CEO of Napua’ala LLC
One of fifteen women within the Inaugural Certification Training Cohort with Minority Business Development (MBDA) Enterprising Women of Color (EWOC) Business Center. She is now in the final stages of getting her business certified and beginning her exporting journey to Japan.
Lori Silva, CEO of Napua’ala LLC, was one of fifteen selected women for the inaugural certification training cohort by the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) Enterprising Women of Color (EWOC) Business Center. She is in the final stages of getting Napua’ala LLC certified, as well as completing a process to export her products to Japan! Lori is a multi-ethnic woman who identifies as Hawaiian, Japanese, Chinese, and Caucasian. She has 37 years of experience as a Licensed Cosmetologist and through her studies in this field discovered a passion for creating products with authentic scents from Hawai’i’s flowers. She graduated from the Honolulu Community College (HCC) Cosmetology Department in 1984 and became a Licensed Cosmetologist two years after.
During her time at HCC, she became fascinated with handmaking products. An eventual body care line grew out of her knowledge of chemistry and a love for her beloved Native Hawaiian scents. More research and raising her family would take precedence over finalizing her line.
“In our required Chemistry class, we made and tested products like soaps, lotions, shampoos, perms, etc. I became fascinated that we made products by hand. In 1982 there were minimal resources for developing body care products, but I dreamed of making my line one day. Life happens, dreams in my life were put on the back burner… After getting married and having my kids, it couldn’t have worked out. Plus, during this time, we didn’t have internet yet. The only resource available was the library. I would do my research there, but there wasn’t much information on creating body care products. I had the knowledge from the class, but it didn’t suffice… This dream of mine was always in the back of my mind.” – Lori Silva, CEO, Napua’ala LLC
In 2002, Napua’ala LLC started with her signature scent, Pikake. Lori finally felt that it was her time to start this business because she never found an authentic Pikake scent in the market. “I never realized that when we go out into the stores to search for this scent and there is nothing that resembles the smell of a true Pikake…”. After waiting 18 years for her dream to come true and 5 years perfecting her product, she finally succeeded at creating her very own Pikake scented product. Napua’ala LLC now has 7 different scents in various products, including Tama Toa, the men’s line. Lori has seen her business grow immensely. “It started in my living room, now I am working in the kitchen/dining room area, and we are currently building a massive shed outside so I can have my own ‘place’ to work”.
“After going out to stores and purchasing anything Pikake scented, the bottles would often say it wasn’t made here [in Hawai’i]. It only made sense for me that someone who truly knows what these scents smell like to produce them… When locals comment on my products and say that it exactly resembles the flowers, I know that I did it right!...”– Lori Silva
Lori participated in the Ku Hana Cohort 2 with the Counsel of Native Hawaiian Advancement (CNHA) where she received a recommendation to partake in the inaugural cohort. The Ku Hana experience taught her how to look at her business differently, and for her, it was to get more educated. Lori expressed how honored and grateful she felt when being selected as a participant for the inaugural certification cohort. This cohort allowed her to enhance her knowledge and education. Lori mentions how helpful Marí and José were as they were very patient and eager to walk her through the certification process.
“Because all my shows were shut down due to the pandemic and people weren’t visiting Hawai’i, my wholesales were shut down. I was fortunate to have the ability to step back and ask myself ‘what needs to be done?’ and ‘how do I look at this differently?’… After being recommended by Max at Ku Hana at CNHA to Marí and her husband to participate in the inaugural certification cohort, it opened up a whole new world for me! I didn’t understand that this was a possibility for me to do. Because I didn’t have background knowledge in the business aspect of running my business…This certification training helped me a lot! It’s something that you cannot get anywhere else. This certification training has allowed me to be able to play the game and get contracts to grow my business… This training is highly informative and is such an eye-opener…” – Lori Silva
Lori looks forward to being considered to contract with hotels, other businesses in the tourism industry and even expand to Japan! Lori has been working with Shonan Trading Japan, an exporting company, to complete this tedious and lengthy process completed since October 2020. Napua’ala LLC and Shonan are hoping to launch in Japan in June 2021.
There are many challenges Lori has to overcome before making this big move which includes packaging, language, cultural considerations, and different standards in approving ingredients in another country. But she is quickly learning the ropes and adapting to this new horizon for her business with assistance from her Japanese distributor. Shonan has been researching and tracking her company for years and finally reached out to her after noticing how popular she has become. “It amazes me to see what questions they would often ask me at tradeshows. Upon every visit to my booth, they would have a paper with all of my information on it. They looked at my website and have followed me on social media…”. Body care products are regulated like drug products in Japan, so testing is exacting!
Lori’s advice to women aspiring to start and grow their small business:
“We have a terrible habit of comparing ourselves, our business, to other similar companies. I would ask myself, ‘is my product as good? Is my packaging attractive? Is my website as innovative? Can I be successful?’ We are all guilty of this. I know I am. Nothing is wrong with researching your field, BUT it’s meant to give yourself ideas, guidance, inspiration, and congratulations. I say congratulations because I believe there’s room for all small women-owned businesses to be successful. The truth is, we are all on our path at our pace in every aspect of our small businesses. Don’t compare yourself out of your dream!” – Lori Silva