Aloha Revolution Turns a Small Online Store into a Major Shirt Brand

2023 SmallBiz Editor’s Choice Award winner: Owner Ed hopes to spread his aloha with unique designs and special fundraiser shirts.
05 23 Hb Best Of Small Business Hero 12 Aloha Revolution

When Ed Sugimoto named his copmany Aloha Revolution, it signaled his commitment to the community.

His small business that makes shirts has donated over $70,000 to local businesses, nonprofits and others over the past 11 years. It’s rewarding to see “the smiling faces and the thankfulness of the people that we give to. That’s pretty much why we do it,” he says.

He has collaborated on local fundraisers with the Red Cross, Susan G. Komen, Hawai‘i Foodbank and Lanakila Pacific. During the pandemic, Sugimoto created a Love’s Bakery-inspired T-shirt with Aloha Revolution’s “VH07V” logo, which reads like the word ALOHA when you look down at it on your chest. Sales of the shirt raised $55,120 for the 231 Love’s Bakery workers who lost their jobs when the company closed in March 2021.

He first made the VH07V shirts for readers when he wrote for the Star-Advertiser. His friends and family took interest and wanted to buy them, so he started the business.

“It’s crazy,” Sugimoto says of the brand’s success. “In the beginning, I knew mostly everybody that had a shirt.” The first time he noticed one on a stranger was when he was walking through Disneyland.

Aloha Revolution started as an online-only store with two shirt designs. Now, the brand has over 100 shirt designs and hats – and has sold products in almost every state and in Japan, Germany, South Korea and Canada.

He credits his parents for his motivation to give back because they gave him an attitude of “If you have, you give.” Sugimoto wants to spread the feeling of aloha to people who were not born and raised in the Islands.

“The world is kind of becoming a crazy place right now,” he says. “So I’m hoping that if somebody can have that feeling that we already have here, just by wearing a shirt – hopefully it will make the world a better place.”

Sugimoto also created a Little League World Series fundraiser shirt for last year’s championship Honolulu team and raised $15,000 to help pay for the players’ travel expenses.

“Thankfully, our community also gives to us by buying our shirts and supporting us in many ways. So, we feel that it’s our duty to pay it forward.”