Workshop teaches business basics


BY TAD SOMMERS

WEST HAWAII TODAY

tsommers@westhawaiitoday.com

West Hawaii could use an indoor skatepark, discount grocery store, kid-friendly services and a few more restaurants, particularly one offering affordable, healthy fare. And a doughnut shop.

These were some of the ideas brainstormed by participants at a small business seminar, recently held at Hawaii Community Federal Credit Union’s Kaloko location.

Hazel Beck, center director of the Hawaii Small Business Development Center Network, presented the seminar, How to Start a Business in Hawaii, to a group of 25 budding entrepreneurs.

“Failure to plan — to think it through — and under-capitalization” are the biggest pitfalls for small business owners, she said. It’s “always going to take more than you thought it would.”

“Fifty percent don’t make year two,” she added.

Beck said the seminar “gives people an idea of the amount of effort and process of getting their business started.”

A written business plan is essential. The plan is an entrepreneur’s road map to success and a communication tool. A potential owner needs to “be able to defend or explain your business plan to an investor, credit union or lender,” Beck said. She works with entrepreneurs at the Small Business Development Center to help transfer ideas to paper, where they can be tweaked.

Beck recommends potential business owners do their research. “Look for trends,” she said. If somebody would have told her in 2009 that he planned to start a construction business, she would have discouraged that thought. These days, though, the industry is picking up and new businesses with it.

An entrepreneur should examine the barriers to entry. While a person may have a passion for helium-powered vehicles, “not a ton of people are looking to get into automobile manufacturing” in places such as Hawaii County, Beck said. The workers are here, but the land, building, electricity and costs to tool the facility or import parts for assembly make such an idea impractical.

Even something less far-fetched, such as a restaurant concept, could fail in Hawaii without an owner’s proper understanding of the market. Profit margins are low in the industry, Beck said. A restaurant owner must know his target audience, have an accurate price point for products and take into consideration the demand for the type of cuisine as well as existing supply. “If I produce it, they will come — may or may not happen,” Beck said.

Keola Boak of Kailua-Kona started a commercial cleaning company about five years ago. “Business plans, I’ve found, you always keep adjusting. As long as you use it as a tool to help on your journey — confirming that is what I needed.”

Whitney Uldricks would like to see more community-supported agriculture programs “to teach people to sustain themselves.” But, the Kailua-Kona resident said after listening to Beck’s presentation, getting there “might take some time.” Between “insurance, accounting, bookkeeping … there are a lot of things I didn’t think about before.” She wasn’t discouraged, however. Uldricks said she’ll be meeting with Beck for a one-on-one consultation soon.

Kailua-Kona resident Doug Ray “was looking for business knowledge” when he registered for the seminar. The inventor has some ideas and is working on acquiring a patent. “The negotiation of the real estate was a good one for me,” he said, referring to Beck’s revelation that lease agreements are often flexible. “I thought that was set in stone,” he said.

The seminar has been offered several times in the past two and a half years. It will again be offered in West Hawaii later this year. The Small Business Development Center in West Hawaii is located in Kuakini Tower.

For more information, or to request free business counseling services, visit hisbdc.org.