Two Japanee Bruddahs: Entrepreneur Kaori Nagao Holds Key to Hawai’i’s Ninth Island

I wrote this for my Two Japanee Bruddahs column, published in the New Year’s special edition of the Nichi Bei Times. PHOTO: Kaori Nagao (left) and Sylvia Torres.

Kaori Nagao didn’t know it then, but her education at an international school in Yokohama, Japan, turned out to be an ideal environment for her later role as owner and president of a concierge services company in Las Vegas.

The Saint Maur International School graduate now runs AngeLiKa Promotions, a company that creates hassle-free and wait-free VIP experiences for visitors to the Nevada entertainment mecca. Nagao’s clients can choose from a wide range of services, including nightlife, hotel, fine dining, show and concert, spa, nightlife, executive limousine, convention and trade show reservations.

All of which is a long way of saying that if you want a rock star experience in Las Vegas, put Nagao’s number on your speed dial.

And she knows a little something about rock stars. Her graduating class of 21 students included children of celebrities, famous baseball and soccer players, as well as influential business executives.

“You had to have a foreign connection to get into my school,” said Nagao. “I was able to get in because my mother was an interpreter for a Japanese medical association and she traveled a lot abroad.”

After high school, Nagao decided to pursue a marketing degree at the University of California, Riverside. “I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur,” she said, “influenced by the fact that my father owned a real estate company in Tokyo.”

“While living in L.A., I would go to my friend’s parties in Hollywood. I came out to his events, brought a lot of people with me, and he eventually recruited me as one of his promoters. I learned the ins and outs of throwing parties and events.”

After graduating from UC-Riverside, Nagao continued promoting events, but took a day job at Lieberman Research Worldwide as a research manager.

Nagao used her short time in L.A. to develop a base of contacts and relationships that would help build her future business. One of her international school friends, Lisa Moriwaki, had graduated from the University of Southern California and was working with Nagao in the promotions business.

“Lisa had all the Trojan contacts and I had all my Bruin contacts,” said Nagao. “It was a good foundation.” Nagao and Moriwaki are now partners in AngeLiKa Promotions.

Fast forward about two years, past the Beverly Hills bashes and album and movie release parties. Nagao was 25 and wanted a change.

“It was my quarterlife crisis and I was maxed out on L.A. All the parties started to feel the same. It was always the same crowd and I wanted something new and different.”

“So I packed up my things into my little Acura and moved to Las Vegas. Lisa stayed in L.A. and I decided to move by myself. If it didn’t work out, I could always go back.”

Nagao’s move to Las Vegas wasn’t actually a solo act. “Every time I relocate, my mom flies in from Japan and we move together, so she was there with me. I’m an only child, so she’s very protective.”

What did her mother think of her move to Sin City? “She’s someone who supports whatever choices I make, so she wasn’t shocked (about the move). My mom is very different from traditional Japanese parents. She’s more Americanized.”

“My father died when I was six months old,” said Nagao. “And my mom raised me as a single parent until she remarried. She taught me the value of bring independent and so a large part of who I am today is because of her.”

Nagao wasted no time creating business opportunities in Las Vegas. “I started going to all the networking events – there’s one every day here. One of the developers involved in the Manhattan project south of the Strip was one of the first people I met and he helped build my nightlife contacts.”

AngeLiKa Promotions quickly became one of the top VIP concierge companies in town. “We’re the only personalized and professional concierge business in Las Vegas,” said Nagao. “Some companies just do nightlife and some just focus only on hosting the high-roller gamblers – we do it all.”

One of Nagao’s clients is singer-actress Gina Hiraizumi, who Nagao met through Gina’s sister Keli, a VIP services manager at Caesers Palace.

“Gina’s an inspiration for me because so many Asian American women are trying to make it in the entertainment industry and Gina’s actually doing it. I want to do what I can to help her.” Nagao recommended that Hiraizumi pursue her career and Japan, a move that Hiraizumi made just recently.

In addition to the services offered by AngeLiKa Promotions, Nagao also consults businesses, especially Japanese companies, that want to expand or develop a presence in Las Vegas. Her entry into this line of work started from Nagao’s freelance interpretation services for major property owners such as MGM MIRAGE.

“I was asked to interpret a business meeting between MGM execs and Super Potato, a Japanese design company,” said Nagao. “Super Potato was pitching design work for a new restaurant at Mandalay Bay (an MGM property) and they won the project after that presentation.”

Super Potato is the kind of marquee client serviced by Nagao that highlights the caliber of her talents. Designer Takashi Sugimoto of Super Potato was recently inducted into the Interior Design Magazine Hall of Fame.

Nagao seems to be navigating the recession well. “We’ve been fortunate that we haven’t seen a drastic decrease in business. The quantity has dropped, but the quality (of business) has remained steady.”

Nagao’s colleague, Sylvia Torres, has taken a more prominent role as Nagao’s partner in Las Vegas. “Without her support, I would not have been a able to grow my business and accomplish all the wonderful things we have in the past three-and-a-half years in Las Vegas.”

“Sylvia keeps me grounded. We’re like the yin and the yang when it comes to business and we work very well together. Sylvia’s role is to oversee the operations and manage our team.”

Her company continues to prosper in part because she’s focused on clients from international markets such as Japan, Canada, Mexico and Europe. Nagao is fluent in Spanish as well as Japanese and English.

“I want to help more Japanese companies move into the U.S. market,” said Nagao. “I’d love to be the one to help these businesses establish themselves here.”

Learn more about Kaori Nagao and her Las Vegas concierge company by visiting http://angelikapromotions.com and about her Japanese consulting and business development services at http://angelikaconsulting.com.

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