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Buy Hawai‘i, Give Aloha e-commerce for small businesses

  • Contributed by Daniel Finchum at Kaua‘i Aina Art

    John W. Kaohelaulii, owner of Hawaiian Checkers.com and educator of Konane, an ancient Hawaiian board game.

LIHU‘E — Becky Burns, owner of Anahola Granola in Hanapepe, said before the pandemic, they were making 4 tons, or 8,000 pounds, of granola for 5,000 bars a week.

“We now make 2 tons of granola (4,000 pounds) for 1,500 bars a week, and all of our team’s hours have dropped 50%,” Burns said. “Our sales have dropped 50% of what we sold before the pandemic.”

On Aug. 10, the state-funded, a one-stop-shop e-commerce website for Hawai‘i-made products was launched to help boost and support local businesses with their marketing and branding needs.

“As soon as I heard about this website from the folks at Innovative Hawai‘i, I knew I wanted to be a part of the program,” Burns said. “Small businesses in Hawai‘i produce local products that highlight our islands, which spotlight the uniqueness of where we live.”

She continued: “All of our small businesses are greatly suffering right now, and I hope that this website will get our products out there to new customers.”

Burns said an important thing to realize is that they have many expenses as a business that remains the same, even when their sales are cut in half and now the state trying to help.

Lyle Fujikawa, economic development specialist for the state’s Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, said the “Buy Hawai‘i, Give Aloha” website was created to showcase local businesses and Hawai’i-made goods.

“Shoppers who use the portal to discover new brands or companies can shop with confidence knowing that they are purchasing Hawai‘i-made products that help sustain our local economy,” Fujikawa said. “We are just launching now, so (we) are focused on encouraging local consumers to buy Hawai‘i-made products.

Fujikawa said they are gathering hundreds of Hawai‘i businesses in one place to make it easier to be found by kama‘aina shoppers who want to support local businesses.

“We (will) also continue our branding and marketing promotion to help promote businesses first in the local Hawai‘i market, then later on the Mainland and in overseas markets like Japan,” Fujikawa said.

According to Fujikawa, his team will work with their resource partners to provide other services to businesses, including INNOVATE Hawai‘i which will consult with companies who need support in creating an online shopping website and Show Small Hawai‘i which provides marketing workshops and celebrates neighborhoods for their unique products and experiences.

Fujikawa said the Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture manages the Seal of Quality Program for agricultural producers and the Made In Hawai‘i with Aloha (MIHA) Program for value-added producers.

“These programs demonstrate member businesses’ commitment to quality and to supporting the Hawai‘i economy,” Fujikawa said. “A key goal is to encourage businesses to create and strengthen their online shopping websites, so they can sell to, and engage with, customers online, anywhere in the world.”

He continued: “We also are promoting the high value of made in Hawai‘i products, to strengthen the brand among consumers, and to the various businesses in the entire supply chain.”

Fujikawa said buying local directly supports the Hawai‘i economy and helps to retain capital in Hawai‘i.

Another business owner John Kaohelaulii, of HawaiianCheckers.com, sells and teaches Konane, an ancient Hawaiian strategy board game. The game, according to Kaohelaulii, was played long before Captain Cook arrived at the islands.

Kaohelaulii started his company in 2011 and grew his sales by hosting events that would educate people on how to play Konane while he focused on manufacturing it.

In 2015, Kaohelaulii said he changed his focus to just the education side because he believed that without educating and developing a playing population, manufacturing and sales would be limited.

Kaohelaulii said in the 1820s when missionaries came to the islands, they forbade the Hawaiians from playing Konane, and like many components of the Hawaiian culture, it was almost driven out of existence.

“My wife and I own a shoe store called Sole Mates in Old Kapa‘a Town and have done Hawaiian culture classes in our store since 2018 as a way to increase sales and promote Konane,” Kaohelaulii said. “Also in 2018, we started planning to get into the t-shirt business so we could support both businesses with Kapa‘a made products. “

Before the pandemic, Kaohelaulii said his 2020 marketing plan was based on craft booth sales at Hawaiian events located on Kaua‘i and in-store sales at his shoe store Sole Mates.

“This pandemic has forced both of our businesses online in a time when we weren’t really ready,” Kaohelaulii said. “Now that the dust has settled for a while, we now have the time to focus on our e-commerce website to maximize its full potential.”

Kaohelaulii shares his expectations of the state website “Buy Hawai‘i, Give Aloha.”

“The website is another way to penetrate new markets and find new customers,” Kaohelaulii said. “Being part of this program also opens up possibilities to identify new resources that are here or may become available as The State of Hawai‘I look for ways to diversify our economy.”

Kaohelaulii said in the game of Konane, you have to find solutions to the challenges that come in the heat of completion,” Kaohelaulii said. “You have to analyze your situation and make adjustments to put yourself in a better position to be successful.”

He continued: “No one likes to lose, but in that loss is the opportunity to learn a valuable lesson.”

The website features hundreds of local manufacturers, retailers and food services in one place.

“We feature everything from clothing, to snacks and coffee, to fine art and jewelry,” Fujikawa said. “We also promote marketplaces like House of Mana up and Kaua‘i Made, in addition to larger brands like Jams World and Diamond Bakery.”

Fujikawa said there is also a section where shoppers can find restaurants and services like farm delivery, which has become a popular way for people to buy local produce and support local farmers.

All interested businesses may register at invest.hawaii.gov/bhga-application/. Shoppers may check out the website at buy.hawaii.gov.

•••

Stephanie Shinno, features, education, business, and community reporter can be reached at 245-0424 or sshinno@thegardenisland.com.

2 Comments
  1. Kathy Deutsch September 8, 2020 4:45 am Reply

    Most importantly, this article needs a click on link. Very few will type in the address.

    Marketing, and social media types must get a hold of this info and spread it far and wide. Condense this article, make it a 1 min read, add a click through. PLEASE!

    As for me, I will purchase as much as I can for the holiday season through this and other small business sites. A manager at our grocery is Oahu-born. With the pandemic, I have been unable to get pumpkin bars and such to her. She works twice as hard as the other managers, including carrying groceries to cars for people. You betcha she is getting a goody box.

    I love Hawaii, and as a Midwestern Mainlander, I understand the balance of safety and commerce.

    Advertise the website far and wide!
    I will be happy to post it and pass it along.


  2. Debbie Buffalo September 9, 2020 6:27 am Reply

    I’d love to support Kauai small business online.


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