In the summer of 2003, Kauai mayor Bryan J. Baptiste presented a
challenge to Beth Tokioka, Kauai County’s director of the Office of
“He wanted to find a way to better support small businesses
while spreading the word about Kauai’s wide array of products,”
Today that challenge has blossomed into a creative new campaign
to promote Kauai through its unique merchandise. Called Kauai Made
and funded in part by the Hawaii Tourism Authority, the program is
scheduled to launch in March online, on-island and at trade shows
nationwide. The program’s brochure and Web site will act as a
catalogue of sorts, letting clients know about island-specific
souvenirs and where they can be found.
“If you search for Kauai products on the Web today, you come up
with nothing that is comprehensive or even user-friendly,” said
Tokioka. “Having a strong Web presence and offering a variety of
high-quality products will be a great service for our
Tokioka noted that a growing number of travelers arrange their
activities online before they arrive.
“With Kauai Made, they can pre-plan where they want to shop and
what they want to shop for,” she said. “We’re helping visitors get
what they want in the most efficient way.”
Many return guests are looking for what’s new and different when
it comes to Kauai products, Tokioka said.
“They also have a sincere desire to support local businesses,”
she said, “because repeat visitors often feel that they are part of
our extended ohana [family].”
In a recent Kauai Visitors Bureau exit survey, 85 percent of
those polled reported that they shopped for souvenirs during their
island stay, and 80 percent said that they shopped specifically for
“We hope to link them with the merchandise they want to buy and
at the same time, provide an incentive for local product makers to
utilize Kauai materials and value-added processes, which would
infuse more dollars into our local economy,” Tokioka said.
On average, 18,000 people visit Kauai every day.
“With just over one million visitors per year, that’s a
tremendous opportunity for our retail sector,” Tokioka said.
Assuming that each party spends $50 on souvenirs, sales of Kauai
products can translate into a $19 million-per-year industry, she
Kauai Made’s logo represents a traditional Hawaiian
hookupu (gift) wrapped in ti leaves.
“We love this logo because of its cultural significance and
because the hookupu can represent any type of product,” Tokioka
For background information and guidance, Tokioka studied other
destination programs, including Made in Hawaii, Made in Maui,
Mountain Apple (Big Island) and the state of Oregon’s branding
effort. Perhaps the most informative and useful program was the
Made in Alaska program, she said.
“Made in Alaska has been around for 20 years and is codified
extensively in state law,” said Tokioka. “Looking at their
documentation and talking to their coordinator was very
Unlike the other programs that Tokioka studied, Kauai Made offers
permits to qualified retailers as well as product makers, rather
than focusing solely on products. In addition, Kauai Made is backed
by marketing efforts which benefit all participants who hold valid
“We’re starting with a Web site and promotional brochures in
racks around the island, along with prominent visibility in the
stores of our retailer members.” said Tokioka. “Eventually, we hope
to have the resources for a fully developed marketing and
advertising campaign. There is no other model I’ve seen that puts
so much emphasis on marketing.”
Along with the Web site, the county will work with the Kauai
Visitors Bureau to distribute Kauai Made brochures to potential
customers at travel shows on the mainland.
“You don’t have to visit Kauai to buy Kauai products,” Tokioka
said. “On the other hand, we can use Kauai products to help market
our destination to potential visitors.”
If all goes according to plan, Kauai Made will help small
businesspeople who can’t afford to do much marketing on their
“Many smaller product makers and establishments don’t have the
resources for a significant Web presence or on brochure racks,
where many of our visitors get their information on where to shop
and what to do on Kauai,” Tokioka said.
The county is currently enrolling vendors in the Kauai Made
“Based on the interest we have seen so far, we expect to have a
vast assortment of products, including apparel, jewelry, food,
crafts, stationery, furniture, music, art and photography,” said
Tokioka. “We’re accepting virtually anything as long as it is in
good taste, of good quality and made here or made from materials
found on Kauai.”