (wearing costumes)

EExperience traditional crafts, saxophone concerts, and other events mainly for local people






Impacts of COVID-19 and  opportunities

ESchool closure

EFemale part-timers will not be able to come to work (poor retention of female employees)

ERefrain from business due to declared emergency

ETo relieve the stress of the local people with joy

ETo relieve employees' anxiety about the lack of work

ECancellation of local events such as festivals

ETo create sales opportunities for nearby souvenir shops

ETo create a project with the people from the traditional industries who came to worry about us.

Internal resources


EThe young landlady
ECheffs Cooking

ECheffs Cooking


ECheffs Cooking

External resources


EGrocery Store (a Friend)

ENeighboring innsi3 innsj

ETraditional Craftsman


Source: The author




[1] Press information in January 2020 by Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare. Available at: www.mhlw.go.jp/stf/houdou/houdou_list_202001.html (accessed 14 December 2020)

[2] They are Tokyo Metropolitan area and Saitama, Chiba, Kanagawa, Osaka, Hyogo, and Fukuoka Prefectures.

[3] They are Hokkaido, Ibaraki, Ishikawa, Gifu, Aichi, and Kyoto Prefectures.

[4] On temporary closure of city schools to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus infection by The Kyoto City Board of Education. Available at www.city.kyoto.lg.jp/kyoiku/page/0000265824.html (accessed on 14 December 2020)

[5] The SMEs Basic Act, which defines SMEs in Japan, covers SMEs in service industry to have either a capital of 100 million yen or less or 100 employees or less.

[6] According to the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology in Japan, a terakoya is "a simple school where common children learn the rudiments of reading and writing," and is "a private educational institution established on the basis of the lives of common people in the Edo period. Its origin dates back to the end of the Middle Ages and is thought to have been derived from temple education. The teacher of a terakoya was called a master and the students were called terako. The teacher's status was usually that of a commoner, such as a samurai, priest, priest, or doctor, who was not only the teacher but also the manager of the terakoya. This is from the 100-year history of the academic system by Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (Available at www.mext.go.jp/b_menu/hakusho/html/others/detail/1317577.htm (accessed on 14 December 2020)