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Leadership , Small Business – April 27, 2020

Small Business/Big Challenges: Thomas Walker, Founder and Owner, ‘Ohana Nui

How are you coping with the COVID-19 crisis?

Doing well! Luckily here in Hawai‘i, we have such incredible outdoor space to keep us sane, and mentally and physically healthy. Swimming and hiking are great ways to stay optimistic. I do both daily.

Are you considering changing your business model for ‘Ohana Nui?

Definitely! In times of such upheaval there is always opportunity. Brick-and-mortar businesses are suffering, particularly those dependent on tourists. I am fortunate to be small with limited overhead. It is much easier for me to pivot and focus on e-commerce as well as local markets. I had planned on developing both after my brand was established, so this is just a course correction.

E-commerce especially will grow more and more, as people become more comfortable shopping online for basic needs, as well as specialty items. It will be harder for big stores to switch their business models quickly to survive this economic downturn. This will create a vacuum that the quick and nimble smaller businesses can take advantage of.

What do you think your business will look like at the end of this year?

I plan to still be around. A little humbler, I imagine and grateful to be in Hawai‘i. I am not counting on tourism to rebound for the rest of 2020, so am focusing on products that will sell well online and that will appeal to the local market.

Have you found silver linings in these difficult times?

I do like the way things have slowed down. Sometimes I think our economy has become so amped up that we have sacrificed our quality of living. This is a good time to stop and reflect on the world we have created and focus on a world that benefits the local population more directly. 

Do you have advice for other local companies?

Look for the opportunities! I have been talking with some local companies as strategic partners, rather than competition – ways in which we might team up to create a stronger presence and share costs/skill sets from building a stronger brand presence to creating more vibrant e-commerce portals.

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