Vision impairment inspires "pu pu" creation

Ivan Hegent
Ivan Hegent

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - In a kitchen in Kalihi, Ivan Hegent's creation bubbles to life. His flavored shrimp chips have catchy names like "Funatic," "Garlic Stampede" and "Kamuela Kim Chee."

"I come up with crazy names for the product and people just love it," he said.

Ivan is a small business man, trying to stay a step ahead of the inevitable. He's going blind.

"From my understanding, the older I get the more progressive the disease in my eyes gets," he said.

The disease is Retinitis Pigmentosa, a genetic condition that leads to incurable blindness. He began losing sight at fourteen. He's now 41. But depression over his situation didn't sink him. It sparked an idea.

"I just grabbed something off the table, put it on my shrimp chip and popped it in my mouth," he said. "All of sudden my taste buds started going crazy. I was like, 'Wow! This is ono! This is great!"

That was one year ago. He started a business and began selling his chips at swap meets and farmer's markets to rave reviews.

"People started coming out of the woodwork to help me get where I am now," he said.

Ivan calls his company Dragon, after his younger brother's middle name. He suffers from the same eye disease.

"My brother is such a kind, loving person," he said.

Ivan's eyesight is getting worse. He can now only see shapes and colors. But he wants others facing hurdles to know there's hope.

"I've done so many things in my life. And I've never ever completed anything because of my disability. It made me feel that I can really accomplish something. It gives me hope that I'm worth something," he said.

Ivan's goal is to get his chips in stores. That's what he would love to see, while he still can.

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