Google helps Hawaii businesses move toward their goals

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$320 million

of economic activity

In 2021, Google helped provide $320 million of economic activity for tens of thousands of Hawaii businesses, nonprofits, publishers, creators and developers


Hawaii businesses

More than 87,000 Hawaii businesses received requests for directions, phone calls, bookings, reviews and other direct connections to their customers from Google in 2021

$1.77 million

of free advertising

In 2021, Google provided $1.77 million of free advertising to Hawaii nonprofits through the Google Ad Grants program

Kapa Nui Nails

Location: Kamuela, Hawaii
Website: https://www.kapanuinails.com/
50% YoY growth

Partners in business and life for 27 years, Terry and Dr. Lyn Lam raised a family together and ran a successful women’s healthcare center on the island of Hawaii. Beauty products were never in their wheelhouse, until they learned of the harmful effects of traditional nail lacquers from a polymer chemist friend. “Taking care of women all our lives, we know how important it is that women feel good about themselves,” says Lyn. “Nail polish can empower women, but that’s often compromised by guilt and anxiety about what you are doing to yourself, your nails, your kids. For us, creating something better for women and the planet was a no-brainer.” They launched Kapa Nui Nails in 2019 as a full line of nail care products and water-based polishes that are completely non-toxic, odor-free, and environmentally friendly.

Terry and Lyn used Google Ads from the outset to gain traction, turning to Google Analytics to help fine-tune their e-commerce campaigns. “It's really helped us to hone in on our audience, and the demographics have helped us to target our marketing more efficiently,” says Terry. Approximately 80 percent of Kapa Nui Nails’ traffic comes from online sources, helping to drive 50-percent growth year-over-year (YoY). Terry attributes about one-third of that growth to Google Ads. The Lams hope their success inspires other Hawaiians to start small businesses and promote exports as a bigger part of the state’s industry. “Hawaii is heavily based on tourism, and many of us are trying to branch out,” explains Lyn. “We are proud to represent rural, outer-island Hawaii and what can be accomplished just about anywhere with internet access.” As they begin to pursue more retail opportunities, the Lams feel prepared to scale. “Bottom line is we want to spread the word,” Lyn says. “We want as many polish users as possible to know that chemical-free nail care is an option.”


Location: Maui, Hawaii
Website: https://wrappily.com/
40% YoY growth

Living in Hawaii, Sara Smith understands how small choices can have big impacts on the environment—including how we give gifts. So in 2013, she founded Wrappily to help do something about the tons of non-biodegradable wrapping paper finding its way into landfills. Wrappily uses newspaper presses to make beautiful, fully recyclable, eco-friendly wrapping paper. “There’s a groundswell of consumers looking to make easy, sustainable lifestyle swaps,” Sara says. “We help them do that on a daily basis.” From the beginning, Wrappily has used digital tools like Google Ads to reach customers across the islands and around the world, sharing their message and offering gift givers everywhere a chance to be part of the solution to excess paper waste.

When COVID-19 put a halt to parties all over the world, Sara knew Wrappily needed to look for new revenue streams. When Google Trends and Analytics revealed that wholesale retailers were not only searching for eco-friendly wrapping paper, but also compostable basket filler and an assortment of related products, Sara saw her opportunity to pivot to B2B sales and seized it. “I never would have foreseen the headway we’d make breaking into larger retailers without Google,” she says. Today, Wrappily’s 40-percent year-over-year (YoY) growth is driven by Google Ads, and even during the pandemic, Google Shopping has helped to more than double their e-commerce revenue. They have plans to expand into Japan and Canada in 2021, and Sara is confident about Wrappily’s future. “It’s just waiting for your moments and staying true to your product and your values,” she says. And that’s a gift that keeps on giving.

