This Former Hippy Launched Her Venture In Kauai And Built A Global Brand by Forbes – Entrepreneurs

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What happens when a former Hippy starts a company in Kauai?

This question might conjure images of someone hand weaving hemp clothing on the beach. In the case of Becky Burns, Founder of Anahola Granola, she melded her love of Kauai and healthy eating into an an International brand.

Becky is one three Kauaian entrepreneurs I reached out to, in the hopes of better understanding how they established thriving businesses on a tiny rock in the middle of the Pacific.

All three Kauaian entrepreneurs I spoke with share a love of Kauai and volunteer their time to preserve its history and enhance their local communities.

Vance Pascua has created the Ainofea (I No Fear) clothing brand, to inspire Hawaiian youth with a positive alternative to the “I No Care” mindset. Sheri Trentlage has been dubbed “Indiana Jane” due to her historical research, which has rewritten the history books regarding Europeans’ first contact with native Hawaiians.

Anahola Granola

Becky shares Vance and Sheri’s pride in Hawaii’s heritage. She loves being a woman business owner in Hawaii, telling me, “There is a strong sense of local pride of living in the islands and taking care of each other. I never felt that anything could stop me. I just didn’t perceive myself as any different (from male entrepreneurs), which caused me to treat everyone equally, as an individual. My natural sense of playfulness and good humor fits in well with Kauai’s Aloha culture – it’s the essence upon which we’ve built the Anahola Granola brand.”

Growing up, Becky Burns spent her summers on Orcas Island, part of the San Juan Islands archipelago in Washington. Her family valued independence and self-reliance, which came in handy when Becky moved to Hawaii in the 1970’s and lived in a tent on Molokai, tending an organic garden and goats. When she started Anahola Granola on Kauai in 1986, she was an anomaly, as few Kauai women were starting businesses. She quickly learned to be patient, respectful of the island ways and accepting of the challenges of island life.

Becky has always been a proponent of eating a healthy diet, long before sustainable, healthy food and granola was hip. She baked her first granola batch in 1972, when she lived in a log cabin as the caretaker of Sheep Island off the Washington coast. Over the decades, she has augmented her original recipe by mixing the flavors of Hawaii into new concepts and products.

Becky’s responses to my Kauai startup questions are as follows:

What motivated you to start your venture on Kauai?

“I had to be crazy starting a granola business on Kauai in 1986. At that time, the only people who ate granola were a few hippies that made their own. But I was motivated by the people who loved Anahola Granola, who said, ’Your granola is so good you should sell it”. Some of those people bought a small bag every week. I couldn’t stop making the stuff; I thought, ‘What would my new fans eat?’ Obviously, I wasn’t motivated by crunching numbers and looking at the bottom line. It was never about the money.

My vision of making granola was 100% clear. If fact so clear, it felt like every idea that popped into my brain was perfect. I never wavered from my direction, never over-thought my plan.

My core value was getting a healthy and delicious granola out to people. I love people and love making people happy. My product had to taste, smell, and feel delicious. I valued the best ingredients I could find, making food that I would want to eat. It may sound corny, but to me, Anahola Granola is more than food, it embodies everything I care for of Hawaiian heritage-healthy food, respect for people and an experience of the extraordinary place found in Hawaii.”

What are the advantages of launching a startup in Kauai?

“Tourism provides a huge advantage to starting a business on Kauai. Today, the typical tourist is seeking products that are unique to Hawaii. Visitors search for food and experiences that will make their trip special. They want to learn about the islands and enjoy the uniqueness of Kauai / Hawaii.

Because of this, there is a lot of excitement in the community when launching a startup. When I started Anahola Granola in 1986, this was not the case. There were very few startup companies and the tourists liked hanging out at resorts isolated from the island culture.

Another advantage to launching a business on Kauai is that the state is supportive to the small business community. There is money for startups, and funding to help pay for expansions with existing businesses.”

What is the biggest misconception about Kauai’s startup ecosystem?

“There wasn’t a business ecosystem when I started. In 1986, there were very few startups. People would say, ‘If you can build a business on Kauai, you can succeed anywhere.’ Yes, having a business on Kauai presents a logistical nightmare. Especially bringing in key ingredients that you need for production.

If you stay loyal to your customers, and give them the same great product, they will remain loyal to you. A misconception may be that Kauai wants to join the big boys. That may have been true when I started, but I don’t think it is now.”

You can follow John on Twitter: @johngreathouse. You can also check out his hands-on startup blog HERE.

January 7, 2019 at 02:53PM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs