High Hopes

LIHUE — Three Kauai companies are vying to get a potentially lucrative sales opportunity by entering their products in Wal-Mart’s “Get On The Shelf” competition. The contest offers an opportunity to get visibility for their products.

An online public voting audition runs through Sept. 2.

The winners will have their product sold through Walmart.com, and the grand champions will receive marketing support and meet with the Wal-Mart’s merchandising team.

Pop-up MicroLite

John and Jessica Teel run MicroLite Tech, Inc. in Kalaheo. The patented “Pop-up MicroLite” is a miniature, hands-free LED lighting device that can stick anywhere and provide illumination.

The product is already in hundreds of stores around the country, including Oahu, as well as in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and from Amazon.com.

The couple hopes the exposure from the Wal-Mart contest will boost the product to the next level.

John is a microchip design engineer whose work is present in several portable devises for name brand companies. His patented “pop-up” mechanism allows downlighting back onto the object the light is attached to, such as a remote control or other small items.

“That is the really nice thing about this product,” he said.

Financing was a challenge, but a manufacturer who believed in the product agreed to cover tooling costs for a per-unit recoup agreement. With the ability to meet demand up to 760,000 units per month, the sky is the limit. Teel uses a California warehouse to avoid shipping costs from Hawaii.

“This is a learning process and much harder than anyone could imagine,” he said.

Hawaiian Optics

Marti Nice started Hawaiian Optics of Kealia in 2007. The business grew with a line of performance, sport and designer polarized eyewear at relatively lower prices and a progressive image aimed at the 18- to 45-year-old market.

Their video emphasizes a variety of men’s and women’s optics polarized and polarized photochromatic sunglasses. The Essilor lenses, including the new prescription Xperio Polarized line, are fitted to frames produced in Milan, Italy.

Hawaiian Optics sells online and at retailers on the islands. The Wal-Mart collection would be sold in the optical departments in the $90 to $150 range.

“This new collection will include eyewear styles that our consumers mostly ask us for, larger women’s fashion, larger facial fit for men, semi-rimless sport, plus many more styles,” Nice said. “We are really trying to have a fit for everybody.”

A new “Asian Facial Fit” line offers numerous styles with various sizes of nose bridges and ear-arms that are meant to attract the local population and the growing number of travelers from Asia.

Hawaiian Optics wants to promote brand recognition on the Mainland. Should the company win in its category with the Wal-Mart opportunity, Nice said they would have technology, marketing and expansion plans that are specific to Wal-Mart. They would also like to add free promotional Hawaii trip giveaways.

“We would like to offer these promotions on a continuous basis,” Nice said. “We are putting together travel partners to make this a success. Everybody loves Hawaii, right?!”

“da-napkinman”

Kalaheo resident John Hodges hopes to realize his dream of launching an origami napkin line, printed on paper rather than linen. The “da-napkinman” line of Hawaiian-style napkin products operates under JCH Hawaii, LTD.

Schooled in advertising and graphic design, Hodges has worked in the hospitality and timeshare industry for the past several years. The work of creating an origami paper napkin as an alternative to linen started back in 1989 and he now has five patented designs — Bird of Paradise, Conch Shell, Pineapple, Rainbow and Fish.

“I have combined the process of origami design with the paper napkin industry to create a new product,” Hodges said.

After concluding deals with print-manufacturing and packaging companies, the capacity to produce millions of napkins a month was possible. Once patent applications were complete, Hodges sought contracts with large retail and industrial companies, including the Wal-Mart contest.

Hodges is counting on his tropical origami napkins to do well with the theme party and luau market. He has sales reps working on several possibilities.

“This is a true re-launch about capturing the origami paper napkin industry and I am committed to get this back on the market,” Hodges said. “I appreciate the exposure that I am getting with the contest.”

The public can vote daily for their favorite product video, including 17 Hawaii entrees at https://getontheshelf.walmart.com/state/HI.

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