Made In Hawaii Festival helps small businesses grow

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Owning your own business is a challenge but the Made In Hawaii Festival is a blessing to mom-and-pop shops and local entrepreneurs for years. Exhibitors said it’s the biggest show around and it’s vital to their bottom line and marketing their products. 

Jeremie Makepa and his wife own Born Hawaii, a clothing line based on Kauai. Though they have a store there, they’ve traveled to be in the Made In Hawaii show for the last eight years. 

“We come out here, it’s really busy all the time. We like to bring out all our new stuff to show it off on Oahu…especially being from a small island like Kauai, its hard to get our brand out to a big place like this, a big market,” Makepa said.

And getting your product out there is key especially when you’re just starting out like Kristopher Marr, of Marr Artworks. He and his wife started their business a year ago and are still learning the ropes.

“Figuring out how to get into shows, how to present our stuff at shows, how to sell stuff,  all of the kind of newbie stuff to learn…this is the first really big (show) we’ve done so we’re nervous. We were super glad we got in and we hope we do well this weekend,” Marr said.

“This is really what I consider to be Hawaii’s business incubator and I know it’s a goal for a lot of small businesses that they want to be in this festival,” explained Amy Hammond,  the Executive Director of Made In Hawaii Festival.

There are 420 vendors this year. Some old. Some new. But all of them local and facing similar hurdles. One of those is making ends meet while you’re building your business.

“I still work full time trying to make the stuff and (my wife) is helping me full time trying to get into shows and do all that stuff and she also makes the stuff too,” Marr said.

But once you’ve put in the time, learned your craft and successfully marketed your product. Things do get better. Just ask Mike Kim, who’s been at it for 17 years.

“My business name  is coconut connection and I’m a broom maker. I make Hawaiian brooms out of coconut leaves… it took some time but that was the hard part but it was fun. I enjoyed it, I enjoyed every moment of it,” Kim said.

The other secret to success? Enjoying what you do.

Gale Sagucio owns JJ Ohana and has been making and selling Niihau shell jewelry for 30 years. 

“It’s a struggle, but you got to keep on doing it,” Sagucio said. 

KHON asked, “Why do you do this?”

“I love what I do,” Sagucio said with a smile.

For more on the Made In Hawaii Festival click here.

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