Hawaii-loving couple creates rum brand with local ingredients
A pretend company devised and named over food and drink on Maui has come to life.
California residents and regular Hawaii visitors Bill and Lisa Shawver established Hula Girl Beverages LLC
to create bottled, ready-to-drink rum cocktails made with molasses and sugar from Hawaii.
The couple, who had purchased land on Molokai with plans to build and retire there, were vacationing on Maui five years ago when inspiration buzzed into their heads at Mama's Fish House restaurant.
Bill ordered what the menu called "The Original Trader Vic's Mai Tai." The drink's origin is contested, which Bill knows, but it didn't matter to him at the time.
They sipped and ate and talked and "a light bulb went on," Bill said. "Tropical drinks for women."
By the time they left Mama's they had formed and named their pretend company Hula Girl.
"It seemed so easy," both agreed. Ask bartenders for favorite recipes, find a distillery, bottle the mixtures and sell them, they thought.
"Sometimes it's good to be naive," Bill chuckled.
They found a distillery, but developing the right flavor profiles was a big discouragement until someone directed them to a flavoring lab.
"Within a week they nailed exactly what we wanted," Bill said.
Now for the bottles.
Hula Girl bottles needed to jump off the shelf and be "attractive to females," Lisa said. They found nothing they liked, so they had their own bottle designed, and molds, cast.
The label is a wrap, not a sticker, because "we didn't have millions of dollars to spend on advertising, so the product almost has to sell itself," he said.
The blends, Bikini Bling, Moonlight Mai Tai, Wild Wahine and Sunset Sensation, are available at a few local stores so far. They include Waikiki's 1 2 3 Store, Ewa Pantry, Big Save in Poipu, Maunaloa General Store and Misaki's on Molokai and a couple military bases, but that will expand: Hula Girl has signed on with distributor Southern Wine & Spirits of America Inc.
Bill is a former long-haul trucking company owner and Lisa is a former Olympic athlete -- softball, in the 1996 games, when her last name was Martinez -- and financial planner. Now they are loving the beverage business.
"It's been a lot of fun, a real education, and I'm glad we did it," Bill said.
They have the same goal they've had all along.
"Molokai is where we want to end up," said Bill. The irony is that the couple sold their Friendly Isle land to help fund the start-up.
The Shawvers have meetings and appearances this week including the private Hart & Huntington tattoo salon anniversary party this weekend.
is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Call 529-4747, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached at: email@example.com