Author Archives: brian

How to Reduce Costs for Your Sign Project

Kona Impact sells signs…a lot of signs. From foam core displays to semi-permanent building signs to temporary banners-we sell them all.

Our goal is to always provide quality signs at reasonable prices in a quick and timely manner. This guide is a way to help you develop win-win relationships with your sign supplier.

The most important thing to consider is the costs for a sign company.

These are:

  1. The time is takes to go over the signs project with a client.
  2. Design time to make and set up the files for printing.
  3. Materials, including the vinyl, laminate, substrate, ink and shop supplies.
  4. Time to assemble or make the sign.
  5. Installation time and supplies.
  6. Billing and customer support after the project is completed.
  7. Shop overhead.

So, you should immediately get over the idea that any sign can be made cheaply! Even for a 2” by 2” sign, you’re at least looking at 30 minutes of time to go over the project, design it, set it up and make it. I don’t think I’ve seen many projects that can be done in less time. Even if you don’t count materials costs, you’re still looking at a half hour of shop time, which in Kona Impact’s case, makes it a $36 sign!

In the sign business, we need to bill for all of #1-7 above, so how can you help reduce these costs?

The first thing is to upfront with the sign shop. Tell person you speak to what you want to do and what your budget is. Most sign shops have set fees, so telling your budget should not increase your costs. If your budget is clearly out of range for what you want, you’ll know so right away and will not waste anyone’s time—yours or the sign shop’s. You can then look for another provider or adjust your project to meet your budget.

Ask the sign shop how you can reduce costs. Remember: time, materials, installation and overhead are the main variables.

Win-win Concept

Saving on Time/Labor

If you are able to do the design work (ask your sign shop for formats and setup), you can save a lot of money. Professional graphic design costs in Kona, Hawaii, the home of Kona Impact range from $75 to $125/hour, so if you can do the work, you should see a lower project cost. That said, make sure you understand what your sign shop needs: most of the files you download from the internet are not print-quality file and will make for a less-than perfect sign.

Don’t mico-manage the project. Signs are meant to be simple and readable from a distance. The more you put on the sign, the less any element will be emphasized and readable from a distance. Let a professional designer make your sign effective and get out of the way. Every change you make costs money, money that your sign shop should be getting from you.

Offer to do the install if possible. Installs often take travel time, vehicle mileage and the time of two or three sign shop employees. If you are thirty minutes from the sign shop and the install takes 30 minutes for three employees, you’re looking at 4.5 hours of billable time (1 hour travel + 30 min. install x 3 people)

Ways to Save on Materials

This is not the best place to cut corners if you end up with an inferior sign. For example, while wood is great for building a work bench, it is, for the most part, a horrible substrate for a sign (a painted sign being the exception). It’s porous, warps, rots and is a great home for termites and other creepy-crawly creatures. Ask, but then trust the answer from your sign supplier, if you have a creative solution to your sign materials.

Talk with your sign shop about materials. You might find that a banner will meet your temporary sign needs at a more affordable price than a metal sign. Coroplast (a corrogated plastic) is very inexpensive and might work for your project. Your sign shop will be able to suggest alternatives, many of which you are probably unaware, for your project.

Another option is to ask the sign shop if they have any remnants that might work for your project. You might need to make a smaller or bigger sign, but sign shops (like carpet stores) love to use remnants whenever possible, and they are likely to give you a better deal if they can use something on hand.

Likewise, stick with common pre-cut sign material dimensions. If you want a 13” x 18” aluminum sign, it will have to be cut just for you, but a 12” x 18” sign is a stock material, which will save the shop time and material costs. Want a circular sign? Be prepared to pay extra, as circles are hard to cut! Ask about signs that can use stock or pre-cut material to save on costs.

Another way to save on materials is to use what your sign shop has in stock. If you want a specialty vinyl, that will need to be ordered just for your project, be prepared for higher costs, as the excess material is unlikely going to be used. Sign shops don’t mind making special orders, but keep in mind, these will add a lot of your costs.

