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Four Natural Disasters that Can End Your Business in Kona, Hawaii

Many of the threats to the future of our businesses in Hawaii are controllable. Building strong relationships with clients and customers help a business withstand new competitors entering the market, and having good insurance policies can protect against damage to premises caused by fire, wind or water.

Here are natural disasters that have all occurred in West Hawaii:

  1. Earthquakes. On October 15, 2006, a 6.7 magnitude earthquake  occurred just off the Kohala Coast. The damage to hotels, residence and many of the older buildings in the Kona-Kohala area was significant, with several collapsed sections of buildings and structural damage to many buildings in the area. There is no question that Hawaii Island is in a very seismically active area, with several locations susceptible to large earthquakes.
  2. Tsunamis. The tsunami caused by Japan’s Tohoku earthquake in 2011 affected the Kona coast more than many people realize. Many of the stores at the North end of Alii Drive flooded, as well as the whole first floor of the King Kamehameha Kona Beach Hotel. The Kona Village, a very exclusive and private resort on the Kona coast—one of Steve Job’s favorite vacation spots—was flooded and has yet to reopen. The Hilo side has had some huge, destructive tsunamis within the past 100 years.
  3. Lava Flows/Volcanic Eruptions. This is often talked about in town, as all of Kailua Village is within 30 minutes of being inundated by a lava flow from Hualalai volcano, which forms the eastern boundary of the village. A significant lava flow to the ocean would sever all land transportation routes in North Kona. The last eruption of the Hualalai was about 200 years ago, and it is classified as an active volcano.
  4. Hurricanes. Many people assume that the height of Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea will always provide a huge barrier to hurricanes hitting the Kona area. There is a lot of truth to this, as we have never felt the wrath of a hurricane like “Iniki,” which devasted Kauai in 1992, but there are many recorded accounts of hurricanes affecting the Kona area, and our location in the middle of the Pacific guarantees that hurricanes will always be a threat.

As a business owner, there is little you can do protect your livelihood from being affected natural disasters. The worst case scenario—widespread destruction to our community—might make your business unviable. There are, of course, ways to mitigate damage by taking common sense earthquake, wind and water damage precautions. Likewise, reviewing insurance coverage and making disaster planning part of your business planning are a good idea.

emergency checklist

 Kona Impact | 329-6077

Where is the best location in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii for a business?

A leasing agent will proclaim, “location, location, location” to entice business owners to “stretch” their budget and find a prime spot for their business. For certain, location does matter, but it matters much less than many people realize. Times have changed.

Kailua-Kona has some easily defined areas for businesses:

  1. Kohanaiki area. This goes from Queen Kaahumanu Highway mauka for a few miles.
  2. New Industrial Area. This area is most well-known for a few big box stores: Costco and Home Depot. There are a few hundred small and medium-sized businesses in this area.
  3. Old Industrial Area. It covers the area between Kuakini Hwy and Queen Kaahumanu Highway (mauka-makai), with most of the area on Kaiwi Street and the side streets of Pawai, Alapa, and Luhia Streets.
  4. Alii Drive. From the pier to the Royal Kona Resort (the in-town portion), most known for restaurants and tourist shops.
  5. Kuakini Hwy. The area from the Old Airport to Lako Street.
  6. Kona Coast Shopping Center and Lanihau Center, the two little strip malls on Palani Rd.
  7. Crossroads Shopping Center, anchored by Safeway on Henry Street.
  8. Kona Commons: Petco, Office Max and some chain restaurants.
  9. There is very little Class A office space in Kailua-Kona.

The first point is that if you are going for the tourist crowd, locating your business as close to Alii Drive as possible makes abundant sense. That’s where almost all the foot traffic is.

Now let’s consider the value of the shopping centers—Kona Coast, Lanihau, Kona Commons and the Crossroads Shopping Center. These are the only places with a big volume of street/parking lot visibility by residents and visitors. All the other places have relatively poor drive-by traffic combined with street visibility. In other words, if you are looking for customers to see your business while driving around town, there are few good options.

Which brings me to the point of this blog post…

The best location for your business to be in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii is online!

The Kohaniki, Old and New Industrial areas in Kona are just fine for most types of service and retail businesses if you have a solid online presence. If you’re selling fabric or kitchen tiles, signs or legal services, your customers are likely to find you online. Referrals and other advertising work, too, but, in the end, many customers will come to your through your website. To fail at online marketing is to fail at a modern business necessity.

In the “old days,” businesses had to pay big money to compete for prime, street visible locations because that was how people would discover new businesses.

That is certainly a good way to attract new customers, but we have seen many businesses skip the high costs of a prime location and do a superior job of online marketing.

So, the next time a leasing agent starts harking about the value of a great location, keep in your mind that the best locations these days are at the top of Google, Yahoo, and Bing.

Kona Impact | 329-6077

Is it time to kill your blog?

Blogging can be one of the most powerful tools you can use to attract people to your website and business. If you add just two entries a week, which shouldn’t be hard to do, you will have over 100 more pages of information about you and your business online in just one year. Many business websites are only 3-5 pages; you can have over 20 times more opportunities to be found in a relatively short period. That said, online marketing through content creation can be a challenge for many.

blogging concept

Here are some reasons to give up your blog:

  1. You are unable to add at least two posts a month to it. A “dead blog” makes your whole business look dead, so removing your unused blog from your website will make your business look more alive.
  2. You find that you are writing “off-topic.” The topic, of course, is anything directly related to your business—product, services, etc.—or things directly related to your industry. If you’re a retail shop, and you find yourself ranting about politics, it’s time to disassociate your business and your personal life.
  3. Your blogs are poorly written or edited. Let’s face it: writing is not a natural skill for many people. Reading, however, is. So, if your blogs do not make your business look good, stop.
  4. You have almost no understanding of search engine optimization, and you don’t want to learn the basics of keywords and content creation. A big reason to have a blog is to use it to attract new customers through search. If you don’t have a clue how to write optimized text, you’re probably doing it wrong. If you enjoy writing, spend a few hours learning about search engine optimization. If you don’t enjoy writing, and you don’t know what you’re doing (and don’t want to learn), it probably makes sense to spend your time doing other things to grow your business.
  5. You’ve run out of ideas. This should almost never be the case, as your business is always changing. If you’re stuck, check out some other blogs for like businesses. But, if you’ve reached a total impasse, and you can’t imagine writing anything more, it might be time to stop blogging. If you have a lot of content already online,  don’t remove your blog, as that still brings value to your business.

At Kona Impact, we go through a series of questions with every web design client regarding blogs. The worst thing is for a client to pay for a blog and never use it. It makes the business look bad, and it wastes money. Even though it means less revenue to Kona Impact, we often advise business owners not to have a blog. We do make sure he or she knows about the business value of a blog, but, in the end, we don’t recommend things with a direct value to the client.

Should you blog? 100% yes! But, if you can’t, or you haven’t, it’s time to reassess your priorities and focus on other ways to grow your business.

Kona Impact | 329-6077

Why are there so few franchises in Kona, Hawaii?

I had a great chat with a local business leader the other day.

He is part of a business that, I’m certain, will continue growing in size and profits. Simply put, it’s innovative, has an excellent brand, and the product line resonates with consumers. That’s all great, but the most impressive part of the business is that it is intensely focused on local vertical integration; that is, locally-grown products are processed, packaged and distributed—all while trying to keep local farmers and suppliers in the process.

During our conversation, we talked about what our businesses were doing, and, surprisingly, we found that many of our clients were their clients and suppliers. Almost all the names we both mentioned were mutually familiar. We ended up chatting about the community of small and local businesses in Kona, Hawaii that is committed to creating a better, more sustainable community. And don’t be fooled; all of these businesses are for-profit companies with a keen eye on bottom line results. They are all—from what I know—profitable, some very profitable.Roblox HackBigo Live Beans HackYUGIOH DUEL LINKS HACKPokemon Duel HackRoblox HackPixel Gun 3d HackGrowtopia HackClash Royale Hackmy cafe recipes stories hackMobile Legends HackMobile Strike Hack

Many franchises on Hawaii Island don’t do that well. In fact, there are relatively few franchises in Hawaii compared to the Mainland. There are many reasons, of course, but I think one of the reasons is that many franchises do poorly here because of a lack of connection to suppliers, and to some extent, consumers. For example, a franchise will be unlikely to use any of the following local services: accounting, marketing, advertising, design, signage, public relations, and add to that most of the franchises must source their supplies from the franchisor. The craziness of a sandwich shop flying in bags of week-old lettuce, peppers and tomatoes is case and point. They just don’t have any connections to the community.

I remember getting a call from a franchise owner several years ago asking if I’d like to buy his business. When I heard about his lease obligations on his equipment, his building lease (it was expensive because the franchisor made him lease a space in a “high traffic” area) and the percentages he had to pay to his franchisor (as a percent of gross revenue) for fees and contributions to the advertising pool, I knew why he was leaving quickly. His business made no sense on an island. His business was bleeding cash at an unsustainable rate. I didn’t even want to ask him about where he could buy his supplies!

kona hawaii

What’s an entrepreneur to do in Kona?

First, if you are considering a franchise, do a lot of legwork and be very circumspect of the franchisor’s claim. Is the business right for Kona? Are you sure there is sufficient demand in our small community—200,000 or so on the island, maybe a 1/3 of that in the Kona-Kohala areas? Can you achieve the same goals without a franchise? What are your true expenses to setup and run the business? Are you able to source locally? Do you have a plan for making connections with consumers and businesses in the community? How can you connect with customers outside of traditional media like TV and newspapers? Will your franchisor help you with local marketing campaigns?

In the end, I would argue that few franchises make a lot of sense in Kona. Subway and McDonald’s—both locally owned—seem to have some good economies of scale, but there are few one-off restaurants or other businesses that seem to do well. Part of the reason, I believe, is that franchisees are looking for a Mainland business model to do well in Kona, and it’s just not that easy to do in a small, isolated community.

Why So Many Vacant Commercial Rentals in Kona, Hawaii?

I went to lunch the other day to a small hamburger restaurant a bit off of Alii Drive. The restaurant, Island Ono Grill, is one of my favorites, but I could not help but feel a bit of amazement that there area near the restaurant was a bit like a ghost town. The restaurant’s neighboring spaces were both empty, as was the retail space across from it. The whole complex seemed to be about 40% vacant. The amazing thing is that much of that space has been vacant for years.

The lost opportunity for established businesses is evident; there are few businesses to bring shoppers around.

vacant commercial

Why are there so many long-term vacancies in good and not-so-good commercial spaces? It would seem to make sense that building owners would get their rent to a level that the market would bear. In other words, price the office space to be rented. Makes sense, or does it?

There are a few assumptions of a price-it-at-market demand model:

  1. There is sufficient demand for office/commercial/industrial space to fill demand if the price is right. In other words, at a price, there would be a renter. Perhaps Kona has over-built commercial real estate.
  2. Lowing rental costs to attract new renters would not require lowering rent for existing clients. This can be a challenge. Tenants talk, and nobody wants to be paying more than their neighbor.
  3. Building owners do not somehow benefit from vacancies.  Is there a tax incentive for NOT renting property? I’ve never heard of it, but that might be a reason for the abundance of vacancies.

That said, it does seem a lot of commercial space in Kailua-Kona is woefully underutilized.

I am certain that building owners in Kona could approach vacant space much more creatively. For example, a lot of vacant space on the Mainland is (at least temporarily) occupied by so-called “pop-up” stores. Building owners could also provide low-cost temporary office space with basic amenities like cubicles, desks, and basic Wi-Fi. Small, emergent businesses could rent a space for a reasonable amount. Another possibility would be creating incubator or maker spaces.

I suspect that a lot of property owners, perhaps acting on bad advice from consultants and property managers, might be waiting for a time when Kona enters a boom phase, and they will magically find high-paying renters for all their vacant space. I’ve seen several boom and bust cycles and Kona, and I highly doubt what they are waiting for will arrive. If I owned commercial property in Kona with a vacancy, I would certainly be more creative than what I see now in the marketplace.

Summer Fun in Kona

Summer’s here! The kids are out of school, and moms and dads hopefully have a few days off. Here are a few things going on in Kona this summer.

Kona Car Show and Fitness Expo – June 25 – A lot of people have been talking about this event. It’s sure to be the biggest and best car show and expo in Kona in many years. At the Old Airport.

Kona Marathon – June 26 – About 2,000 runners will take part in one of the signature marathons in West Hawaii. Starts in Waikoloa

Fourth of July Parade – July 4 – As they say, you’re either in the parade or watching it! This promises to be a great time for Kona residents and visitors to go down to Alii Drive and enjoy a parade.


Here are a few businesses that can add some fun to your summer adventures.

Kona Splash and Bounce – If you want to entertain the neighborhood or throw the best birthday party ever, consider renting a bouncy house or water slide in Kona.

Another great way to entertain the young and the young at heart is a snorkeling trip to Kealakekua Bay. Our favorite is Sea Paradise.

For the more adventuresome, rent a kayak at Ehu and Kai and paddle across the bay.

There are, of course, many free activities for summer in Kona. The public library has many programs, and, if you are sweating at home, air conditioning! Another nice day out can be had at the Kokua Kailua Village Strolls, where they shut down a big part of Alii Drive and open the space to vendors and some musicians. The next one is July 17.

Don’t Waste Your Energy on the Immutables

I hear a lot of complaining every day about things that are immutable; That is, things which can’t be changed by our individual effort. These include politics, government, Mother Nature, and, for the most part, society.

This year, in particular, seems to be a very dreary year for our national elections. Taxes almost always go up and almost never down. The Washington D.C. and Honolulu-centric national and state governments show very little concern for things that matter to me. I was behind the worst driver today…yadayadyada.

These things all have one thing in common: they are way beyond my ability to control or influence meaningfully. Sure, I can vote, but, to be honest, Hawaii is a one-party state, so if I vote for Democrats or Republicans, I will have almost zero chance of swaying the election. (I do vote every election, nonetheless.) I can become enraged by bad drivers, bad parents or inept government workers, but these are things I cannot change.

As a business owner, I like to focus on what matters: myself, my customers, my employees, my products and future customers. Every day I can make an impact on these. Every day, I can communicate and innovate. Every day, I can learn better ways of running my business.

In my past life as a college professor in education, we often spoke of the idea of “locus of control.” Time and time again research would show that kids and adults who have an internal locus of control—they believe they are in control of their success—would outperform those who had an external locus of control—those who believed success was attributable to things outside of them. The people who focus on things external to themselves—government, society, politics, etc.—underperform because they feel they are not in control of their outcomes. At the extreme, they develop a sense of helplessness.

Business owners, in my experience, have a high degree of internal locus of control. If they work harder, smarter, more efficiently, more creatively, they believe they can affect their future. The tools for success, most business owners would agree, are within their grasp and control; that is, they are mutable, they can be harnessed to create valuable a prosperous La La Land 2016 streaming

Are there ways to move one’s locus of control from external to internal? Many school programs focus on this with great vigor, as the consequences can be meaningful and long-term for learners. Can business owners do the same? I would suggest that they can. The first step is recognizing what is within our control and what isn’t. Stop wasting time and energy complaining about things you can’t control. Make a list of five things you can do today to improve your business. Action over thought!

control concept

Three Things Hawaii’s Small Business Can Learn From Japan’s

I’ve bought eye glasses in Japan and the United States. From the outside, an eyewear store is an eyewear store. You see rows and rows of glasses. No difference there. But, when you go to try on a pair of glasses in the United States, they are, most likely, dusty and marked by fingerprints. You would never see that in Japan: each pair of glasses on the wall will be crystal clear, clean and looking like new. In fact, when you see an eyewear store in Japan with no customers in it, you will most likely see the staff going from pair to pair cleaning them.

I suspect that the owners of eyewear stores in the United States just don’t think consumers care if the floor samples are clean. Or, I wonder if they even considered the issue. Don’t know.

The glasses story illustrates how a small change in retail behavior could make a big change in customers’ perceptions. Here are three things I learned in Japan that could make a small or big difference in your business.

  1. Presentation matters. The glasses story illustrates this. Seldom will you see any dust in a store in Japan. Shopkeepers will constantly dust and clean if there are no customers present. One thing I have started doing is sweeping the area in front of my office at least twice a week. It just feels right to begin the day with no leaves, wrappers or dirt in front of my office. A restauranteur could certainly learn a lot from looking at the presentation of a fine sushi meal.
  2. First impressions. It’s quite a sight to see the first person entering a large retail establishment in the morning. You’ll often see the store manager and executives and a row of salespeople forming a greeting line and saying “irraimasse,” a “Welcome” greeting. You’ll even see the staff bowing, a sign of respect and gratitude. If I owned a store, the first minute of staff training would be on the importance of greeting the customer, every customer. An employee who stands in the back or checks email on a cell phone when there are customers in the store would not last very long.
  3. Long-term relationships. There are two gift-giving seasons in the Japan: summer and New Years. This is when a company will send, or better yet hand deliver, a box of cookies, sweets or some other item. If you get Hokkaido crab—worth a few hundred dollars—you know you are a VIP client, but most gifts are small items that might cost $30-$50. The point is to show appreciation to your customers/clients. It’s also a great time to remind them of you, your products and your services. Depending on the value of a client, small business owners in Hawaii might want to give gift certificates or some homemade cookies.

japanese tea ceremony

Business, in many ways, is similar to human relationships; that is, we all want to be recognized, valued and respected. Keeping a clean presentation, making a good first impression and focusing on fostering long-term relationships with customers and clients make good sense.

