How I turned my business around and built a new brand

Ever since childhood, I’ve possessed a very curious and creative mind.

While in middle school, I got my first taste of entrepreneurship when my hobby of raising and breeding guppies turned into my first company.

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Bronson Chang Cofounder and partner of Uncle Clay’s House of Pure Aloha

TINA YUEN PBN

It was crystal-clear: entrepreneurship is my passion. So I went on to study entrepreneurship in college with dreams of making it my career.

In 2006, I flew home for winter break after my first semester of college and found myself sipping a “Magic Icee” at my (actual) uncle’s crack seed candy store, “Doe Fang,” in the Aina Haina Shopping Center. I was inspired by his example of serving others with unconditional love and his unwavering conviction and commitment to sharing Hawaii’s gift of Pure Aloha globally. However, I was simultaneously disheartened by his struggles as a barely surviving one-man “mom and pop” business. And from that point onward, we began a long-distance collaboration on how to turn the company around.

By my senior year, I had written a feasibility study and full business plan. Yet, I still needed to decide between returning home and taking the entrepreneurial leap or pursuing other exciting and secure opportunities elsewhere. I meditated on it for a while. Until, finally, I knew exactly what I had to do. I called up Uncle Clay. He actually strongly resisted at first, until I said, “You’re the one who told me to ‘Live your dreams by following your heart’ right? Well, this is what my heart is telling me to do.” After a minute of silence, he welcomed me as an equal partner, and neither of us has ever looked back since.

I believe one of the most important assets to any business is its brand, and one of the most important elements of a brand is brand name. So choosing the right name was not easy. This is not an over-exaggeration, but it took nearly a year for us to settle on “Uncle Clay’s House of Pure Aloha!” Particularly challenging was uncle didn’t want to use his name out of humility.

Ultimately, we feel the chosen name powerfully combines both the historical and personal element (Uncle Clay) with the futuristic and visionary element (House of Pure Aloha), collectively communicating our brand message.

A month before college graduation, a friend connected me to the amazing Profounder co-founder Jessica Jackley, internationally known for starting Kiva.org. On Profounder, we raised over $60,000 from dozens of investors in the form of debt and in most cases revenue share. Unfortunately, Profounder has since had to shut its doors due to outdated regulatory SEC rules, but I fully believe in the power of crowdfunding. As a re-startup coming from such an ugly financial past, I seriously doubt if we could have successfully funded HOPA’s launch without Profounder.

Aside from Uncle Clay and myself, we currently have 10 wonderful “HOPA Hosts” on Team HOPA. They are the foundation of our company, critically ensuring HOPA serves the best possible all-natural shave ice and Pure Aloha daily. We also have an incredible group of advisors that I consult with regularly.

Uncle Clay and I see HOPA as an empowering place for skill development, self-discovery, and personal growth, especially for younger people. Looking further ahead, we want to create new opportunities for higher levels of advancement and career growth.

We’re so excited with the recent release of many great new products as part of the “#giveHOPA Holiday Campaign.” Our campaign slogan best sums up why we’re doing this: “Shop Simply. Gift HOPA. Share Pure Aloha.”

The next step for us is to stay focused on strengthening our location in Aina Haina. Although we’ve been open for over four years there is still so much room for growth at just this location. How can we keep innovating our core shave ice product while also developing new secondary ones food and non food? How can we strengthen service quality and deepen the guest experience? How can we further support team members and build new growth opportunities?

If we can take care of the primary goal I set when I returned home: to ensure that the keiki who visit HOPA Aina Haina today (just as Uncle Clay visited Doe Fang 60 years ago) will be able to bring keiki of their own one day, then I believe that’s a huge success. Beyond achieving such a business turnaround though, HOPA should also be strongly positioned for future opportunities for which I am constantly open to discovering and that I sense are even bigger than what I can even presently fathom.

Bronson Chang
Co-Founder and Partner of Uncle Clay’s House of Pure Aloha
 

Paul Garner