The Big Picture

Your sign shop as a business that wants to make money;  the time you take for design or production is time that can’t be billed for another project. Your goal and the sign shop’s goal should be aligned on this point: get the project started and completed with the least amount of time and material inputs.

You can, of course, have any amount of time you’d like for your project, but we seldom see clients that want to pay for all that time.

Communicate with the sign shop about your budget, needs, time frame and willingness to adjust the project to reduce costs.

Five Things Successful Kona Entrepreneurs Do

Kona Impact has worked with hundreds of businesses over the years. We have worked with many start-ups and established business—big and small. While every business is different, for certain, there seems to be a common set of characteristics for the most successful entrepreneurs with which we work.

The top Kona entrepreneurs…

  1. Have exceptional communication skills. They know how to ask focused questions that get the information they need. They give explicit direction to employees and suppliers. They respond quickly to questions, often responding within minutes. They say “please” and “thank you” and you never seem them go into temper tantrums or bouts of cursing. In short, they are people that communicate clearly and directly.
  2. Know what they don’t know. Many entrepreneurs tend micro-manage all aspects of their business—even when it is clear they are not very good everything. Many will try to do their own accounting, equipment repair, marketing, payroll and just about every other aspect of the business—often with very poor results. The best entrepreneurs—those who run the most profitable and successful businesses—are master delegators. They know when to hire professionals.
  3. Are involved in the community. Whether it is Board of Director work, participation in Rotary, the Lions Club or Kai O’Pua Canoe club, the business owners who tend to be the most successful tend to be part of the community by sharing their time, talent or treasure. This allows them to be connected to pulse of the community, while developing relationships with other business leaders.
  4. Are always marketing. You’ll see them wearing logo shirts, driving vehicles with vehicle graphics or magnets and they are always quick pass out a business card. They sponsor events and make sure they always get recognition for doing so. They are passionate about what they do and that passion permeates every aspect of their lives.
  5. Are some of the most optimistic people you will meet. It takes a huge amount of time, energy and money to make a business successful. Those who have made it to the top know the challenges, but they also have an indelible optimism that their efforts will bring positive results in the future. I don’t know if the optimism is a cause or a result of their efforts, but it is certainly evident in how you see top business owners always focusing on the future.


Can you learn these behaviors? (Note: I purposely did not call them traits!).

The answer is most certainly, “yes”. One thing we recommend to new entrepreneurs at Kona Impact is for the person to immerse himself or herself in situations where they can learn from and be mentored by other business owners.

For a more nuanced discussion of becoming an entrepreneur, check out this article on Forbes.

For example, volunteering will put you in contact with other like-minded people, and many of these are likely to be business owners who might become a formal or informal mentor to you. The canoe clubs in Kona are awesome at fostering team work and sacrifice—all important parts of running a business.

Kona Impact specializes in helping new businesses in Hawaii grow. We offer no nonsense solutions that are based on a record of success and best practices. We hate wasting time or money—yours or ours! If you’re a nascent entrepreneur in Hawaii, give a call. We can help!

 Kona Impact | 329-6077

take risks, be rewarded

Is My Website Down? Maybe…Yes…No!

Occam’s razor is an important and useful idea for trouble-shooting: if there are many possible causes, the one with the least assumptions should be chosen. In other words if there is a complex problem and a simple solution, go for that!

Unfortunately, many confuse this for the “if I have no other information, it must be what I believe” principle. In other words, for lack of any other information, take the one that makes the most intuitive sense.

Here is what your website might or might not be down.

is my website down?

It may well be true: servers do physically break and settings can become corrupted, which can result in a website being down for an extended period of time. If this is true, you need to contact your hosting company or webmaster. That said, your hosting provider is likely to be aware of the problem as soon as it develops.

Another possibility is your website is unavailable for a short period of time because the server is undergoing maintenance. This is very common and may result in your website being unavailable for a short period of time. Most website hosts maintain 99%+ uptime, but even 1% downtime over the course of a year is could be down 84 hours a year and still be u 99% of the time!

There are a whole host of issues that might have nothing to do with your website hosting provider. These include:

  1. You forgot to pay your website hosting and your account was terminated. Most website hosts do not keep backups, so your website is gone! Go to to check.
  2. You forgot to pay your domain name registration fees and your domain name no longer belongs to you. As a result, your website is down….permanently. Go to to check.
  3. Your internet access is not consistent. If you have poor internet connectivity, your website might be doing just fine; your computer is just unable to reach it. If you have a cell phone, turn off the wireless so that you are going through the cell phone network and check your website. Or, have a friend in a different location check your website.
  4. Your computer might be compromised with a virus or browser redirect program. You’ll know this if you start to see your computer behaving unusually. Likewise, if you have installed new software or downloaded programs—knowingly or unknowingly—your computer settings might have changed, which caused poor connectivity.
  5. The internet can be down. On Hawaii Island, we have had two cable breaks in the past few years, which means whole areas of the island had no internet access for many hours.  So your website is accessible by billions of people worldwide, just not you!

What should you do if your website is “down”?

The first step should be to check if it is really “down”.  If you can’t access any other websites or email, it is most likely your network or your internet service provider’s network. Make sure everything is plugged in, call a neighbor and begin your troubleshooting from your end.

There are many services online. I like “Is it down right now? ( Another free service is Up Time Robot (, which you can use to monitor your website over time. I highly recommend checking one or both of these before doing anything else.

If you find that your website is down by using external tools, wait an hour and try again. This is usually long enough for scheduled updates or maintenance. If it’s still not accessible, contact your hosting provider.

If you find that your website is “down” just for you. You need to do some detective work. Check your website hosting account and your domain registration.

Next check your internet connectivity. Remember that a lot of networks experience heavy congestion from 6 to 10pm as people come home from work and watch streaming video and play online games. If your internet is super slow, it’s time to look for a new provider or check with your current provider about upgrading your speed.

If your computer is compromised, take it to a professional to get it cleaned and optimized.

So, the next time you’re certain your website is down, dig a little deeper and look for range of possible causes. Sometimes the easiest answer is not always correct!

Kona Impact  | 329-6077

Home Grown: Big Island Agriculture Products

I saw this morning that 90% of Hawaii’s food is imported. That’s an amazing statistic for our islands. We are nearly completely dependent on air and sea transportation, as well as Mainland food growers and distributors for nearly everything we eat and drink.

Even some things that we think are “Hawaiian” are not. Every bag of “Hawaii style” or “Maui Onion” potato chips I see is made on the Mainland. Even a good share of beer with Hawaii logos, names and designs is not brewed here. Clever marketing, indeed!

In this blog post, I’d like to highlight three specialty agriculture businesses that make superior products. They are all what we’d call family farms; businesses owned and operated by families on the Big Island.

Organic Kona Coffee

What do you get when you take some of the world’s best coffee and then grow it organically? You have the best of the best. Hala Tree Coffee is grown organically in the heart of the Kona coffee growing area, in an area known for superior growing conditions and exceptional coffee. I know these farmers, and they have worked very hard and jumped through a lot of hoops to attain the designation of an organic farm. This means that they are stewards of the land and do not use pesticides and herbicides that not only taint the land and water, but as common sense would suggest, they also likely to be present in the food on which they are sprayed. So, if you are looking for an extraordinary organic coffee, check out Hala Tree.

Kona Coffee

In Shell Macadamia Nuts

Hawaii’s Best Mac Nuts has a wonderful story. The owners came to Hawaii Island from very different worlds and bought a macadamia nut farm on the east side of the island in some of the world’s best growing area for mac nuts. Not wanting to be a small fish in a big pond by selling their mac nuts to huge Mainland-based mac nut processors—the ones that fill the tourist shops with inexpensive chocolate covered mac nuts—they have been developing two product lines. The first is in shell mac nuts for pets. It turns out that macaws love mac nuts, and there is a good market for supplying nuts for birds. Another market they have is providing in shell nuts to shops for human consumptions. These nuts are very healthy and taste great out of the shell, which, by the way, is a tough nut to crack!

in shell mac nuts

Dragon Fruit

Tai Shan Farms, located in South Kona, is one of the largest local growers of Dragon Fruit on Hawaii Island. That not to imply that they are a huge conglomerate growing hundreds of acres of Dragon Fruit! This is a small, organic family farm that relies on WOOFERs for a lot their crop maintenance and harvesting.

Dragon Fruit is a sweet, delectable fruit that is certainly a treat for those who find it. It’s costly, but super healthy and simply delicious. They also have a lot of bees, which pollinate the Dragon Fruit and provide a good source of gourmet honey, which they sell on their website.

dragon fruit

While you will certainly not fulfill your caloric need by buying organic Kona coffee, mac nuts or Dragon Fruit, you can do a lot to support local agriculture by supporting our local farmers. All three farms do an exceptional job of taking care of the environment through organic and sustainable agriculture practices.

 Kona Impact  | 329-6077

Review Your Website Every Six Months – Here’s How

We had a local business call the other day in a panic. Their website, which was not hosted or managed by Kona Impact, was gone. We quickly determined that the issue was relatively minor, because though they did not pay for their domain registration, and it was still in their registrar’s grace period. All they had to do was to pay for their domain registration and their site became live again.


Here is what every website owner should do every six months. Do not count on your web site designer to do this for you unless you are paying the company to do these services for you; they are not part of most web designers duties unless you have an agreement.

1. Check the registration of your website domain. Go to DNS Goodies and check your domain in the WHOIS box. This will tell you where your domain name is registered, in whose name, and most importantly, when the domain registration expires. We recommend registering your domain for blocks of five years or longer.

Once your domain name has expired, anyone can register the name. Getting it back can be nearly impossible in many circumstances.

2. Check the website hosting for your domain. If you have a webmaster taking care of this, make sure you are paying for hosting. If you have arranged website hosting through GoDaddy or another host, log into the account every six months and make sure your contact emails are correct and your credit card hasn’t expired.

If you don’t pay, your website will go offline. If you use a template system for your website, you will lose everything. If you have a professionally designed website, your webmaster might have a backup. Your hosting company will not have a backup in most cases!

3. Go to any contact forms on your website and send yourself a message. Make sure everything is working.

It’s a common mistake to believe that things on website do not break. They do, and you’ll never know until you test them.

4. Check all links on your website to ensure the site to which you are linking still exists. Your website will get penalized in the search engine rankings if it is low-quality, and links are part of this.

5. Read every page carefully. Is all the information correct? Are there any typos?

6. Look at every picture and graphic. Is there anything or anybody that shouldn’t be on your website anymore?

7. If you have an online store, go through the order process–you don’t need to complete the process–several times with different variations of products and shipping options. Make at least one purchase to ensure that the billing system is working correctly and all the confirmation emails are as they should be.

8. Check every page to make sure it displays correctly in the most popular browsers. Check out Browser Shots as a tool that can make this easier. Remember that all browsers show web pages slightly differently and it might not be worth the cost to go for 100% perfection on these.

9. Check your website on your phone and mobile devices. If it does not display correctly, you probably have an old website or you did not make this part of your web design agreement. In some cases, it might make sense to start over; in some cases your webmaster may be able to implement some code changes to make your site more mobile friendly.

10. Review your online marketing strategies and actions with a professional. It is easy to have an imprecise and ineffective online advertising program and waste a lot of opportunities and money. Hire someone to review what you’re doing, and if you’re not doing anything, consider how you can have a more effective online presence.

These are the things we recommend that every business do every six months. From start to finish, it should take about an hour. This hour might save your business from loosing its website or domain name. It can help you find inefficiencies in your messaging, and it can help you avoid giving your customers incorrect or outdated information.

If you have a website and you want some professional help, give us a call!

