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As I noted in Start Your Company Where You Want To Live, I believe that entrepreneurs should decide where they want to live based on an environment that compliments their desired lifestyle. Secondarily, they should consider how conducive the environment will be to their venture’s success.
Clearly, a pragmatic entrepreneur will do everything they can to stack the cards in their favor, including selecting a favorable startup ecosystem. If you are launching a biomedical venture, you have a much higher probability of success in Orange County, California, as opposed to Hancock County, Maine (which is arguably one of the most remote counties in the US). Why attempt to swim upstream, when you can expend far less energy, go further, and move more quickly by going with the flow?
Just as it wouldn’t make sense to plant corn in Antarctica, there are plenty of geographies with immature (or non-existent) entrepreneurial communities which can offer little local support to a fledgling company. However, if you over-optimize on the best location for your company, your business may succeed, while you fail the game of life. Thus, I encourage my UC Santa Barbara students to select a home that will optimize their personal happiness, rather than solely their financial bottom-line.
As I spend more time in Kauai, I’m becoming familiar with the island’s small, but emerging startup community, led by folks like Dirk Soma. I’m no longer surprised when I meet yet another successful, grounded and happy Kauaian entrepreneur – they are everywhere.
During my chats with these on-island entrepreneurs, many have shared the surprise they encounter from tourists and friends who marvel that they’ve established a thriving business on a tiny rock in the middle of the Pacific.
One of these life-in-paradise empresarios is social entrepreneur and youth leader, Vance Pascua.
Care? Yes. Fear? No
Vance Pascua, a lifelong resident of Kauai, was frustrated with the popularity of the saying AiNoKea (I No Care) among Hawaiian youth. Initially the phrase meant, “No worries, I do what I want.” However, over time, it became more closely associated with unmotivated young people who felt they had no future, akin to the “tune in and drop out” mindset of the late 1960’s. The saying began appearing on t-shirts, stickers, tattoos and eventually a clothing line.
In 2006, Vance turned the phrase on its head, creating the Ainofea (I No Fear) clothing brand, which he coupled with his with his passion of empowering young people through martial arts and bodybuilding. Ainofea offers Hawaiian youth a positive lifestyle alternative to the I No Care mindset. Ainofea is now one of Hawaii’s most popular home-grown brands and is in the early stages of exploring potential retail sites in Europe and New Zealand.
What motivated you to start your venture on Kauai?
“My biggest motivator was seeing brands not from Hawaii doing well (here), that came to Hawaii to start up or build their brands, surf brands especially! So I was saying to myself ‘Why can’t a local Hawaiian brand do well and spread outwards to the world?’
So that’s why I started Ainofea Clothing. A brand with true roots coming out of Hawaii.”
What are the advantages of launching a startup in Kauai?
“Kauai being unique in itself, visitors want to bring back something from Kauai to remember their time here while on vacation and we have people from all over the world here on a daily basis, so it is a great place to get international exposure.
We even have Celebrities purchase part-time homes. because its so beautiful here. People like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg or New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees. Also, with Kauai’s landscapes, it is ideal for filming, so quite a bit of big-budget films are made here. So a local brand can get worldwide exposure overnight if one of these celebrities buys your brand and likes it or people see them with it on. It could easily help your brand overnight. UFC’s Kimo Leopoldo and Anthony Torres and Former WBO and WBA flyweight champ Brain Viloria have all been photographed wearing Ainofea.
Also, there is a spirit or ‘Mana’ from the islands that you can’t get anywhere else. I try to capture the Hawaiian Mana in my clothing designs. So, when you see and wear the clothing, you feel the ‘Mana’ and it should empower you, not just be another clothing item you put on.”
What is the biggest misconception about Kauai’s startup ecosystem?
“That we have all the resources available at our disposal, which is far from the truth. Depending on your business, you have to ship in a lot of your inventory, supplies, equipment… which will be hard on your finances when you first get started. Another problem you can face is having enough employees to run your business here, we have a very small population on the island, so employees are not easily found. Also, operational costs are very high, such as rental space and electricity, so it’s not as easy to start and run a business here as people think.”
December 23, 2018 at 02:21PM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs