Recently, we examined what it means to start a new business in 2021. I’m one of the crazy people who believes that right now is an excellent time for people in Hawaii (and beyond) to embrace entrepreneurship and start a business. 

We also discussed how local businesses can adopt e-commerce. In a time where tourism is down and likely to stay that way for a while, many Hawaiian businesses have embraced technology to make up for lost revenue. With the right tools, your business can survive and thrive during this season.

We’re going to share the story of Aunty Sandy’s Banana Bread located in a little town called Ke‘anae, they are a staple on the road to Hana. Known throughout the U.S. for their signature banana bread, they were recently featured on Gordon Ramsay’s TV show Unchartered.

When everything shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic, Aunty Sandy’s was just as worried as any other Hawaii business. What would it mean if fewer people came through town? Since they operate by the roadside on the way to popular tourist destinations, as well as the shutdown of the road in the early days of the pandemic, they feared they would go out of business.

Whether you own a local business in Hawaii, or you’re thinking about starting one, I’m sure you have similar concerns. The world changed dramatically last year. Certain things that used to be foreign are completely normal, like wearing a mask inside a bank or refusing to shake hands with someone you just met. 

On a deeper level, the marketplace changed. Some businesses pivoted to adapt to the changes… and others weren’t so lucky. As money grew tighter, Aunty Sandy’s made the bold move to adopt e-commerce.

Aunty Sandy’s Used Key Entrepreneurship Principles To Launch an E-Commerce Platform and Thrive Amid COVID-19

After launching their new website, Aunty Sandy’s decided to invest in PPC marketing to drive traffic to it. In the first few weeks website traffic spiked. Before this, they barely had any traffic. But at the beginning of February, they harnessed Google Adwords to drive traffic to their online store. 

Note that the primary source of traffic comes straight from their PPC campaign, instead of organic traffic and social media referrals. This means their investment paid off.

Their ad campaign also converted at a whopping nine percent. For reference, most e-commerce stores can expect a conversion rate of 1-2%, especially during the early stages.

It bears mentioning that Aunty Sandy’s did all of this without investors. An investor must be paid back, sometimes as a loan, and sometimes as a share in the profit of the company. In such an uncertain business landscape, finding investors is difficult and carries tremendous risk.

Instead, they secured a relief grant from the local government on Maui. The island set aside tens of thousands of dollars to help businesses get back on their feet after the economic shock of 2020. There may be a similar program in your area. Since it’s grant money, it never has to be paid back!

Aunty Sandy’s embraced e-commerce to weather the storm of the pandemic, and it worked. What keys to entrepreneurship do they know? How can you, as a local business owner or aspiring founder, replicate their success?

The 5 Keys to Entrepreneurship

During our time helping dozens of local Maui businesses thrive, we’ve seen patterns among the most successful businesses. Here are the key strategies we see, over and over again.

  • Start with a Product, Vision, or Idea

Every business needs a viable product to start generating revenue. This doesn’t mean you need to have an amazing product right out of the gates, but you need something.

What is your big vision or idea? Can you sum up your mission in one sentence? Do you have a wonderful product you know people will want?

For Aunty Sandy’s, it’s their signature banana bread. Their product is so good, and so iconic, that people take detours during their visits to Hawaii to get some. Now, people all over the U.S. are buying their mix to make it at home. 

What is your company’s “signature banana bread”?

  • Make “Profit First” Your Foundation

As businesses start-up, many founders wonder about the format. They want to know if they should become a sole proprietor at first, or a limited liability corporation. They want to know what an S Corp is, and what it means around tax season.

That’s all well and good, but your business’s main format should be profit. It should be designed, structured, and budgeted to maximize profits.

As revenue comes in, profit is the first line item in the budget, not the last. When you think of profit as the “leftover,” you often end up with less and less profit “leftover.” Businesses thrive when they set out to generate profit first, and use the leftover to generate more.

  • Make a Plan and Execute It

In my time, I have met thousands of “business owners.” Some of them actually own and operate real businesses, too. The rest have a dream business, or a “business-on-paper” that’s practically defunct.

The difference between actual operators and “wantrepreneurs” is that the former execute on their plans, while the latter doesn’t. A decent plan you execute immediately will work way better than a brilliant one you execute six months from now.

Many would-be founders I meet actually have wonderful, viable products. When I ask them if they’ve started marketing the product to anyone who will listen, they say, “I will, as soon as I have the right go-to-market plan.”

By the time these people are ready to hang their shingle, someone else will have seized a big chunk of their market share.

Write out a decent plan and get going. Adjust it as real-life results trickle in.

  • Use Every Resource at Your Disposal

When entrepreneurs begin, they tend to focus on what they don’t have. Flip the script, and start looking at everything you do have. There are millions of free resources covering every need in marketing. Here’s one of ours, a guide to help you design your website.

Aunty Sandy’s used government relief grants to start their e-commerce platform. Do you have access to any grants? Have you searched for them? Take a look.

They also used free resources to learn the art of e-commerce and brought in a digital marketing company to help them with their paid ads. With that small investment, they’re already seeing results.

  • Take Risks

Finally, you must take chances. The only business venture with no risk is the one that stays in your head.

I don’t mean you start taking silly risks, but you need to get out of your comfort zone. Every business venture involves some risk, and so does yours. The right risk, at the right time, will lead to amazing results.

For example, Aunty Sandy’s spent money to build an online shop. That was a risk. What if nobody wanted their products? What if people didn’t want to pay for shipping?

They also risked packaging their banana bread mix for people to prepare on their own. What if nobody wanted to try it? What if all of that mix went to waste?

Now they’re seeing more web traffic than ever before, and nine percent of their clicks convert into purchases.

I invite you to take a similar risk. The biggest risk of all is to refuse to take any.

Are You Ready To Build Your Entrepreneurship Dream?

You can have results like Aunty Sandy’s. First, you need a product, idea, or vision, and profit as a priority. After that, make a workable plan and execute on it. Use every resource you can, while taking calculated risks. These are the keys to success in entrepreneurship.

The businesses we work with who use these keys thrive, even when the rest of the world shuts down. 

Best of luck in your new venture!

And as always, if you ever need help with marketing, SEO, or PPC advertising, don’t hesitate to contact us!


Photo by Sergio Arze on Unsplash

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