If Janene and I were ever on the Shark Tank television show, Jaws would look like a minnow, and we would be thoroughly gored and annihilated. Our altruistic, yet somewhat naive business philosophy, is based on “If we build it— they will come.” The Sharks would start using us as their model of “How Not to do Business.”
Since its inception, Aloha Inspiration’s only mission has been to create products that INSPIRE ALOHA! Janene and I really did not have a clue about how we were going to market the company; our one and only real desire was to make sure we remained on task promoting the acronym of ALOHA.
- Akahai – kindness (grace), to be expressed with tenderness;
- Lokahi – unity (unbroken), to be expressed with harmony;
- Oluʻ Olu – agreeable (gentle), to be expressed with pleasantness;
- Haʻahaʻa – humility (empty), to be expressed with modesty;
- Ahonui – patience (waiting for the moment), to be expressed with perseverance.
I have to admit, we floundered when it came to the overwhelming monster of social media marketing. We are old school and were not born Tech Ready 2.0. Our friend Rupali has done a great job with our Facebook page, but we struggled with getting followers to view her great posts. Everyone knows branding on Instagram is of the utmost importance, but Aloha Inspiration’s presence remained minimal. Many friends and fellow entrepreneurs gave us their advice on how to improve our social media presence, but the advice was all over the map.
Last fall Janene and I made a concerted effort to try and create an intelligent, well-thought out marketing promotion to attract more consumers for our customer base. With Rupali’s expertise, we created an amazing marketing roadmap called “9 Days to More Aloha.” This promotion concentrated on breaking down each of the letters in ALOHA. The first thing we had to do to was figure out who was our avatar or our ideal customer.
Janene and I came up with: Female, 40-60 years of age…someone who loves hula and Hawaiian culture, is athletic, and is interested in fitness, wellness and fashion as well as having a spiritual life.
The “9 Days to More ALOHA” promo was a great success. Janene’s cousin, Geri and her husband Dave responded that they finally “got” AIoha Inspiration and its mission. Geri, a talented graphic artist, was so inspired that she created an ALOHA acronym card for us. Several friends went out of their way to tell us how nicely done our promo was, and their endorsement meant the world to us.
Janene and I thought we were finally getting our act together and were happy with our steady, positive progressive baby steps. Little did we know that we had a big lesson coming our way….
Janene and I were anxiously awaiting our second trip to sell our wares at this year’s Merrie Monarch Hula Festival 2018. Merrie Monarch is the perfect venue for our products and company’s mission. We were debuting our new ALOHA leggings and Hula Sistah tank.
Two days before we were leaving, a friend of mine and yoga instructor Nikki Estrada from CA, posted a video highlighting an issue happening in the yoga business community. Dana Falsetti, a yoga teacher known for her voice in bringing awareness to fat shaming and body issues, posted some comments about Alo Yoga clothing company and their promotion and perpetuation of the beautiful, thin, fit, bendy yogi. Alo Yoga in turn, is now suing Dana in two states, and she has racked up thousands and thousands of dollars in legal bills trying to fight them. Janene and I had a long conversation on the issue during our flight to Hilo. We both admire Dana and her reminder to the world that all shapes and sizes are beautiful. We agree with her that no one should feel “less than” for not fitting into that super-model club that our beauty and fashion industry promotes.
The conversation reminded me of the day I wore my ALOHA leggings to hula and my gorgeous, tall, hula sister, Vaune, commented that we needed to make sure we make clothing for the “Polynesian Petite.” I repeated the comment to Janene, and we really loved the idea and made a mental note to look into it. When we came out with our first tanks and tees, we only made our designs in XS – LG. After 3 months of requests for larger sizes, we added XL.
My other hula sister Lani of Uncle Lani’s Poi Mochi, loves our clothing, and last year bought our men’s tees to wear. I was telling her about Vaune’s suggestion that we make clothing for the Polynesian Petite, and she laughed and said to just make for the Polynesian Normal!
Janene and I were learning so much about the plus-size market. We found a polar opposite mind-set as some women feel the need to cover their arms, stomachs and buttocks, while others don’t give a flying fig and are large and proud! We thought we heard the message and created a plus size top with 3/4 sleeves and a generous fit. We were so surprised that most of the plus-size customers did not want the extra coverage tee! They wanted to wear our tanks instead. We were pretty baffled, and did not have a clue how to create for this market size.
Landing at Hilo airport on Wed at 6:00AM, we hit the ground running into full-blown warp speed. Our Hula leggings and Hula Sistah tanks flew off the shelf, and our popular, company mantra, long sleeve “Be Live Inspire ALOHA” tee that we introduced in December was the biggest seller. We knew Hula Sistah was going to be the premier attraction, and we made the tank up to 2XL.
Every other customer requested our tanks, tees and leggings in a 2XL – 4XL. It actually got to be embarrassing that we had to turn away so many customers that share our love for ALOHA! On the third day, a beautiful young woman came by to tell us she had bought a tee from us last year and had received so many compliments. This amazing spirit was size 3XL. She tried on everything we had in a 2XL but nothing really fit her. She was so determined and inspired to wear our brand that she purchased an XL “Be Live Inspire ALOHA” tee that could maybe have been a bit bigger.
Watching that powerful Goddess squeeze herself into our tee caused us to experience a spectrum of emotions. Pushing all of our old, crappy body issue buttons, we felt qualms over the tee being too tight as well as being in total awe of the woman’s ability to be so confident rocking her “I’m sexy and I know it” attitude. How I wish I had that kind of self-confidence! That woman was such a huge inspiration, and the MESSAGE could not have been louder.
Exhausted on the plane ride home, we talked the entire way about how our first order of business was to incorporate a Polynesian Petite Line. But more importantly was the deeper symbolic lesson of how ALOHA should NOT be exclusive and discriminatory!
It was as if we had found the solution for world peace. Janene and I consider ourselves to be very open and accepting of all colors, ages, sizes, religions and sexual orientations, but boy were our minds opened and our perspective shifted as we were schooled in one more facet of what ALOHA truly is! Throwing out our initial ideal “avatar” customer, we have a new simplistic definition of our Avatar: An all-inclusive, nondiscriminatory person that seeks a life of ALOHA!
Kākou is the Hawaiian value of inclusiveness. It means “all of us” and “we are in this together.” Kākou is very unifying when applied to language, and all are taught to learn, speak, and practice “the language of Kākou. Kākou is the language of the ‘Ohana, for it is the language of “we” and we are in this together. Together we are stronger. We are better.”~ From Rosa Say,
“Managing with Aloha Bringing Hawai’i’s
Universal Values to the Art of Business”