Alice Kim of Hanalei Company on collaborative processes that inspire great work

Website Header Template (3)

Describe your business in a few words?

At Hanalei Company, we create gentle, restorative skincare products, inspired by Hawaii’s lush, tropical landscape and native botanicals, infusing everything we do with the spirit of Aloha.

What made you take the leap to start your own business?

While working in New York, my husband, Vira, and I both had a dream that existed somewhere outside of the corporate sphere. This dream inspired us to create our first cosmetics company, Elizabeth Mott, in 2010. Shortly after, we relocated back to Vira’s home in Honolulu, Hawaii, and because of our experience in the beauty industry that came from starting Elizabeth Mott, we felt confident enough and extremely inspired to start Hanalei Company.

What was your background prior to starting your own business?

I’ve always had an interest in beauty, and actually worked in fashion in New York before we founded Hanalei. I worked as a buyer for fashion brands such as Aeropostale, Club Monaco, Mulberry, and Calvin Klein, and later in design for brands such as Macy’s and Forever 21.

Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?

My parents were entrepreneurs, so watching them as I was growing up helped me to feel like I could do it too. I knew eventually I wanted to start my business.

Take us back to when you first launched your business, what was your marketing strategy to get the word out and did it go as planned?

When we first launched, we thought we could just partner with bloggers and do some events and our product would instantly go viral, once everyone saw it! Of course, that’s not how it went, and it took us several years to realize that our first product wasn’t very good.

This caused us to pivot our direction a bit, and we launched other products. We focused a lot on social media and word of mouth, partnering with influencers and others with large audiences where we could get our products and brand in front of a lot of people. We also did a lot of online advertising using pay per click (PPC).

Eventually, these efforts paid off, and what we know as Hanalei and Elizabeth Mott today was born!

We always learn the most from our mistakes, share a time with us that you made a mistake or had a challenging time in business and what you learned from it?

Like any small business, we experienced growing pains when it came to hiring and scaling in the beginning. Vira and I wore many hats, and we quickly learned that we couldn’t scale without building a team and learning to delegate. Basing our company in Hawaii also proved to be a challenge: the applicant pool is small and mostly experienced in tourism. Because it was difficult to find employees with extensive, or any, beauty experience here in Hawaii, we began recruiting from local colleges and provided extensive on-the-job training.

We’ve found that communication is key to our team working effectively, so we include all staff in relevant meetings and in our decision-making process—that includes our interns. When our employees feel that they have a stake in company decisions, they are much more motivated to see things through. They care about the future of the company because they are involved in the direction we take. This collaborative process opened up more opportunities for us in the beauty world.

What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?

Professionally, being able to create 2 successful brands and not having to go back to the corporate world to work for someone else. I’m also proud of being able to help create jobs here locally in Hawaii.

When hiring for your team, what is your go-to interview question? Please share any hiring tips you can share from your experience?

Most of our full time hires have been interns for us. While we do interviews, we find the best way to determine capabilities and “fit” has been to actually work with the prospective candidate.

How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?

The current situation with COVID-19 has been incredibly tough as an entrepreneur. Certain sales channels have dropped to zero, including our wholesale and airline business, which means we’ve been forced to adapt and focus on our e-commerce and digital strategies more than ever before. This has been such an unprecedented time due to people losing their jobs in the US economy and certain industries shutting down completely. As an entrepreneur, there isn’t a manual for this, covering how to react when these situations arise. Luckily, we had already been diversifying our sales channels and utilizing digital platforms to promote the brand before the pandemic happened. There were some challenges with implementing changes quickly and driving ambiguity, but with incredible support and hard work from my team, we were able to adapt to this “new normal.”

What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?

We are launching skincare lines for both brands, including an Aloe E Face Cleanser for Hanalei (pictured above), and a Hydrating Hyaluronic Toner for Elizabeth Mott. We’re really excited to diversify our product catalog a bit this year and introduce people to a new way to take care of their skin.

What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?

Be flexible, you can’t tell the future. Be able to pivot and try different things. This past year has shown that you can’t plan for everything.

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?

Don’t be too invested in your product or idea. If it’s a bad idea or product, admit your mistake and move on and try something different.

How have you managed to stay grounded this year?

Just having perspective and being grateful for what you have, and being thankful for my health, my family’s health, and the business managing to survive the pandemic.

Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?

As a business owner, you really don’t have work/life balance, as the business consumes your thoughts. I try to practice self-care to offset the stress of running a business. I workout, meditate and eat healthy. However, we do believe in having work/life balance for my employees, so we have a generous holiday, vacation and sick day policy. And we try to encourage them to work only 9-5 during the weekdays (no weekends), and try not to answer emails after hours.

What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?

I used to be a personal trainer. During grad school, I became a personal trainer at NY Sports Club in Manhattan.

What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?

Keep a to-do list of what you want to accomplish today.

Prioritize tasks before you start your day.

Block out time on your calendar (no calls or meetings) to get things done.

What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?

Being an Entreprenista means owning a business that empowers women to be their best selves. Our team is mostly made up of women, and we make it our goal to empower women in ever way we can. We believe in natural beauty and bringing out the best in that for everyone who tries our products.

