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Founders & Visionaries - November 2012

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Many of Hawaii’s companies started with a visionary idea, or an individual whose determination and acumen built them in to what we know today. From humble beginnings to looking towards the future, the companies featured in this section are a testament to longevity and accomplishment. Find out how this group of companies got started and grew in to the successes they are today in this latest edition of the Founders & Visionaries series.

Tune in to KHON in December for the Founders & Visionaries program
Sunday, November 11th and Sunday, November 18th at 5:30 PM


Big Island Candies

Bringing People Together

Allan Ikawa, Big Island Candies
Photo: Courtesy of Dana Edmunds

“It took 34 years for us to become an overnight success in Honolulu,” observed Big Island Candies president and CEO Allan Ikawa, commenting on the success of the company’s holiday store at Ala Moana Center last year. Prior to that venture, Big Island Candies’ prized omiyage gift items could only be obtained from its factory and retail outlet in Hilo, or via Internet or mail order sales.

Responding to the overwhelming demand from Oahu fans, Big Island Candies will operate two Ala Moana Center outlets this year: one at Street Level near Center Stage and the other at Mall Level, Macy’s Wing.

“You will still have to visit us in Hilo to taste and purchase our entire line of goodies, but we are proud to offer some of our most popular products as well as some specialty items to customers on Oahu,” Ikawa explained.

Its “overnight” success on Oahu speaks to the strength of the Big Island Candies brand and how much it has grown since its modest beginnings in 1977. Then, armed with little more than a chocolate melter and shrink wrap machine, Ikawa put everything he and his wife Irma had on the line to pursue his entrepreneurial dream.

Almost immediately, however, the harsh realities of business ownership forced Ikawa into putting in 17-hour days, seven days a week, to build the company and then to rebuild it again after suffering several devastating setbacks.

The company’s long-term success can be credited to its unfailing commitment to excellence—from its exquisite confections and packaging to its high standards of customer service. Only the highest quality ingredients are used, including local ingredients whenever possible, such as macadamia nuts, pure Kona coffee, and island eggs.

In 1998, Big Island Candies moved into its current factory and retail showroom in Hilo, which has become a popular Big Island landmark for both visitors and locals alike. Visitors to the 40,000 s.f. facility on Hinano Street receive a warm welcome, free product samples, and complimentary Kona coffee 365 days a year.

Ala Moana Center, Street Level, Near Center Stage

Today, Ikawa proudly credits Big Island Candies’ youthful and talented management team, headed by COO Sherrie Ann Holi, for overseeing the company’s evolution. Creativity and innovation have helped to keep Big Island Candies at the top of its game for the past three-and-a-half decades. Customers are treated to a steady stream of new products, including recent creations featuring such ingredients such as yuzu, green tea, ginger, coconut and passion fruit, to name just a few. One of its most recent products is the Ume Shiso Flavored Mika Chocolates, which definitely meets the Big Island Candies’ “wow” standard!

Big Island Candies also believes that its success depends on the welfare of the community that supports it and gives back to the community by sponsoring numerous activities and programs—especially those that benefit the island’s youth and seniors. The company’s non-profit Big Island Candies Foundation provides annual scholarships for college-bound high school graduates from the Big Island and supports a variety of other important community organizations.

Reflecting on his company’s well-earned niche as a provider of top-notch omiyage gift items and the success of its Ala Moana Center outlets, Ikawa says, “We proudly represent the Big Island, but it’s nice to know that Big Island Candies really ‘belongs’ to everyone in Hawaii and that, in some small way, we’re one of the things that helps bring the people of Hawaii together....”


Big Island Candies
585 Hinano Street
Hilo, HI 96720


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