Big Island Candies

Location: Hilo, Hawaii
Website: www.bigislandcandies.com
125 employees

Allan Ikawa is in the business of giving, or the practice of omiyage (Japanese for “gift giving”), which is heavily ingrained in Hawaiian culture. It’s a concept that inspired him to create Big Island Candies, a gourmet confections company based in Hilo, Hawaii, that focuses on making high-quality, innovative indulgences that can be given as gifts. As an expression of gratitude toward the eventual recipient, Allan is dedicated to making sure his creations look good, taste good, and bring happiness to others. Allan and his wife Irma started Big Island Candies in 1977, and by 1999 they had graduated from a mail order catalog system to their first website. After that, the focus turned to attracting customers digitally. “That’s really why we turned to Google Ads. We needed help promoting and figuring out what to do. Google just opened us up to a whole new world,” said Sherrie Holi, president/COO of Big Island Candies.

“The real focus on Google Ads began a few years ago,” said Sherrie. That’s when the Big Island Candies team enlisted the help of marketer Daryl Johnson. “Our goal has always been to make sure that during peak holiday times, we have absolutely every channel open and available to secure orders. We’ve done display, remarketing, and search, and we’ve had a good amount of success with all of it,” said Daryl. Last year, approximately 30% of the company’s holiday sales were generated by Google Ads — a number Sherrie is looking to increase in 2019. “The internet, and more specifically Google Ads, allows us additional opportunities to share our quality products with the world,” she said. Big Island Candies also uses Google Analytics as the primary tool for evaluating the performance of its website and Google My Business to help its Business Profile stand out on Google Search and Maps.

Today, Big Island Candies has two locations and employs 125 people, though that number can climb to a staff of 300 during peak seasons around the holidays. Future plans include adding to the Big Island Candies team and reaching more customers online. “We’re looking at getting into new markets, creating a more interactive retail experience, and definitely increasing our online sales,” said Allan. The company’s gift-giving culture will also continue to be integral to its success. “We’ve been able to start the Big Island Candies Foundation. We host an event through the foundation each year, we raise money for charitable organizations, and we award academic scholarships to deserving junior golfers in the community,” said Allan. “We’re here because the community supports us, so, in turn, we make it a year-round commitment to giving back and supporting them.”

Honolulu Cookie Company

Location: Honolulu, Hawaii
Website: www.honolulucookie.com
400 employees

If you’re looking for an authentic taste of aloha, look no further than the Honolulu Cookie Company. Founded in Honolulu in 1998, the family-owned business bakes their premium shortbread cookies fresh daily, serving up over a dozen varieties of the iconic pineapple-shaped treats. “When you see and taste our cookies, you’re reminded of Hawaii,” says General Manager Ryan Sung. “You want to take them home with you and share them with friends.” With quality ingredients and tropical flavors, fans all over the world have fallen in love with these delicious tastes of the islands.

To connect their sweet operation to the rest of the globe, Honolulu Cookie Company turns to the power of the Internet. AdWords, Google’s advertising program, accounted for 60 percent of all their e-commerce revenue generated through digital advertising in 2017, and they look to grow that number in 2018. “We use AdWords to make sure visitors planning a trip to Hawaii also plan a visit to our stores,” explains Brandon Suyeoka, Director of Marketing. “We want them to remember that Honolulu Cookie Company is here. We want them to see us everywhere.” They also use Google Analytics to fine-tune their marketing efforts based on where their web traffic is coming from, and they create online videos to share the aloha spirit with the world. “People are visual creatures. You can see us in a broader context online,” Brandon says.

With business growing steadily every year, the future smells sweet for Honolulu Cookie Company. They operate 17 retail stores on Oahu, Maui, Guam, and in Las Vegas, and distribute their premium shortbread cookies internationally through their wholesale partners. “We are still far from our ceiling. This company can grow much bigger and do much more,” Ryan predicts. Even with aspirations of expanding around the globe, Honolulu Cookie Company never forgets their home. They support Honolulu arts and education programs, and organize charity fundraisers for local youth advocates. “It’s about giving and sharing the aloha,” Ryan says. That’s a sweet Hawaiian lesson the whole world can enjoy.


