Founders & Visionaries - May 2011
Six companies with visionaries at the helm.
(page 3 of 6)
Allan Ikawa, Big Island Candies.
Tradition Dipped in Innovation
Big Island Candies has earned the kind of name recognition and reputation for quality that often takes generations to develop. Its sparkling factory and retail showroom in Hilo is a popular Big Island landmark—a must-stop for both visitors and locals alike, as evidenced by the number of Big Island Candies carry-on boxes seen leaving the Hilo airport every day.
The company was established in 1977 by Hilo-born Allan K. Ikawa, who returned home after earning his bachelor’s degree in business from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. After a few years of working for others, Ikawa decided to put everything he and his wife Irma had on the line to pursue his dream of starting a business.
There are few deep, dark secrets to Big Island Candies’ success. Much of it, in fact, sounds pretty conventional—hard work, quality and service are the pillars of the company’s core values. The key, apparently, is in doing everything to the fullest possible degree.
Take hard work. Ikawa put in 17-hour days to build—then rebuild—the company as it struggled to overcome some nearly catastrophic early setbacks. Quality? The company aims for and consistently achieves the “wow factor” through its incomparable confections and exquisite packaging. Service: Visitors can expect a warm greeting, free samples, and complimentary Kona coffee 365 days a year.
A medley of our popular macadamia nut
At Big Island Candies, however, tradition is augmented by generous portions of creativity and innovation. The company presaged the current “locavore” trend, promoting the use of local ingredients whenever possible, including macadamia nuts, pure Kona coffee, and fresh island eggs. It raised eyebrows and drew raves for dipping arare (rice crackers) and ika (dried cuttlefish) in chocolate. Today, customers still look forward to a steady stream of new products, including recent creations featuring such ingredients such as lavender, ginger and lilikoi (passion fruit), to name a few.
Big Island Candies is equally proud of its locally grown staff, led by Ikawa’s daughter, Sherrie Ann Holi. Youthful and talented, the management team is poised to guide the company to even loftier heights, while remaining firmly grounded by an abiding sense of place.
Big Island Candies believes that its success is dependent on the welfare of the community that supports it, and gives back to the community by sponsoring dozens of events, activities and programs, including youth sports such as soccer, basketball, baseball and golf. Ikawa, who once served as chair of the UH Board of Regents, believes in the importance of education—hosting school tours, giving talks, supporting Junior Achievement and the Hilo High School Foundation. The nonprofit Big Island Candies Foundation provides an annual scholarship for a college-bound high school graduate from the Big Island.
In the case of Big Island Candies, its name expresses both pride and caring. By embracing its roots and celebrating community, Big Island Candies is and always will be something special.
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