LIHUE — A local clothing company had humble beginnings but recently received some national recognition.
Vance Pascua, Ainofea owner and CEO, was the subject of an interview by a Forbes magazine contributing writer. The interview was published online earlier this week.
“I’m still blown away. A little kid from Kauai getting kind of exposure, you never hear of that,” Pascua said. “I’m still humbled and blessed, and still thinking that I’m not worthy. I mean, that’s the pinnacle of where you want to be as far as being acknowledged. I never thought I’d ever be on Forbes. I was just like, ‘Wow.’”
Pascua said he encountered the Forbes writer at a speaking engagement at Kauai Community College in October. He was interviewed in November.
“KCC was having me do talks with students in their business classes. One of the classes that I talked to, one of the moderators just so happened to be a retired entrepreneur but he was actually a contributor to the magazine,” he said Wednesday. “He heard my story and said, ‘I want to interview you.’ It was simple as that.”
He added: “He liked the story, the way I started sort of grassroots and the message, (having) limited resources and now how far I’m extending, he was intrigued and blown away a little bit. I’m like, ‘Blown away with me? You’re like a $200 million guy.’ He’s retired. He sold IPOs, like $230 million sales, just outrageous numbers. He’s a part-time resident here and slowly getting into the community, but he was interested in the story.”
Some of the topics that were talked about in the feature include:
- the brand’s moniker Ainofea, meaning “I No Fear,” which is aimed to empower the youth
- being motivated to establish a local company and branch outward when he’s seen companies not from Hawaii build their brands here
- launching his startup in 2006
The Ainofea store opened at the Kukui Grove Shopping Center in Lihue in February. The store has five part-time employees and Pascua’s wife, Roxanne, runs it.
His Ainofea clothing also sells on Maui and in Seattle, and he’s planning on expanding to New Zealand and parts of Europe.
“I’m going in March to New Zealand. I already reached out, and I got a distribution setting up in Europe,” Pascua said. “Then, actually, somebody’s interested in doing something in Ukraine. I asked them, ‘Do you guys even know how to pronounce this?’ They said, ‘We like the designs. We’ll figure out the rest later.’ I was like, ‘OK.’”
Ainofea also has hosted local mixed martial arts shows, the last event was in June 2017 in Hanapepe, and has established an annual bodybuilding competition.
Pascua said he intends to put on another MMA show on Kauai, but for now his efforts are focused on the clothing company.
Nick Celario, sports writer, can be reached at 245-0437 or firstname.lastname@example.org.