Maui seems to be home to many creative people who not only have a passion for creating what they love, but also create things using what’s available locally and naturally here on the island.
Let’s face it, we live on an island where everything is overpriced and you have to work twice as hard to survive. This seems to be the driving force of inspiration for many small local businesses.
But not everyone is starting up a business because of the pressure to make ends meet. Many are just inspired to have a small business that supports other local businesses by producing a product that is affordable and available to everyone. And with small businesses on the rise, our community is seeing regular events like the Swap Meet, Maui’s Friday Town Parties, the Flea Market in Pukalani and the Made on Maui County Festival, which celebrated its second annual event in November at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center. The Made on Maui County Festival, which is sponsored by the County of Maui, drew more than 140 local businesses in November. Amongst the 140 participants were three unique local businesses: Three Coconuts Maui (www.threecoconutsmaui.com), Shaka Pops Maui (www.shakapopsmaui.com) and Queen Bee Productions Maui (www.queenbeemaui.bigcartel.com). Each of these businesses reflects the “made local, buy local” principle and each has its own inspiring story to tell.
Three Coconuts Maui
Three Coconuts Maui is a locally owned and operated family business on Maui that creates distinctive keiki (children’s) clothing that feature designs of animals accompanied by their Hawaiian names. Owner Marla McManus said she had a passion for creating and designing since she was a little girl, and once her first-born grandson was born, she knew infant and children clothing was something she wanted to expand on.
“I wanted to design something to emphasize the Hawaii lifestyle with quality, simplicity and uniqueness of Hawaii living,” she said. For McManus, animals seemed to be the easiest and most encouraging, since her fondest memories were learning the animal names in the Hawaiian language in her childhood ukulele class.
“Children love animals and this could be a way they can learn the Hawaiian language one word at a time,” she explained. Three Coconuts is not only keeping the Hawaiian culture alive through language, but also through tradition. The Palaka Collection, which was introduced at the festival, is based off a popular fabric that was brought to Hawaii in the 1920s. Because of its soft, strong material, the blue and white woven material became the “official uniform” of plantation workers.
“The Made on Maui County Festival by far was one of the most important things I’ve done for my business,” McManus said. “It was an opportunity that allowed my company the exposure to be recognized in my own community.”
For McManus, Three Coconuts has been a dream come true. “My goal and dream is to retire as an owner and designer for Three Coconuts Maui,” she said.
Shaka Pops Maui
Since 2012, Shaka Pops Maui has been keeping Maui cool with its fresh, locally made Hawaiian ice pops. For owners Christine Vestfals and Larry Lutz, Maui was love at first sight. They fell in love with the Island back in 2009 when they were married here.
“Our objective has always been to use the freshest and ripest fruits, and the highest quality ingredients to make the most flavorful pop,” Vestfals said. “To us, that meant being as close to the source as possible.”
However, after finding out that 90 percent of all food is imported to Hawaii, Vestfals said they realized it would be a challenge sourcing large amounts of local ingredients year-round. This ultimately led them to networking with other local businesses in the community.
“We have been fortunate in finding large and small producers on Maui and across Hawaii, as well as backyard farmers to source fresh, local ingredients,” Vestfals said. “Buying local keeps money in our local economy and strengthens food security here on Maui.”
Shaka Pops offers 10 classic flavors that are always available at their mobile trikes or in one of the two-dozen local stores that carry their pops. And Shaka Pops also makes limited edition pops based on what fruits are available throughout the year, along with seasonal themes.
During the summer, be on the lookout for their limited edition melon mana pops featuring local honeydew, cantaloupe and watermelon—no sugar added. All Shaka Pops products are made fresh five days a week with only the freshest and ripest local ingredients. “Our mission has always been to provide a wholesome, high quality and great tasting pop,” Vestfals said. “Shaka Pops are 100 percent natural, with no artificial flavors, colors or sweeteners and no preservatives.”
Vestfals said one of the biggest struggles has been educating the public about what Skaka Pops are and how they are made differently from all those other “colored sugar water popsicles.” She says events like the Made on Maui County Festival are important, because unlike other island events that offer a smaller selection of Maui-made products that are often diluted with imported items, this event helps focus the spotlight on Maui-made products on a much larger scale.
Queen Bee Productions Maui
When owners Kether Keyser and Tiare Rietow of Queen Bee Productions Maui started their small business in 2009, they didn’t realize how important locally owned small businesses were to the island, nor the effect it had on the community.
“We just knew it felt right and natural to utilize resources in our community and to support our fellow small businesses,” Keyser said. Queen Bee Productions makes a variety of all-natural skincare products that are made with love—using only the most natural, local resources available. In fact, the honey that used in all of their products comes from bees that the owners keep themselves. 2015 was Queen Bee’s second year at the Made on Maui County Festival, where they debuted a new exciting product called the “Lover’s Kit.” This little black box is perfect for any special intimate occasion—birthdays, weddings or Valentine’s Day—and offers a variety of enhancers that are all natural and edible.
Keyser said it is important to have events like the Made on Maui County Festival. “There are so many great connections that are made for small businesses through this sort of networking,” she said. “It’s really nice to be able to go to a function like this and have buyers be informed while seeking new products, knowing that they’re locally made and unique.”
Keyser has a few words of advice for Maui’s up-and-coming local small businesses. “Do your research; know your business, your product, your resources and your limitations,” she said. “Ask questions, prepare to be wrong, to make mistakes and have a good support system.”
And for people in our community who may not realize the importance of a locally owned and operated business? “We may not be able to change the problems in our world, but we can change our Maui community,” Keyser said. “Each decision you make affects you immediate surroundings like the butterfly effect… so, choose to support you neighbor before a corporation.