Businesses that support their communities

These four companies have built their brands by going beyond business as usual, and their communities appreciate them for it

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Successful business owners in Hawaii know they have to focus on more than just the bottom line. They must support employees, commit to customers, conduct business ethically and support the communities that sustain them. For some small businesses, community outreach is fundamental to their business DNA. Bronson Chang, co-founder of Uncle Clay’s House of Pure Aloha, an Aina Haina shave-ice shop, calls this social entrepreneurship. “It’s the foundation of what we do,” he says. “We’re using our entrepreneurship for good.”

Here are four Hawaii small businesses that make a difference in their communities.


Bronson Chang, left, and Clay Chang.

Photos: Rae Huo

Pay It Forward

One-world ohana. That’s how Clay and Bronson Chang view life:  Your actions affect everybody, so make those actions positive. In June 2011, the uncle-nephew duo created Uncle Clay’s House of Pure Aloha, better known as HOPA. Located in the bustling Aina Haina Shopping Center, the shave-ice store says it uses all-natural, homemade syrups. To fulfill their “ohana” mantra, the Changs wanted to create more than just a neighborhood shave-ice store, so they wove support for the greater Hawaii community into their business plan.

HOPA has glowing reviews on Yelp and TripAdvisor, which helps make the place busy even in the middle of a weekday. Walk inside and you’ll notice “The Pure Aloha Oath” on the right wall, encouraging each patron to “live every heartbeat of my life, from this day forward, with pure aloha.” The partners take that pledge sincerely and nearly 150 customers have joined them by signing the oath on HOPA’s website.

“Our decisions are guided by our values,” says Bronson Chang. “We do things with a spirit of service.”

Take, for example, Share-HOPA-Forward. Bronson says he got the idea after living in India during a humanitarian trip he took as a college student. “I visited a restaurant where you ordered and ate your food, and instead of paying for it at the end, you paid for the next person’s meal,” he says.

He and his uncle considered running HOPA entirely that way, but made it an option instead: While paying for your own shave ice, you can buy a $3 serving for a stranger and include a personal card. Bronson says those pay-it-forward treats were initially redeemed at the first Share HOPA event during Night Market, a monthly block party in Kakaako. There, 115 people were served free shave ice compliments of a kind stranger. During HOPA’s second anniversary, 440 people received free shave ice.

“The looks on their faces were amazing,” says Bronson. Right now, there are about 600 Share-HOPA servings of shave ice available for a future event, and more can be purchased by customers at any time.

There are other ways the Changs give back. For every $5 gift card purchased, 5 percent is donated to charity. For every $10 card, 10 percent, and for every $20 card, 20 percent. The charities include the youth group Kupu Hawaii, the environmental nonprofit Kanu Hawaii and Kalani High School, Clay’s alma mater.

The House’s newest giving venture is HOPAlea, named for traditional sailing canoe Hokulea. The genesis of HOPAlea occurred years earlier, Bronson says, when master navigator Nainoa Thompson visited the Doe Fang crack-seed store, Clay’s former business. Thompson was looking for li hing mui ginger to combat seasickness among the crew during Hokulea’s voyages. So, when the Polynesian Voyaging Society announced its worldwide odyssey that began in June, the Changs wanted to contribute.

“We thought back to the ginger,” says Bronson with a smile. He says Kauai Organic Farms donated 60 pounds of ginger and he worked with culinary developers to dehydrate the root and add Hawaii Island honey. The first batch was donated to the crew before they sailed for Tahiti.

“Hopefully enough to last one year. We’ll continue creating it for the duration of the voyage,” Bronson says.

HOPAlea is also working on a line of chocolate bars in collaboration with Kailua chocolatier, Kokolani. They’ll be sold in Hawaii grocery stores and all after-tax proceeds will benefit the Polynesian Voyaging Society.

In the three years since HOPA opened, the store has served more than 100,000 servings of shave ice and the founders hope to serve 100,000 more. “I hope all this is a testament to how to create a successful business,” Bronson says.

Uncle Clay’s House of Pure Aloha
Aina Haina Shopping Center

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