Corporate museums lie somewhere in between the academic world of museums and the business world of companies. They also serve as organizations that help companies manage many aspects of their operations, including public relations, branding, advertising, and human resources. This article series will explore corporate museums, their roles and functions, and the opportunities they present, all with the help of PR professionals.

 

Kyoko Fujii
PR Consulting Dentsu Inc.

 

Duskin Museum: Embodying the founder’s desire to “sow the seeds of joy”

Duskin is a pioneer of franchising in Japan. In its cleaning business, the company has also, since its foundation more than 60 years ago, been a forerunner of other now common practices, not only franchising. Its innovations include subscription services, recycling, and harnessing the talents of women. Duskin, an early mover on many business trends, runs Duskin Museum in Suita City, Osaka, where the company was founded. In this article, we take a look at the work and content of the museum, which underwent a major refurbishment in 2024, adding new exhibits.

 

Duskin’s museum focusing on its two main businesses of “Cleaning” and “Mister Donut”

 

Duskin Museum, as seen from the outside: Photo courtesy of Duskin

 

Duskin Museum in Suita City, Osaka Prefecture, where the company was launched, can be found on the first and second floor of a building that also houses the company’s training facilities. With a total floor area of 1320 m², the museum employs approximately 40 people. The museum focuses on the two main strands of the company’s business, with the first floor occupied by Mister Donut Museum (Misdo Museum), and the second floor dedicated to the company’s cleaning business. The museum was planned in 2013 as part of the celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the company’s founding. It opened its doors in 2015.

When the museum first welcomed visitors, the company’s General Affairs department, which also looks after the building that houses the museum, was responsible for running the museum but the duties were later shifted to Public Relations, the department to which the museum’s current director, Yukie Sugino, belongs. Sugino first joined the company in 1989, working in the Food Group and Direct Selling Group before joining Public Relations, the department responsible for corporate communications, where she served for many years before becoming director of the museum in April 2024. As a veteran of the company, she is well-versed in its corporate culture and history.

Since the museum aims to provide an enjoyable experience to a wide range of visitors, it targets a variety of different visitor groups. While many visitors are families with children or groups of friends, the museum also accepts study tours from employees of Duskin franchises. It also provides training for the company’s new employees. As some visitors arrive from overseas, pamphlets, which can be downloaded from the museum website, are available in English, Chinese and Korean.

The museum has become a popular attraction of the Hokusetsu Region (Northern Osaka Prefecture and Eastern Hyogo Prefecture), and by February 2024, the cumulative number of visitors since the museum’s opening had exceeded 400,000. Between April 2023 and March 2024, approximately 100,000 people visited the facility, its largest ever annual visitor total. On some Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, queues of up to around 50 people can be found waiting to enter the museum when it opens in the morning. The doughnut making experiences are particularly popular, with participants selected in a drawing from among advance applications. Following its recent refurbishment, the museum is targeting an annual visitor total of 120,000 people, a number which cannot be exceeded as it represents the maximum limit of the facility’s capacity.

 

Second floor: “Cleaning Pavillion”

We start our tour of the facility with the “Cleaning Pavilion” on the second floor, which provides visitors with the opportunity to learn about the history of Duskin and the cleaning industry.

 

The “Cleaning Pavilion”: Photo courtesy of Duskin

 

The trigger for Duskin’s foundation dates back to 1961. Seiichi Suzuki, the company’s founder, was born in 1911. Before founding Duskin, he ran a company involved in building maintenance and the sale of cleaning supplies. In 1959, he met Dr. Melvin J. Evans, the founder of Democracy in Action (DIA), a US movement, grounded in Christianity that sought to democratize the relationship between companies and their employees. Suzuki was deeply impressed when he heard Dr. Evans speak in the Japanese city of Nara. This experience led him to decide, two years later, in 1961, to travel to the US for DIA training. Once in the US, Suzuki was introduced by Dr. Evans to Lou Mendelson, president of the Canadian company Central Overall.

Suzuki and Mendelson became friends, and their friendship eventually led Mendelson to provide Suzuki, free of charge, with knowledge of his company’s dust control system technology. A dust control system works to control dust particles of all sizes through the use of special adsorbent materials and cleaning equipment which allows removal without the use of water. At the time, standard Japanese cleaning implements were a feather duster, broom, and cloth. As wiping down surfaces with a cloth required the use of water, this made life difficult for the person cleaning, particularly in the cold of winter. In 1963, immediately after returning to Japan, Suzuki launched his first dust control business, naming the company Sani-Clean. In 1964, he changed the company name to Duskin Co., Ltd. That same year, the company began selling chemically-treated dust cloths under the name “Home Duskin.”

