After COVID-19 disrupted their lives, three Punahou alumnae turned hardship into hard work, launching Lōkahi Local Made, an e-commerce business that supports small local businesses.
“We got sent home from school early because of coronavirus, and our summer internships were canceled,” Jolie Fujita ’17 said. “It was a pretty dismal time.”
Her best friend’s father offered a backup plan – the opportunity to intern at family-owned Diamond Bakery. There, Fujita joined her best friend, Mia Yoshioka ’17, and five other interns tasked with inventing new bakery products. After brainstorming, the group came up with a bigger business concept and asked permission to pursue it. “We saw that a lot of local businesses were tourist-based. Since tourism has been shut down, we needed to find a local base,” Yoshioka said.
From this idea, lokahilocalmade.com, was born, with Diamond Bakery one of their first partners.
“We found businesses, and we reached out to them and asked for an exclusive product,” Nicole Baptist ’16 said. The entrepreneurs said it was easy to convince the businesses to partner with them, because most were ready to innovate or had a product they wanted to offer.
Lōkahi Local Made releases products in batches, so customers can anticipate new offerings. The latest round features goodies like chocolate-covered li hing mui from Menehune Mac, lilikoi curd from Maui Upcountry Jams and Jellies, and Mom Mae’s Specialty Mix chips from Kona Chips. Customers buy online and pick up locally, but the group is also working on shipping.
The young entrepreneurs have had to quickly learn the ins and outs of running a business, including inventory management, traffic-driven marketing, food storage and trademark. Baptist, a recent Boston University graduate with a degree in mechanical engineering, said the experience has been eye opening. “It’s been very inspiring to see how everyone from different backgrounds – majors I’m unfamiliar with – all work together,” she said.
The group is also grateful for their Punahou network to help get the initiative off the ground. “I always knew that I had this amazing community that I could rely on – so many connections, so many people that I could reach out to and ask for help,” Yoshioka said. “This project has put this directly into my life.”
Overwhelming response to their website has motivated the group to continue the site beyond the coronavirus pandemic, even if college resumes on campus on the mainland. The company is donating a portion of their proceeds to the Susannah Wesley Community Center. To shop and find out more about local pickup, visit lokahilocalmade.com.
Zeen is a next generation WordPress theme. It’s powerful, beautifully designed and comes with everything you need to engage your visitors and increase conversions.