Re-inventing a Mature Maui Business with Aloha
Joe and Jackie vacationed on Maui for ten years, "coming more and more often." He had an extensive, international background in manufacturing and engineering. She was a successful real estate salesperson. They planned to move to Maui eventually. Then one day, after their children were grown and on their own, they both said, "Why not now?" This is a story that could be told of an increasing number of couples and families who choose to move to our island during their creative, productive years, eager to contribute to the expansion of Mauis economy. Like many, Joe and Jackie bought a business which, as entrepreneurs say, was "fully mature"not necessarily stagnant, but "in need of an infusion of organization and capital."
Up to that point, Joe and Jackie might have been many people. The story is that common. But then theres a plot change, a philosophical shift that makes them different. This Joe and Jackie bought Silk Graphics, a screen printing operation that had been on Maui for 17 years, and they adopted a local business-to-business philosophy that practically makes them saints of the Made In Maui ideology. "Even if it costs a little more, and usually it doesnt really, we want to keep the business on Maui to spend our money on Maui to serve other Maui businesses."
When they bought Silk Graphics, it was still "almost a one-man operation." The company screen-printed T-shirts, signs and the like, but there was nothing like the diversity of staff and jobs that keep the factory bustling a year after the change of ownership. "We want to be known as easy no problem always on-time quality professional" Joe says. "Thats the way we want to do business. We like the challenges, and weve got good people who can do it all."
In fact, the expansion of Silk Graphics is so extreme that it can be called re-invention. The old-style operation was getting by, but the new Silk Graphics is bucking the downsizing trend of our times by adding a purchasing agent, warehouse and production management, an art department headed by an art director, and a full-time crew. The previous owner wanted to be out in the field. Hes there, out in the field, pursuing business for the new Silk Graphics. Joe wanted to be inside, getting the work done, and hes thereink in his hair and an irrepressible smile on his face. Jackie wanted to do "the people side," so when you go in, youll be talking to Jackie.
What they have created in Silk Graphics really is a business based on values. Weve heard it so often we dont even notice when people say things like, "Were committed to supporting the local economy," or "it really does matter to us that this is a good place to work." Its so much more than just soothing things to say with Joe and Jackie Brown and their growing ohana of employees.
Like many who migrate to Maui to do business, they concede that they went from brain work to the power of brawn, working harder now than they have in years, but they are also committed to keeping it light. Their promotional brochure says it this way: "We work smart. We work hard. We have fun." And the easy-going, "fun" atmosphere is an essential reality, not a customer-service device.
Silk Graphics is probably best known by its trademarks: The Original Hawaiian Red Dirt Shirt, Hawaiian Lava Dirt Shirt, Northshore Babe, Mana Built, Hawaiian Princess and Risqué Surfwear, but they also do a tremendous amount of business in smaller orders for schools, businesses and cultural events. Theyve kept their minimum order so small its shocking to hear that the maker of The Original Hawaiian Red Dirt Shirt will also gladly print 24 top-quality T-shirts for a family reunion luau. They provide the artistic and creative services, bagging, tagging, hanging and folding for orders of any size. And, their "satisfaction guaranteed" warranty applies to every order, even when they contract out embroidering services.
Silk Graphics under Joe and Jackie Brown is also leading their staff and using their expertise to do jobs no one would imagine a local business would attempt. Four-color process art reproductions on T-shirts? No problem. Durable printing on five-foot long skateboards? Coming right up. Satisfaction guaranteed. Theyve done up to 2,565 T-shirts in a day, and also spent hours developing art and techniques for jobs Oahu and mainland printers would have shrugged off. Umbrellas, glass and acrylic table covers, bandanas, athletic bags, uniform patches. Theyve done all that. Now theyre looking forward to the new ideas and challenges of keeping up with Maui business.
If businesses on Maui want to keep their products Made In Maui, they need to familiarize themselves with the surprising and increasing capabilities of Silk Graphics.
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