 

A Duskin advertisement published soon after the launch of the company: Photo courtesy of Duskin

 

This new method of cleaning, which did not require any water, soon spread throughout Japan. As it freed people from the onerous task of cleaning with cold water, it soon became known as the “magic cloth.”

 

Franchises, subscription services, and harnessing the talents of female employees

This innovative product was also promoted through a pioneering method of business development. Back then, Central Overall was using a franchise model to expand its dust control business in Canada, but at time, franchising was unknown to people in Japan. Despite this, Suzuki decided to introduce a franchising system providing company products and business know-how to franchisees who appreciated his business philosophy of prioritizing the joy of customers. While the franchise system was originally introduced under the company’s former name of Sani-Clean, it led to Duskin becoming one of the pioneers of franchising systems in Japan.

Duskin also adopted a rental system under which customers did not buy products outright. Rather, they received regular replacements of dirty products with clean ones. Today, subscription businesses are extremely common, but Duskin has been using this method of sales for more than 60 years.

What’s more, women accounted for many of the Duskin employees who visited the homes of subscription customers to deliver their products. As it was difficult for women at the time to find full-time employment, this was an innovative employment strategy that contributed greatly to women’s participation in society.

The “Home Duskin” rental system was also an early forerunner of an eco-friendly, recycling business that contributes to the circular economy. The company manages to recycle 97% of the products it collects back from customers. The remaining 3% of products that simply cannot be recycled are burned as fuel. Duskin even recycles the dust and dirt attached to its mops and mats as ingredients for cement. As these examples show, Duskin has continually served as a pioneer of Japanese industry, introducing various new business model into the country ahead of its competitors.

 

Duskin Dust Busters, exterior: Photo courtesy of Duskin: Photo courtesy of Duskin

 

 

Duskin Dust Busters, interior: Photo courtesy of Duskin: Photo courtesy of Duskin

 

Alongside information on the history of Duskin and cleaning, the “Cleaning Pavilion” also includes an interactive theater-style attraction called Duskin Dust Busters, which sees museum visitors climb aboard a fighter plane, transform through miniaturization, and battle house dust in a micro-level world, adventuring around the room where dust settles, shooting the dust to remove it. The attraction provides an opportunity to learn about cleaning through an exciting, enjoyable experience.

 

First floor: Mister Donut Museum (Misdo Museum)

 

Busts of Harry Winokur, founder of Mister Donut, and his wife Etta: Photo courtesy of Duskin

 

Visitors to Misdo Museum on the first floor of the facility are first greeted at the entrance by two busts, representing Harry Winokur, founder of Mister Donut, and his wife Etta. Further inside the museum are exhibits introducing the history of the doughnut types available at Mister Donut, as well as information on the secret behind their good taste, and further content that allows visitors to experience the manufacturing process behind the creation of the doughnuts.

You may be interested to know that Misdo, the nickname used in the title of the museum, is a shortened version of “Mister Donut” which is used throughout Japan. This nationwide usage contrasts with some other well-known brand nicknames that vary depending on where you are in the country. For example, in the area around Tokyo, McDonald’s is known as Mac and Universal Studios is known as USJ, while people living in the area around Osaka say Makudo and Yuniba, respectively. It is unclear why Mister Donut managed to hold onto the same nickname throughout the country, but the use of the simple three-character moniker (Japanese uses only three letters to write mi-su-do) in the museum name shows a brand in touch with the feelings of its fans.

 

Visitors to the museum can enjoy decorating doughnuts in Misdo Kitchen on the first floor: Photo taken by the writer

 

Launching a doughnut business

Mister Donut operates a completely different field of business from dust control and cleaning, so how did Duskin first move into the doughnut business?

Back in 1968, as Home Duskin was finally getting off the ground, company founder Seiichi Suzuki decided to return to the United States to learn more about the franchising business. On a trip organized by Dr. Evans’ son, he went to visit Mister Donut of America, Inc, which opened in the US in 1955.

At the time, Suzuki was not intending to start up a food business but after trying some doughnuts in a store, he was amazed by their good taste and decided that he wanted as many people as possible to share in the joy of the same delicious experience that he had had. This led him to decide, on January 27, 1970, to launch a doughnut business in Japan. The company celebrates this date as the yearly anniversary of the founding of Mister Donut with various different events and programs.

