How a Certified B-Corp Is Preserving Hawaiian Culture

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There are less than 2,000 businesses in the world that are certified B-Corporations, but one of them is OluKai, a Hawaiian footwear company that has made giving back one of the core components of its brand. In addition to donating profits to the Conservation Alliance, the company has its own foundation as the vehicle for its community service.

According to their website, “the Ama OluKai Foundation is a private, non-profit 501 (c)(3) located in the State of Hawai‘i. The Foundation partners with other committed and progressive organizations interested in the preservation of Hawaiian culture, and honors those who cultivate cultural heritage and the Aloha spirit of Hawai‘i.In correlation with other Hawaiian based organizations, The Foundation works to preserve land and ocean, serve our communities, and maintain the Hawaiian culture and traditions. This is conducted through targeted programs designed to explore ancestral past to present day. The Foundation provides encouragement to those who benefit from its partnerships to carry forward the spirit of giving for future generations.”

I had a chance to talk with Olukai’s Director of Marketing, Kerry Konrady, about social good and maintaining ‘aloha.”

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Dustin Clendenen: Tell us what about the meaning behind the name OluKai.

Kerry Konrady: In the Hawaiian language, “Olu” means comfort, “Kai” means ocean. Both words lend meaning to our approach to create a premium ocean lifestyle brand.

The Polynesian culture is an oral history, passed along through storytelling. Naming our brand as well as products with Hawaiian words is our small way of spreading and preserving the culture for future generations.

In addition our logo, the Makau, is an ancient symbol for safe passage over water, strength and good fortune, is worn by watermen and women across the world most often as a bone hook necklace.

DC: How did you remain dedicated to giving back even before the company was profitable?

KK: OluKai has always been strongly influenced by Hawaii’s distinct sense of community and sustainable way of living. Giving back has been core value of our company since inception. We have dedicated time, money and volunteer hours to many cause related organizations such as Polynesian Voyaging Society, Hawaiian Lifeguard Association, Maui Cultural Lands and many others.

In 2014, in an effort to formalize our giveback efforts, we created the Ama OluKai Foundation, a private, non-profit 501 (c)(3) located in the State of Hawai‘i. The Foundation partners with other committed and progressive organizations interested in the preservation of Hawaiian culture, and honors those who cultivate cultural heritage and the Aloha spirit of Hawai’i. Now part of the proceeds of each pair of OluKai sold goes directly to support the Ama OluKai Foundation’s mission.

DC: What advice do you have to fellow entrepreneurs who are dealing with the same struggles?

KK: A quick caveat, advice is easy to give out, but really difficult to have the discipline required to execute successfully. So therein lies some advice, be very disciplined in your business. Secondly is focus, know who you are and what the consumer loves about you, and master your craft. Finally, in a digital age, being flexible and using data to make factually informed decisions is vital to achievement.

DC: How do you maintain your ‘Aloha’ even in the midst of running a successful and growing company?

KK: It begins with our mission statement: “We believe that everybody, no matter where they are, can live Aloha. OluKai is one way to unlock its spirit in all of us.” However maintaining this as our company’s culture is truly an everyday endeavor. Thankfully we have a group of incredible people, who collectively, are working together to realize OluKai’s maximum potential. We don’t know what that is, or even try to define it, but we know we still have so much to accomplish together.

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