Kona Impact  | 329-6077

Customer Service – The Little Things That Matter

I’ve been thinking a lot about customer service lately. As such, I decided to take one day, a Saturday, and keep a look out for instances of awesome customer service. I didn’t consider things like “thank yous” and incentives; I wanted to identify three businesses that do things that have little or no cost, ideas that might inspire other businesses.

The first example I have Kona Veterinary Service. I have taken my dog there since she was a puppy, and have always been impressed with how they provide excellent care for my dog, including the time she needed emergency care after being attacked by another dog.

What impressed me on Saturday is a call I received that went to my voice mail. The staff was called to see how our dog was doing after two (routine) vaccinations on Friday. it was a simple gesture, but very thoughtful. It took maybe a few minutes of time, but it showed us their professionalism and their concern for our dog. it also showed that they cared about us as dog owners.

Later on Saturday, I was running around town and decided to go through the McDonald’s drive through and get an apple pie and a coffee. Routine, for certain, but the interaction was interesting. The woman at the payment window took my money–$4 for a $3.27 order-and then asked, “would you like your receipt?” Maybe I don’t go through McDonald’s drive-throughs very often, but this unexpected question got me thinking. Of course, I don’t want my receipt. I don’t think I ever need the receipt from a drive-through. It just would end up in my truck’s console. Not needed. Thanks for asking!

Finally, I was at the Aloha Theater at the end of a performance of “Evita”. Before many of the audience could get out of the theater, many of the cast went to the front exit and proceeded to thank audience members for coming and posed for photos. What a nice gesture; that is, thanking the people who make community theater possible–the audience.

I have always been a big fan of the Aloha Performing Arts Center (Aloha Theater), so much so that my business has contributed thousands of dollars of in-kind services. It’s a well-run group, and the performances are simply amazing. It’s easy to give to groups that do things so well!

When you’re out and about this week, pick a day and keep notes of what customer service experiences wow you. You might begin to make a list, as I have, of the little things that seem to make a big difference.

Kona Impact   | 329-6077  |

happy face

Big Banners Here – Next Day Service

At Kona Impact, we like to do business with our clients the way we like to be treated when we are the customer.

So, for example, we do not over-promise or misrepresent our products; that is, we don’t say our signs last forever (nothing does), and if a client does not have truthful information, we do our best to inform and educate him or her.

We also do not charge rush fees. Several companies in town will add 25% or even 50% to a project just because the client is desperate to get something done. We don’t do this.

One way we avoid problems with rush order is doing nearly everything in-house and keeping adequate inventory to handle rush orders. So, if a client needs a banner in a day, we’re ready, and to be honest, our costs are the same if we do it same or next day or in five days.

Below is a picture of a big banner we made for Tiki Shark, a well-known local artist. His work is awesome, and it is like no other.

We received the banner design on Sunday morning and came in to print it on Sunday afternoon. It dried overnight and we hemmed it and added grommets on Monday morning. It was ready for the client within 24 hours of getting the artwork!

The size, by the way, is 10 feet long by 4 feet wide: 40 sq ft.


There are a few places in town to get banners made, but be wary of up-sell charges for higher quality materials, hemming and grommets. These are all standard for us. Also be sure to ask about turnaround time; several local companies outsource banners and the turnaround time is more than a week!

Kona Impact | 808-329-6077 |

Hawaii County Visitor Arrivals and Business Planning

The vacation rental industry in Kona, Hawaii has two rates: “high” season and “low” season. The variation in room rates can be as much as 50%; that is a condo that goes for $200/night in February can go for only $100/night in May. The price of condos is elastic. Hotel, air fares and car rentals are mostly elastic, fluctuating according to demand and season.

For most other goods and services in Kona, you will find that pricing is mostly inelastic; that is, it does not fluctuate seasonally. Restaurants, grocery stores, tourist shops and activity providers charge pretty much the same year-round.

As such many businesses in Kona go through many profound boom and bust (very busy and profitable vs slow and marginal, if any, profits) cycles every year.

