If you’ve read Our Story, you’ll have found that we, like so many other transplants, have moved to Hawai’i from the mainland. What is not made abundantly clear is that we were moved there not by choice, but by assignment, as it was my last duty station serving in the US Army.
Surf Soap was created out of an inherent love of our environment and perpetuated by the distinctive, cultural Hawaiian spirit of caring for our ‘Aina, our land.
That ‘Aina not only includes the land, but its people as well, our collective human community, made up of those who call this place home via their roots and those nomadic people who find a spiritual adoptive home here on the islands.
From the very beginning, we wanted Surf Soap to care for its people, its community, and its land.
When we began to experience growth, we were troubled by a large decision.
Do we continue to grow here, and continue in our values and mission of growing people, providing opportunities for fulfilling jobs, and educating our communities and government leaders (more on that below)
Do we move a company we’ve already established (which is a HUGE cost) in order to be closer to ports, and have infinitely easier logistical processes; while pursuing the same goals of growth in people, providing opportunities, and education - but losing the community we've built, the people we've met, and the story we've created for our company?
This answer was not for me and Ben to make alone, as we were already established and working towards our goals. I sought out many small companies owned by Hawaiian or Local people to gauge their opinion. And from those conversations, came such a spirit of collaboration, respect, and community that I want to thank them again here, for their courage to speak to me about uncomfortable issues plainly and with great aloha.
Here's the issue at hand:
Many…many… companies around the world and particularly on the mainland, make exclusive use of the Hawaiian culture, words, and images to market their products and offerings, all the meanwhile their products are produced, scaled, and distributed via the mainland, typically coastal cities in California, Texas, and Florida. You probably have some of their items in your house right now. There is no need to name them here, but pay special attention to companies that use the Hawaiian culture who are HQ’d in, say, California.
This is why Surf Soap is proudly handmade in Hawaii, but we try to paint a larger, less exclusive picture in order to maintain the balance that we ourselves try to perpetuate throughout our social media, outreach, and local programs.
We wanted to balance the spirit of Hawaiian culture with the knowledge that we are, and always will be, just visitors here. And if we remain here, it is our duty to uphold, respect and share the culture that we love so dearly, and to care for and learn from the local community that work alongside us.
We work for our community, not the other way around.
Below is a bullet point outline of our inner-company goals, mission, and plans as we grow in our community.
My hope is that more small businesses - regardless of their locale but especially in small, environmentally fragile areas - can be inspired to start their own programs for caring for communities and educating themselves on their adoptive cultures. We have a job as a collective human existence to care for one another, care for our land, and embrace the communal spirit.
If you have any questions or concerns about our programs, our Kanaka + Transplant business owner working groups (@hawaiibusinesscollective) or our education initiatives within our company and our community, feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mahalo nui loa for your support, your encouragement, and your spirit.
With Love From Hawaii,
OUR COMPANY PRINCIPLES
OUR CURRENT INITIATIVES
- Establish and nurture working groups that invite conversations and learning opportunities between Kanaka-owned and Transplant-owned businesses
- Choose suppliers and retailers carefully based on their processes, shipping, and missions
- Build Surf Soap using efficient growth strategy in order to offer better and better opportunities to those who work with us
- Pay our teammates living wages
- Utilize conversation sessions to grow people, challenge them, and promote from the inside first
- Doing private company beach cleanups - not always advertised, but always a good time
- Keep production in-house, rather than outsourcing to a manufacturer, in order to create more job opportunities
- Marketing, finances, and all other business aspects are kept in house or on island via other Kanaka-owned businesses that offer that specific service
OUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE
- Create a working environment that allows for:
- The opportunity to control one’s time
- Maternity / Paternity leave
- Healthcare benefits
- Daycare and after-school programs and tutoring
- Control of one’s growth in the company
- Family - oriented workspace
- Ensure we are caring for our community by outsourcing as little as possible, and hiring members of the local community for all open positions
- Instead of putting our funds "out into the ether" in support of organizations where we may not know where the money actually goes, we strive to put our earnings back into our 'Ohana, our teammates - into programs that benefit them directly. We believe that making small changes in our little circle will amount to huge changes in our community, so we start there first.
EDUCATION AND OUTREACH
- Provide education to other transplant-owned businesses to aid in their community programs and initiatives
- Provide elementary level education on the importance of caring for our ‘Aina
- Create markets where other Kanaka and Transplant owned businesses can come together, educate customers, and learn from one another “see through the other’s eyes”.
- Provide online education on living sustainably. Not telling others “how” to live, but showing by example how small steps can create a collectively better world (and cleaner ocean)
- Work to create classes to learn about self-sustainment, caring for the land, and becoming closer to our nature
- Kayla is a founding member of a working group for Kanaka-owned and Transplant-owned Hawaiian businesses to come together and learn from one another. Find us on IG @hawaiibusinesscollective.
- Conversations range from culture and language, to networking and business success. The group aims to bring companies together in order to collectively serve the Hawaiian community. We also aim to change laws and political positions on how small, locally owned businesses are treated, and we would like to see more opportunities for small local businesses to thrive in the Hawaiian community, rather than be driven out by high costs and the precedence the tourism industry takes over all other industry here to achieve a more balanced economic capability.