YOU AND YOUR OHANA
What is your name?
Katy Kahele Tsark
Where were you raised?
Where is your ohana originally from?
Do you come from a family of entrepreneurs or have people close to you who have encouraged and supported your entrepreneurship?
No. I am the first entrepreneur in my family. I’m a single mom, and my daughters have been an encouraging support since they were little.
What is the name of your business?
What is the best way to contact you/your business?
Does your business have a website and/or social media presence? If so, please provide a link/s.
Native Hawaiian Business Directory: https://kanakaeconomy.com/listing/kahele-maui/
How long has your business been in operation?
Ten years. Seven years as a part-time side hustle, and three years as a full-time serious job.
Where is your business located today?
What products and/or services does your business provide?
Kahele Maui’s products include a line of bags (eight different styles and sizes), accessories, including our top selling windy hair headwrap, and our original design Stand up Paddle and surfboard carrier, the Hele Board Wrap.
Please describe your business in 1-2 sentences.
We manufacture a boutique line of handcrafted, Maui inspired handbags, accessories and home goods. Our sew room/boutique is open for shoppers to visit, see our current production, and shop.
Why do you do what you do?
I began sewing bags as a hobby. That soon grew to creating seasonal collections to sell during the holidays for extra money. When I became a single mom, I started making bags at night when my girls were sleeping as a part-time second job allowing me to work from home at night. I sold to a couple of local shops and a few times a year at craft fairs. By day I mixed Mai Tai’s and poured cocktails as a 5 star resort bartender. By night I built my inventory, adding in new designs and products. I spent any and all I could afford on new fabrics. I still had a day job that paid the bills, so I didn’t take Kahele Maui too seriously. But then my youngest daughter became ill and was in the hospital on Oahu for three months. When we came home I wasn’t sure if I would ever be able to go to work again. Suddenly I realized that Kahele Maui needed to become my full-time job. Long story short, I had been slowly building Kahele Maui because I loved doing it, and when I was ready to take it to the next level, it was ready.
STARTING YOUR BUSINESS
When did you first think of starting this business?
As a little girl.
What type of experiences (education, work, life) were most important in shaping the skills you use to run your business today?
Collectively, all of them. Being a solo mom and having all decisions on my shoulders. Working for a 5 star resort as a bartender helped hone my customer service skills. Attending UH Maui College Fashion Tech program not only taught me the technical skills, but it opened up a network of sewers and creative minds to learn from.
YOUR BUSINESS TODAY
In what stage of development is your business: pre-formation, early stage, growing, or mature?
My business is in a growing stage.
Do you have employees? If so, how many?
We have three part-time employees, not including my daughters, Makena and Waimea who help a few hours a week
Are you working to get your business to the next stage in development? If so, where are you in that development?
I am always working to get Kahele Maui to the next stage of development. Since the pandemic, we have scaled up our online processes, and I am using this time to take part in the Ku Hana business cohort.
What is the greatest challenge you have experienced as an entrepreneur?
Balancing family and work.
How did you overcome that challenge? (Or are you still working through it?)
I include my family in as many aspects of our business as I can.
THE FUTURE OF YOUR BUSINESS
How do you envision your business in the future?
I envision a flagship brick and mortar store on Maui, a shop on Oahu, and in the future, pop-up summer shops in a few select mainland cities and hopefully Japan.
IF YOU’D LIKE TO SHARE, PLEASE TELL US ABOUT A HOBBY, INTEREST, OR TALENT YOU NURTURE OUTSIDE OF YOUR BUSINESS.
I love the beach! I surf my stand up paddle board at a break across the street from my house whenever I can. I’m obsessed with coffee and love to research, read, and journal.