Kona Impact | 808-329-6077

All things have a cost. Pay with your money or your time

We get a call or two a week from potential clients that are very focused on solely on price. There’s nothing wrong with that, as when I shop for some items, I am very price-conscious.

Often the conversation will come to a close when we give a ballpark cost for something, a website, for example, and the person says, “that’s too much. My budget is $500.” Realizing that is way too low for a custom website—the kind we do—I’ll try to give the person a few options, usually an online template-based website. With these, the buyer chooses a template design and puts his or her information in it. Instead of paying us for a custom design, he will spend his time trying to make a template work.

I’ll then often hear, “well, I’ve tried that, but I couldn’t get it the way I want it.” or “I’ve spent a lot of time trying to do this, and it didn’t look good.” I’ll sometimes hear, “I don’t have time for that.”

You can either pay for your project with your money or your time. If you don’t want to pay someone to do your project, you pay with your time when you do it yourself.

time or money?

When you hire Kona Impact for your project, you are giving your money for our time and expertise.

When you are do-it-yourself, you are using your time to complete a project and, in the best of all possible worlds, you are using your expertise. If you have no experience or skills in what you are doing, you will pay again by having low quality or having higher time cost to develop expertise.

The lack of expertise or experience with a design or sign-making project is, based on our experience, the reason why do-it-yourself projects usually fail. We’ve spent thousands of hours doing what we do, so we are knowledgeable and very efficient; whereas someone trying to make his own website is starting with no skills or experience. It’s a long way from beginner to competent.

There is no way to change this fundamental equation: everything has a cost, it’s how you pay for it.

One way to look at this issue is to consider how much you value your time. If you work for someone else, that value is basically what you get paid per hour. Also, consider how much your non-work time is worth. How much is the time not spent with family and friends worth? How much is the day at the beach worth? If the value of your time is low, it might be a good idea to spend your time, instead of money, on your project. Nothing wrong with that.

Another consideration is that Kona Impact will get your project done faster, so what might take you three hours to do, might only take us an hour.

If the value of your time is high, this is when it makes sense to outsource the tasks for which you have few skills or little time.

Kona Impact has helped hundreds of businesses over the past ten years. We are proud of the work we have done, and enjoy helping entrepreneurs reach their goals.

Kona Impact | 329-6077

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How to Get Good Data for your Big Island Business

I was  having a chat the other day with a guy about the 2016 elections. It was clear he was a fervent supporter of one candidate, and he was sure this person was going to get his party’s nomination. I told him that he would have to get well over 100% of the remaining votes to get enough delegates to be nominated, a numerical impossibility. He replied, “Well those are just the numbers. I still think he has a chance.” At which point, I realized that his sincere beliefs in the candidate had short-circuited his logic skills. Just because he believed it was true, didn’t make it true!

As a business owner and person who has helped hundreds of business grow, I like to stick with the facts. Numbers, if they are properly obtained and calculated, don’t lie. Interpretations may be different but always start with the facts.

hawaii county data sources

There are some excellent sources of data for business owners. Here are four of my favorite sources:

Hawaii County Data Book 2015 

This is an excellent source of data about the Hawaii Island, from schools and population to trends in visitors and economic activity. For example, July has the highest number of domestic visitors, and January is the peak for international travelers. At the very least, a business in the tourism sector would know what to expect regarding visitors, and, would also know the best times to take a vacation or schedule repairs.

If you are thinking about your child’s education, there is a plethora of data on where you might want to live. For example, 20% of Kealakehe students do not graduate from high school, but if you go south to Konawaena, that number drops to 11.6%, and the Kohala area has about a 5% high school dropout rate. Interpret how you like, but the data is there for you to find. There is also a lot of information about the enrollment, characteristics and costs of the private schools.

State of Hawaii Data Book 

The State of Hawaii Data Book covers all the topics that the Hawaii County Data Book does and have additional sections on Defense, Human Services, Interstate Commerce and others. This is focused on statewide data.

Native Hawaiian Data Book

If you are interested in data on Native Hawaiians, the Native Hawaiian Data Books is an excellent source.

Hawaii Public Library Online Databases

One of my favorite sources of data is the State of Hawaii Library website. There are databases on grants, business, military, government and much more. Best of all, you can access each of them from your home computer at no cost.

I’m a big believer in getting accurate information and then figuring out what it means. Intuition, anecdotal stories and educated guesses all have a place, but when the numbers are there, I like to start with them.

Happy data hunting!

Kona Impact | 329-6077