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As noted in Dreaming Of Working In Paradise? This Social Entrepreneur Is Living Your Dream, entrepreneurs should prioritize where they want to live based on a location that compliments their desired lifestyle, rather than how conducive a particular geography will be to their venture’s success. If you overly focus on finding the best location for your company, your business may succeed, but you might wake up with a full bank account and an empty soul.
During a recent visit to Kauai, I met several dedicated and focused entrepreneurs, all of whom selected Kauai first and then leveraged the business advantages of island life.
In the course of these conversations, I learned that Sheri Trentlage, an entrepreneur turned amateur historian, has re-written history. Through her careful research, she has challenged the conventional location of Captain Cook’s landing site. Sheri’s discovery is significant, as Cook and his crew were the first Europeans to interact with native Hawaiians. She is currently in discussions with a Hollywood filmmaker regarding a potential documentary which would highlight her findings.
Her research has also sparked a new search for the discovery of the heiau (a Hawaiian temple) that Captain Cook visited when he initially made landfall. Archeologists have been searching in vain for this temple, since the early 1900’s. It’s no wonder they never found it, as they were looking in the wrong location. You can read how Sheri’s turned Hawaiian history on its head in, Indiana Jane: How This Entrepreneur Is Rewriting History.
The Garden Island Grille
What motivated you to start your venture on Kauai?
“A love for the island, a desire to live life to its fullest. We moved to Kauai from Michigan and started a restaurant in an anchor location in downtown Koloa.
Dave was a third-generation plumber. I was an insurance agent. We both love people, I love to cook. He always wanted to have a bar… so we completely changed the direction and course of our lives and decided to chase down our dreams. We opened our restaurant with no prior experience in the industry. And we succeeded.
We had an 850 credit score the day we took over our space. We used every dime on every credit card we had… and by the day we opened, our credit score was in the 500’s and we had $138,000 in credit card debt.
We opened in October 2015 and worked 362 days a year our first two and a half years. We took New Year’s Day off, and our next day off was Thanksgiving.
We paid off all the debt in our first year and we’ve always been profitable. On Trip Advisor we have been as high as number 20 out of 365 restaurants on the island and (we) have always been in the top 5% to 10% of Kauai’s restaurants.”
What are the advantages of launching a startup in Kauai?
“Watching the palm trees gently swaying and living in the most beautiful place in the world (laughs).
Seriously, there’s a year-round tourism base and we are located in the historic town of Koloa, home of the first sugar mill in the Hawaiian Islands, which attracts a lot of visitors. There’s something special about Kauai. The island, the people, and speed of life make for an entirely different way of living.”
What is the biggest misconception about Kauai’s startup ecosystem?
“Time and money. When we started, we thought we’d be open in 60 days. It took seven months. And we’re on an island with 2,000 miles of sea in any direction, and most items need to be shipped in. Our shipping costs during start up were over $10,000.
Labor is the biggest challenge. Finding people who understand what it means to have a strong work ethic, and desire perfection, and with those people, building a family of workers who love our restaurant as much as we do. It’s difficult on an island this small, and with an eligible working population even smaller, to find dedicated and hard-working people who can really see the long view and realize that the success of the business, not only depends on them, but will ultimately bring them successful as well.
A high tide raises all boats. We’ve been lucky to find a few gems in this ‘Kauai wishing well’ that have come around to the idea that, ‘I can really make a difference here, what I do matters, and I’m recognized for my abilities.’ Good, solid, dependable labor will always be the hurdle that stands before you every day.”
January 10, 2019 at 10:57AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs