Maui Entrepreneur Spreads Aloha ‘One Bag at a Time’
Earlier this month, a select group of 50 businesses from Hawai‘i participated in the 2015 Tokyo International Gift Show, a wholesale event held at the Big Sight Exhibition Hall. TIGS is the largest international trade show in Japan, drawing over 200,000 domestic and international buyers over the three-day period.
Sponsored by the Hawai‘i State Department of Business and Economic Development and Tourism and selected to be exhibitors according to SBA’s “Made in Hawaii” guidelines, each business and its products were featured in the DBEDT large, custom-constructed Hawai‘i Pavilion.
The Maui Economic Development Board and the Maui Food Technology Center handpicked eight businesses to represent Maui.
Kauionalani Waller, one of the entrepreneurs selected to be a participant in the show, became a member of Maui Business Brainstormers while developing the idea for her business.
Waller’s Maui Nui Wear sells handmade totes and yoga bags made from a light, durable, recycled mesh accented with Hawaiian print fabric.
“This event was an eye-opener,” said Waller. “Over the three days, I met numerous Japanese people who have Hawaiian shops, hula supply stores and surf shops. I could not believe how many shops in Japan feature gear from Hawai’i.”
“The Japanese buyers said our bags are really pretty and inquired if we have more designs,” said Waller. “I got two orders and potentially over 30 other companies are interested in carrying our line, including two, large, well-known chain stores throughout Japan.”
Overall, Waller said the event was a huge success for Maui Nui Wear.
“We will definitely be returning next year,” said Waller. “Because the event is extremely large, being part of the Hawai‘i group pavilion allowed Maui Nui Wear not to get lost in the sea of vendors. Next year, we will prepare a catalog for the buyers. Also, not only will our prints change, but we need to have one if not two new designs.”
“Since the launch of my business at the Made in Maui County Festival, I’m very thankful to have the international market exposure and to represent Maui at the Tokyo International Gift Expo,” said Waller. “I was overwhelmed by the Hawai‘i community’s camaraderie, promoting each others businesses, Maui and the spirit of aloha. Not only do I represent Maui Nui Wear, I’m proud to represent Maui and spread aloha one bag at a time.”