One such initiative is the donation of some of the sales revenue from Mister Donut stores collected on the January 27 to the Duskin Ainowa Foundation, which supports the independence and social participation of people with disabilities. The foundation was established in 1981, which was the year after the 10th anniversary of the founding of Mister Donut, and also the International Year of Disabled Persons as decreed by the United Nations. Supporting the independence and social participation of people with disabilities has been the mission of the foundation since its inception.

The foundation operates two personnel development programs: the “Duskin Study Abroad Leaders Program for the Disabled,” which gives young persons with disabilities in Japan who hope to contribute to their communities through leadership roles the opportunity to participate in training programs overseas, and the “Duskin Leadership Training Program in Japan,” a program which invites persons with disabilities from Asia-Pacific regions to come and study in Japan. Through these two programs, more than 520 people from Japan have been sent out overseas. When students from overseas invited to Japan are included, more than 670 people from Japan and overseas have taken part in these training programs. Many of the program alumni are now serving in leadership roles in welfare services.

 

The Birth of the Donuts Forest

In March 2024, Misdo Museum reopened following a refurbishment which included the addition of a new exhibit area. To mark the opening, Duskin held a press conference inside the museum on March 14, also providing a media preview of the new exhibits. The event attracted journalists and camera crews from national dailies, news agencies, and television stations. After explanations were provided to the assembled press by Akira Kita, head of Duskin’s Public Relations department, the attendees were shown the new Donuts Forest area, before being taken to enjoy a doughnut decoration experience and tasting session in Misdo Kitchen.

The theme behind the development of the Donuts Forest is helping visitors to Misdo Museum enjoy “delicious memories created by Mister Donut.” The concept for the exhibit came from staff working regularly in the museum and Mister Donut stores.

The luxuriant vegetation of the forest is composed of trees that bear doughnut fruits, with illustrations and models representing 127 types of doughnuts and pies selected especially from the more than 1,800 product variations that have been sold by the company since its founding. Each of the doughnuts displayed along a wall of around 11 meters in length is labelled with a QR code, and a touch panel monitor is installed in one corner of the wall to provide explanations of the products. Touch panel monitors in a separate area also introduce Mister Donut’s SDG-related initiatives, giving visitors the opportunity to learn about SDGs.

 

Public Relations Manager Akira Kita explaining the new museum in front of the Donuts Forest: Photo taken by the writer

 

Act for Eliminating Discrimination against People with Disabilities and the Museum

The new, redesigned museum does not just feature new exhibits. It was also redesigned to allow universal, unimpeded access. On April 1, 2024, the Japanese government passed an amendment to the law on the elimination of discrimination against persons with disabilities. In accordance with this new law, the museum has made various accessibility modifications including the replacement of steps in certain places with slopes, making it simpler for persons with disabilities and other people who find it hard to use steps to enjoy a smooth museum visit. The changes include modifications to the angle and size of the touch panel monitors for searching museum exhibits and to the position of the search key, making it easier for people in wheelchairs and small children to operate the screens.

Serving as an advisor on this improved accessibility project was Mitsutoshi Oyabu, a former participant in the “Duskin Study Abroad Leaders Program for the Disabled” mentioned above. Speaking about the new arrangements, Mr. Oyabu commented “I am pleased that I was able to make proposals related to the installation of slopes and devices and equipment. I hope the museum continues to be a facility that is welcoming to all people.”

 

Mr. Mitsutoshi Oyabu: Photo courtesy of Duskin

 

Sowing the Seeds of Joy

Duskin founder Seiichi Suzuki once said, “Our work at Duskin is about sowing the seeds of joy. Sowing the seeds of joy means that we try our best to become men of virtue, which, as a result, brings about growth with profits.” In the spirit of the founder’s philosophy, the museum continues to serve as a venue for the company’s contributions to society including through initiatives such as the invitations to the museum given to underprivileged children in Suita City who eat at community kitchens providing free food (these activities are coordinated with the Osaka Prefectural government).

Duskin has worked to free people from the hard labor of cleaning with cold water, and to provide good memories through delicious doughnuts. The company has also worked to harness the talents of women and was one of the first companies to support environmentally friendly activities. Duskin Museum will no doubt continue to refurbish its exhibits and enhance its position in the community as a venue for “sowing the seeds of joy” as it carries on its role as a venue that highlights the actions Duskin is taking to address social problems.