Share it!

Posted in
Tags

Leave a Comment





Brand Photographer Brittney Jean Guy-Atakpo on helping women show up confidently on camera

Describe your business in a few words? I’m Brittney with Brittney Jean Photography & Company. I help women show up confidently in photos and on social media to grow their brand and business. I’m a Brand Photographer and Strategist. I have over 5 years working for Fortune 100 companies in sales and marketing and over…

Lorena Tapiero of Conscious Consulting on the power of networking

Describe your business in a few words? Conscious Consulting is a Latina-owned, bilingual marketing and public relations agency with 20 years of experience in the hospitality, sports and wellness sectors. Our thoughtful, comprehensive approach helps brands establish clear communication priorities and a long-range vision for meaningful press coverage, value-added partnerships and sustainable influencer relationships. As…

Lindsay Applebaum Stuart of Mamalux on the beginning stage of business

Describe your business in a few words? Mamalux is a first-of-its-kind leakproof sleep solution for breastfeeding moms. Our Kickstarter launches on 10/19! What was your background prior to starting your own business? I spent the first 10 years of my career as a sports journalist for the Washington Post and Sports Illustrated! So this has…

Jessica Bargenquast of Lady ChangeMakers on organic marketing strategies that work

Describe your business in a few words? Lady ChangeMakers is an exclusive e-commerce platform for women-owned businesses to gain valuable exposure and sales. Most of my life I’ve been encouraged to be seen and not heard. Growing up extremely introverted and shy I felt invisible. I wanted to create a platform so women-owned businesses could…

Jennifer Gligoric of EntrePods on the importance of mindset

Describe EntrePods in a few words? Cutting-edge entrepreneur and investor network answering the question “So Now What?” for business owners powered by fractional consultants and coaches with decades worth of experience. What made you take the leap to start your own business? I had no choice.  My mother owned a staffing company for 54 years…

Certified Financial Planner Maggie Gomez on investing and building wealth

Describe your business in a few words? An accessible place where anyone can learn to invest and build wealth, regardless of their net worth. What made you take the leap to start your own business? I realized that it was only those who were already wealthy that had access to quality financial guidance. I got…

Claire Jones of Cushy Couture on shifting paradigms in the fashion industry

Describe your business in a few words? Cushy Couture is a customer-driven clothing brand that creates high quality sweatpants in a wide range of colors and patterns that come in three different inseam lengths because we believe that you don’t have to settle for less. We create functional sweatpants that will last you for multiple…

Writer, Speaker, Podcaster, and Life Coach Chelsea Austin on taking care of yourself first

Describe your business in a few words? I advocate for others to find their own self-worth and acceptance through self-care, love, respect, and storytelling. What made you take the leap to start your own business? When I started writing my book and my blog, I don’t think I ever realized it would become a business.…

Maria Indenbosch of Humanity Wine Co. on creating the company you want to work for

Describe Humanity Wine Co. in a few words? We deliver high valued, family owned wines to your doorstep while changing the lives of abandoned youth by donating 50% of our profits to capacity building programs.  Humanity Wine Co. yearns to change the landscape of business as we know it. Leading abandoned youth to rise to…

Jaclyn Fu of Pepper on empowering women to love their bodies as they are

Describe your business in a few words? Pepper is an unapologetic bra brand for small-chested women, on a mission to empower everyone to love their bodies as they are. We design bras specifically for AA, A, B cups, in band sizes from 30 to 40. We’re bringing back the IBTC to encourage women with small…

Lesha Wincher of E L L E É on believing in your vision and never giving up

Describe your business in a few words? E L L E É is the perfect atmosphere to relax and unwind for mind, body, and soul. Our business is different from the rest as each one of our services are specifically tailored to each one of our guests. What made you take the leap to start…

Meg Murray Jones of Postpartum Plan on the best decisions she made in launching her online resource

Describe your business in a few words? Postpartum Plan is an online resource for new parents from 35 weeks pregnant to 6 weeks postpartum. It brings together a support team of experts that all new parents should have access to; women’s health physio, yoga and breath-work instructor, nutritionist, postpartum doula, GP and more. We also…

Amelia Pavlik of FRESHJUICE + bubbly on wellness and work/life balance

Describe FRESHJUICE + bubbly in a few words? A boutique business focused on connecting clients to wellness splurges to suit budgets big and small. What made you take the leap to start your own business? I love all things wellness, and for years, I’d searched for a resource that could provide me with the latest…

Ari Krzyzek of Chykalophia on converting your network into your net worth

Describe your business in a few words? Chykalophia (read: see-ka-lo-fia) is a creative and technology agency helping women-led brands in FemTech & DTC fast-forward their business through strategies, design and all things website. What made you take the leap to start your own business? My fiancé at the time (now my husband and business partner)…

Monique Little of You Go Natural on the importance of planning for growth

Describe You Go Natural in a few words? YGN creates beautiful and innovative products that make natural haircare easier. What made you take the leap to start your own business? I started my business because there was a need in the market that needed to be filled. I did not want to let the opportunity…