[dropcap sid=”dropcap-1430920904″”color: #800080;”]A[/dropcap]oi (Adachi) Kawano (’00) had been handcrafting soaps out of her home in Honolulu, Hawaii, since making soaps as her wedding favors in 2003. With encouragement from friends and family, 10 years later, she turned that hobby into a business. Pualani Soap Hawaii—the name comes from the Hawaiian words Pua, which means “flowers,” and Lani, which means “heavenly” and “beautiful”—offers pure, all-natural, locally sourced, handcrafted, vegetable-base soaps, lip balms, and salves.
Pualani Soap Hawaii products are available online through Kawano’s website and through Etsy, the peer-to-peer commercial website for handmade items. A Member of Handcrafters and Artisans Alliance in Hawaii, she also markets and sells face-to-face at such major exhibitions as Made in Hawaii Festival, Islandwide Craft & Food Expo, and Waikiki Artfest. Says Kawano, who studied international marketing at Baruch College as an international student from Japan, “I am a hardworking person and want to do well. In a small business, if you don’t do your work, nothing or not much gets done at the end of day.”
Of her alma mater, she says, “The diversity of Baruch College was helpful to me not only because I was an international student from Japan but because it prepared me for my real-world business. I work with clients, retail buyers, and exhibition managers from various business, cultural, and ethnic backgrounds.”
AOI KAWANO TALKS ENTREPRENEURSHIP with BCAM
Q: What adjective(s) do you use to describe entrepreneurs?
A: Hardworking, motivated, loving what they do, chasing after dreams.
Q: What inspired you to start/found your business?
A: I love what I do. I enjoy making soaps that are good for us and the environment.
I have always loved being creative, making something that brings others—in this case, my customers—happiness. It is so rewarding to receive good reviews and positive comments on my products.
Q: What skill(s) do you have naturally that help you as a small-business person?
A: I am a hardworking person and want to do well. In a small business, if you don’t do your work, nothing or not much gets done at the end of day. I am also good at multitasking.
I have worked for big and small companies and found I enjoyed working for small companies better even though those environments require more multitasking. Working directly for and with the owners of businesses, one is more involved in important daily tasks and decision making, which I enjoy.
Q: Was there any aspect of your Baruch education that was particularly helpful to you in your business?
A: The business skills I learned in basic accounting and marketing courses are important to day-to-day operations and decision-making.
And the diversity of Baruch College was helpful to me not only because I was an international student from Japan but because it prepared me for my real-world business. I work with clients, retail buyers, and exhibition managers from various business, cultural, and ethnic backgrounds.
Q: Entrepreneurs have to have confidence. Where did you find yours?
A: I have pride and confidence in my products. I may have a small operation compared to other soap and natural skin care companies, but I believe I have one of the best handcrafted soaps. I maintain that high standard with quality ingredients and processes.
Q: What do you like/love about being an entrepreneur?
A: I can do what my heart and soul desire to do. The results come back to me directly—either positive or negative.
Q: What’s your biggest challenge?
A: Being an entrepreneur is extremely hard work. If you don’t act, nothing goes forward.
Q: Any advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
A: Love what you do!
Visit and follow this alumna at:
Facebook: Pualani Soap Hawaii