Here is the arrivals data for Hawaii County. July and December are the peaks with 140,000 visitors and September are and April are about 30% less with about 100,000 visitor arrivals. Note that the December arrivals tend to stay for extended periods—the snowbirds—and the July arrivals tend to be families that stay for a week or so. Thus, the December to April time is considered high season.

hawaii county visitor arrivals

What does this mean for business owners?

For starters, the time to do repairs, remodeling and take vacations is clearly May and September.

Here are some implications for businesses in Kona:

  1. Your website and online marketing should be in place and very focused months before the peak seasons. Starting in July or December will always put you behind the periods of peak demand.
  2. Online advertising should run in November and June, the times when most people are planning their vacations and making reservations.
  3. Advertising in July or February might be a complete waste of money, especially if your restaurant or tour is already at capacity.
  4. With a lag time of a few months for planning, design and production, March/April and September/October are the times to get your summer and winter marketing material ready.
  5. July and February are the times to optimize revenue. These are going to be the most profitable months, so be sure have all staff, systems and inventory in place.
  6. March/April and late August and September are great times to shed excess inventory through sales.
  7. Be sure to budget for the down times. April through June and September through November (except for Ironman in October) can be brutally slow.
  8. Run special Kama’aina promotions in the down months.

If you would like some help with your business’ marketing plans and materials, give us a call!

Kona Impact | 74-5599 Luhia Street | 329-06077

Value Vs. Price and Buying Local in Hawaii

I had two interesting conversations within minutes of each other last week—one with a client and one with another small business owner in Kona who was not a client.

I was helping the person (who was not a client) re-hang a banner that had fallen down. I noticed that it was of very poor quality, both in terms of printing and materials. In fact, the reason it had fallen down was that it was not hemmed and only had plastic tabs in the corners, which had ripped.

I asked the person where he got the banner, and he quickly answered:  “I got it online. I am a small business owner, and I need to save money.” I asked him what he paid for the banner including shipping and the cost of her time to set up and design the banner. He looked perplexed and said, “I paid $75, including shipping. My time was free.”

A few things came to mind immediately:

  1. How can he expect people to buy locally at his store if he is unwilling to do so himself? After all, what he sells can be bought online, and, I would suspect, that his products can be bought more cheaply online. He wants others to do what he is unwilling to do.
  2. His time is not free! If he spent an hour with the design and order process, that’s an hour he could not spend doing something else. Is his time worth $30, $50 or $100 an hour?
  3. If he had talked to us about his banner needs, we would have come very close to what he paid online. Kona Impact also would have had it done in one business day, and if it didn’t turn out right, he could have resolved the issue quickly.

About 30 minutes later, a client stopped by to pick up some things, and, as we do when time allows, we spent a few minutes “talking story”. This business owner is very successful, has probably 100 employees and lives a very comfortable life.

She never asks about price; instead she is very focused on getting the projects done quickly and to a high degree of quality. She is very focused on moving forward and growing her businesses, and she knows what she knows and knows what she doesn’t know. She is great at delegating.

The guy is clearly a price shopper; he only looks at the price tag and makes his decisions (however erroneously) based on cost. Value, personal connections, community and his own time are far less important to him. For certain, there are many people who approach business the same way.

Cheap Work Aint

The woman is a value shopper. She understands that price is part of the equation, but time, quality, durability, community, personal relationships and developing reliable suppliers are also important.

The woman, I’m certain, is a very wealthy; the man, I’m certain, is not.

If you’re purely a price shopper, give us a call, because you might be surprised.

If you’re a value shopper, definitely give us a call, as we’ve based our business on providing value to our clients. Whether it is same or next day service or sharing our local knowledge and connections, we strive to provide our clients with superior products and services.

Kona Impact | 74-5599 Luhia Street | 329-06077

Holiday Schedule

The Kona Impact office will be closed on Thanksgiving Day and Friday, November 28. We will re-open on Monday, December 1.

Enjoy your time with friends, family and loved ones.