Insights & Stories

Wahine Making Waves: Kiani Wong of Kakaako Kasuals

Reading Time: 4 minutes

March 7th, 2024

Kakaako Kasuals Founder and quote Kakaako Kasuals Founder and quote

Female entrepreneurs play a pivotal role in our community by driving innovation, creating jobs, and fostering economic growth in our island home; all while breaking barriers and setting new benchmarks for success in the business world. Their pursuit of excellence not only elevates their own ventures but also inspires a collective movement towards sustainable and economic development.

Supporting local has never been more meaningful than it is today. In 2022, Bank of Hawaii joined forces with Mana Up, a local accelerator program, in a celebration of local makers and artisans. This initiative is designed to help Hawaii’s entrepreneurs grow and succeed, with an overall mission to diversify the local economy for generations to come.

About Kakaako Kasuals

Kakaako Kasuals offers comfortable slippers, water shoes and accessories for men, women and children. Our Native Hawaiian, wahine owned business was co-founded in 2019 by mother-daughter duo, Napualani and Kiani Wong, to create opportunity for their ohana.

With aina (land, earth) and sustainability at heart, many Kakaako Kasuals’ products are intentionally designed with eco-minded materials. The recent addition of a flatbed UV printer will allow limited styles in small batches to be customized and manufactured in Hawaii.

Building a Network and Growing Knowledge

With an entrepreneurial spirit running strong in the Wong family, Kiani saw the challenges firsthand and decided early on, this was not the future for her. Through various career paths and in time, Kiani realized that she has the heart and mind of an entrepreneur.

“It’s validating to be recognized as part of the Mana Up Accelerator Program. I’m proud of us getting to the point where we are at now and where we’re going,” shared Kiani.

Through the trials and challenges Kiani and Napualani have felt as business owners, Kiani describes that she considers one of their most significant achievements with Kakaako Kasuals in how sustainably they’ve been able to scale and maintain the accounts they bring in. To Kiani and her family (many family members are closely involved in the business), entrepreneurship transcends the realm of business growth and financial success; it embodies the continuous journey of learning and self-improvement. Kiani describes, “it’s important to have dedicated time and space to expand my knowledge,” understanding that innovation and sustainability go hand-in-hand. For Kiani, success is measured not just by the bottom line or a singular metric that can determine success, but Kakaako Kasuals’ growth as a company and their ability to innovate.

Kiani attributes Kakaako Kasuals’ successes and growth to her strong network and support. Her advice to others considering starting a business or even starting a new career path: “it’s easy to hear the noise and criticisms. But focus on those who are invested in you [and your business] and your life. It’s important to realize who is contributing this advice. Pay attention to the people and their advice of those who count. You need to filter what reaches you and what you need to let go of. The ability to know the difference between these things is critical.”

Being an entrepreneur in a family-run business is a challenging yet rewarding journey, as it requires the art of juggling the relentless demands of building and managing a business with the personal needs for caring for family members, spending quality time with others, and self-care. Entrepreneurs often face long hours, unpredictable challenges, and the constant pressure to improve and succeed. Kiani describes, “it’s important to set the necessary boundaries to ensure that you are caring for your family and yourself. Plus you want to ensure that you’re showing up the next day, refreshed and ready for what the day brings.”

About Bank of Hawaii x Mana Up

Together, this initiative with Mana Up will highlight Hawaii’s growing entrepreneurial ecosystem and propel local companies to the next level. Bank of Hawaii is the exclusive Mana Up banking partner at the Founder Level to lead key strategic programs, including a new executive mentorship program, and to offer a platform to share local entrepreneur stories.

Shop Kakaako Kasuals and other House of Mana Up products today!

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