myoko snowsports - citizen development

In our previous blog, we had Blair Nimmo, from BBN International, talk to us about how he uses Zoho Creator to run everything at the company—from website maintenance to automating business workflows. But for this blog, we're going all the way to Japan.

Located on the foothills of Mount Myoko in Niigata is one of our most unique customers—Myoko Snowsports. With a base in the Akakura Kanko and Akakura Onsen resorts, Myoko Snowsports is a gateway to skiing in the Myoko Kogen range.

For our latest customer spotlight, we had a candid conversation with Tom Langtry, founder and director of Myoko Snowsports, who has been using Zoho Creator for almost 3 years now. Let's take a look at what goes into running a snowsports school, and how Zoho Creator played a pivotal role in digitizing their operations. 

Myoko Snowsports came into being 12 years ago. Could you tell us a little about your journey into founding the company? And how did Japan become your base, even though you're from Australia?

My wife is Japanese and we met in Australia about 18 years ago, while both of us were working as ski instructors in a ski resort in Australia. So, 17 years ago, we decided to shift to Japan. Since the winters in Japan and Australia are at the opposite times of the year, we travelled back and forth between the two countries and worked for multiple ski resorts. In 2009, we decided to set up our own company here in the Niigata prefecture that provides an end-to-end skiing experience.

What are the different services offered at Myoko Snowsports?

We have a snow sports school here at the Akakura resorts, with multiple instructors for skiing and snowboarding, so that we're always available for the guests at the resorts. An equipment shop at the school provides ski and snowboarding equipment—including jackets, pants, and goggles for the guests—on both a renting basis, as well as retail. Finally, we have a photography and experience department that helps guests with everything from family photos on snow to drone coverage of skiing.

Your wife's the managing director and you're the snowsports director at the company. What's a normal day like for you at the company?

We oversee the management of all our departments—snow sports training, media, equipment rental, and we plan the route map for the skiing season every year. And in between all this, we run training programs for our personnel and also recruitment drives to ensure we're not understaffed, since we've expanded to a second base in Lotte Arai Resort, which is around 40km from the Akakura.

What were the processes followed at Myoko Snowsports when it came to managing the different departments? And what sent you looking for a new solution?

We were using different software systems and a custom-built Microsoft Access database, which was built by our friend. We had Microsoft Access for sales and guest databases, Google Sheets for rostering, Excel for payroll management, paper forms for the rental wing, and WooCommerce for managing online bookings. It worked well initially, but as we expanded our business over the years, there were limitations, and bringing all the software under a single roof became a menace. There are a few prebuilt software solutions used by ski resorts around the world, but those didn't appeal to us either because of the pricing or the scalability factor. This sent us out looking for software that was customizable to our needs and could fit in our budget.

How did Zoho Creator and low-code come into the picture? Do you have an in-house IT team to help you?

Well, it was just a Google search that got me into low-code and Zoho Creator. We had built our entire software system on MS Access, and since I don't have a software background with coding expertise, I was looking for solutions that could enable an easy transition. I found a top 10 list in the development category of a PC magazine that had Zoho Creator and a few other names. After some research, I learnt what low-code is and decided to start out with Zoho Creator. The rest is history!


And no, we don't have a designated IT team here. It's a one-man army—I've built the whole application by myself. Since the concept was new to me, I surfed through some online tutorial content during my free trial, since I needed a basic understanding to test the functionality needed to run our business. This went on for about a month and half before I started building the full-fledged application.

Since you're a citizen developer yourself, could you tell us how easy or hard it was to get used to the application development interface?

The basic functionality was pretty easy to learn. The drag-and-drop builder was by far the easiest element I've come across. I created small applications comprising forms, reports, and basic workflows. But when the application started getting advanced, I realized I had to learn Deluge (Zoho's online scripting language) to completely implement my use case at Myoko Snowsports.

Initially, it was not easy; since it was my first time with a programming language. In about 5-6 months, though, the application started serving us well. It's also important to note that it's a never-ending process. Even today, after 2+ years, if there's a requirement, I add new functionalities and make changes to the app. And that's the flexibility we enjoy.

What were the different use cases that were satisfied by Zoho Creator? And what was your single biggest gain in making this technological switch?

We have several modules in the app which cover all our business needs. Inventory, sales management, HR, customer service management, marketing campaigns—the app is our one-stop shop for running our business.

In terms of gain, it's the time that really stands out. The time our staff had to spend maintaining the software has gone down fourfold. Looking back now, we saved paper and a significant amount of time, which is now being put to good use making our guests happy, and freeing us from bottlenecks.

Finally, what are your plans for the near future at Myoko Snowsports, both from a business and a technical standpoint?

From a business aspect, we're planning to continue to develop our services for a more seamless guest experience, as well as expand our team as required to meet demand. From a technical aspect, I hope to roll out our app as a software solution to help my fellow businesspersons who run snow sport operations across the world. In the snow sport industry, you either have an expensive prebuilt product or a cheap one that's lacking functionalities. So I hope to address that gap and make things easier for everyone looking for a solution.

It was fun talking to Tom and listening to his insights, his story, and his passion for the snow. Like Pedro helping out his fellow farmers, we hope to see Tom's software help other snow sport businesses around the world soon.

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