Isle vendors ready to make a splash


POSTED: Thursday, July 23, 2009

Hazel Lee, the owner of Hazelee & Co. hair salon and retail store, saw the retail side of her business grow at least 10 percent after she got a wild hair to participate in the Made in Hawaii Festival last year.

Lee had successfully marketed hand-sewn purses, eco-bags and household pillows, blankets and linens along with hair services at her Restaurant Row salon for the past eight years; however, the festival helped her expand, she said.

“;People flocked to our table,”; Lee said, adding that Menehune Mac even placed a wholesale gift-bag order.

Despite the down economy, Lee and a record 500 or so vendors will exhibit at this year's Made in Hawaii Festival, which runs Aug. 21-23 at the Neal S. Blaisdell Exhibition Hall and Arena.

The 14-year-old event is expected to generate more than $1.5 million in sales and $10 million in residual sales, said Richard Botti, president of the Made in Hawaii Festival Association.

“;About 35,000 people will walk through the festival so it's a good way of selling product and generating some cash,”; Botti said. “;Exhibitors can make thousands in a weekend.”;

Mela Kealoha-Lindsey, founder of Creations of Hawaii and an original festival exhibitor, said she returns each year because it's a good return on investment.

“;We haven't had a storefront since our landlord raised the rent,”; Kealoha-Lindsey said. “;The festival is an affordable way for small local artisans to showcase our products.”;





        » Dates: Aug. 21-22, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Aug. 23, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

» Where: Neal S. Blaisdell Exhibition Hall and Arena


» Admission: $3, free for children 6 and younger. Coupons available in August at Oahu's First Hawaiian Bank branches.


» Information: www.madeinhawaii.com or call 533-1292.




Visitors to the “;Keep Aloha Strong—Buy Hawaii, For Hawaii”;-themed event will enjoy it because of the high-quality entertainment and Hawaii-made or -grown products, Botti said. Vendors will relish the chance to launch new businesses, expand established businesses and test-market products, he said.

“;The festival is a business incubator,”; he said, adding that 2,000 buyers have been invited from all over the globe.

Donna Lee Cockett, owner of Kula Kala O'Kauai, used the festival to test-market her lauhala-woven-style gold- and silver-wire jewelry.

“;It provided a good avenue to launch my business,”; said Cockett, who sells her jewelry on Kauai and at select stores on Oahu.

Jeani Martin, inventor of the organic cleaner Jeani's Greenmaxpro, hopes she'll clean up, too, when she debuts her product at the festival.

“;It's a leap of faith,”; Martin said. “;My goal is to become self-sufficient.”;

Martin's business got off to a good start last year when she began marketing her cleaner made of organic kelp, tea tree and grapefruit seed extract, she said.

“;But, I'm hoping to grow my business,”; she said.