All In The Ohana

Maui small business owners have banded together to help compete with the big boys.

October, 2000

Everyone loves an underdog, especially one who gives you free merchandise.

In Maui, several local merchants have found themselves in a David and Goliath tale of their own, with mega-stores like Eagle Hardware playing the part of the Philistine.

In this case, strength in numbers is the stone in David’s sling as 16 small business owners, selling everything from groceries to gasoline have joined forces in order to offer a more complete product, a bigger rock to fight off the big boys. The Ohana Savers Club offers free membership cards, which are emblazoned with “Maui People Serving Maui” and can be used at member stores in Kahului.

And like Foodland’s Maika‘i card program and Safeway’s Select Card, the Ohana Savers card is presented to the cashier at the time of purchase at any participating merchant, where qualifying purchases earn points. Points can be redeemed for gift certificates, which is where the customer really saves money, says the program’s co-founder Warren Orikasa, a participating merchant and owner of Maui Carpet & Drapery Inc. For example, if the customer earns 2,750 points, the program awards that person with a $20 gift certificate.

The group pays $1 for every card issued. There are approximately 22,000 cards circulating and another 30,000 ready to distribute.

Database management also costs Ohana Savers approximately $25,000 to $30,000 a year, not to mention the additional expense of coordinator Kim Macadangdang’s salary and office rent. But it’s all worth it, insist the members. “For our business, it is a strong loyalty tool, which is what the card is all about,” says Savers President Kyle Yamashita. “But I feel the bigger picture is the strength of the members all together. We have just scratched the surface of the potential of the group.”

Yamashita, general partner and general manager for SuperStop, a gas station and convenience store, is one of the merchants who offers special points on certain days. Saturdays and Sundays are days when customers can receive double their points during a transaction.

“I feel times have changed and change is always good for the consumer,” says Yamashita. “But small business has to change with the times.” So far, the card hasn’t been in existence long enough for any indication of whether the program is successful.

Savers Treasurer Jocelene Trenholm, the general manager of Valley Isle Lighting, says July yielded about $1.1 million in points Since the card’s inception, there has been a 10 percent increase in points for every month.

While the numbers are yet unknown, the Ohana Savers Club has garnered its merchants the attention they need from customers as well as fellow businesses.

“I think the business community is taking a look at us. As far as what we can do for the community as a group. It will take time,” Yamashita says.

But time itself may be one of the benefits of the program. After all, more time means that the stores are still around doing business as usual. “We just keep on going,” Trenholm says. “You have to be perpetually optimistic.”


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