Location: Kapaʻa, Hawaii
Website: www.kaikini.com
10 employees

Before she started manufacturing bikinis in her spare bedroom, Taryn Rodighiero had never sewn before. “I’d never even sewn a button,” she says, “but I just decided this is what I was going to do.” For years, she’d been dissatisfied with the swimwear available to active women like herself, so in 2010 she set out to design style-forward bikinis that are “made to stay on in the waves.” A believer in taking leaps of faith, Taryn recalls, “I basically invested my life savings and bought five commercial sewing machines, put them all in our spare bedroom, and locked myself in for eight months to figure out each and every machine.” Her bikinis are now manufactured on Kauai and worn on beaches all over the world.

Taryn reaches most of her customers, whether on neighboring Hawaiian islands or far-off Australia, through the Internet, with roughly 80 percent of her sales happening on the KaiKini website. She values the targeting capabilities offered by AdWords, Google’s advertising program. “You can really be specific on who you show your ads to. With products like mine, I need that,” she explains. AdWords also helps “keep KaiKini fresh in the mind of our buyers” through retargeting ads. “For a business that generally takes a new buyer six visits to the site before a purchase is made, those reminders are crucial,” she says. Today, KaiKini’s marketing budget goes entirely to digital platforms, with AdWords returning nearly two dollars in profit for every ad dollar spent. Taryn depends on Google Analytics to keep track of these online campaigns. “Analytics is the tool we use to check everything else. It’s the one we trust,” she shares. "It provides us with marketing insights that we otherwise wouldn’t have."

With 20 percent annual growth, Taryn has moved business operations from her house to a bona fide warehouse. She is now focused on new ways to build that growth while maintaining her brand’s authenticity. She keeps design and production under close watch, to ensure quality, and is proud to be creating fashion-industry jobs, which are rare on Kauai. Her seamstresses tend to be “young, creative women who are willing to work,” she says, “and excited to be part of something that’s making an impact beyond the island.”

City Mill Company, Ltd.

Location: Honolulu, Hawaii
Website: www.citymill.com
500 employees

Chinese immigrant Chung Kun Ai founded City Mill as a lumber-importing and rice-milling business in Honolulu in 1899. Despite troubles and setbacks over the decades, the enterprise grew and expanded into other areas, including pineapple, laundry, fishing, tobacco, and oil drilling. City Mill eventually became Hawaii’s leading supplier of wholesale materials to the building industry, and opened their first retail outlet in the 1950s. Among the oldest family-owned businesses in Hawaii, they are now a thriving home-center business with eight stores across Oahu. “We have a lot of big box competition,” says Carol Ai May, Vice President and granddaughter of the founder. “We watch our competition very closely.”

Hawaii’s unique business environment, far from the mainland, means that shipping is prohibitively expensive. So City Mill doesn’t currently offer e-commerce and depends on in-person store visits for sales. Google My Business is vital for providing store information such as store hours, photos, and directions to their Oahu customers. Google Analytics helps City Mill understand what customers do on their website, so the business can deliver information that matches what people are looking for, especially to those searching with smartphones or other mobile devices. “As the retail industry and customer expectations evolve, we need to stay relevant and updated, and be attractive to the younger customer,” Carol says. They also have a YouTube channel that features various DIY videos to educate and engage with customers.

City Mill has been a mainstay of the local economy for over a century. They’ve been named one of the best places to work nine times by Hawaii Business magazine. Carol expects they will continue to grow and become more digitally focused. Over the decades, many employees stayed with the company until retirement, while others have moved on to influence or start other Oahu businesses. “This company has been a training ground for many businesses in Hawaii,” Carol marvels. She and other family members see themselves as stewards for their generation and company. “Our business is a problem-solving business,” she adds. “And I think we've set the right tools in place to go forward.”

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