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A Maui small business owner uses the pandemic to pivot — and pay it forward

Published: Sep. 23, 2021 at 6:18 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 23, 2021 at 10:54 PM HST
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WAILUKU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Despite shutdowns and setbacks during the pandemic, a small business owner on Maui is thriving.

The father of two from Pukalani benefited from his creativity and a push to digital platforms.

Jared Nagura founded Aloha Ke Akua Clothing Company five years ago.

“We pair olelo Hawaii and local culture with the Bible,” he said. “Every t-shirt has a specific verse or purpose behind it.”

Prior to the pandemic, the 27-year-old graphic designer relied on face-to-face sales and pop-up events.

His brand can be found at a brick-and-mortar shop called Made In Hope in Wailuku.

Last year, all non-essential businesses were forced to close during the pandemic.

When many business owners shifted to online-only orders, Nagura asked his customers to use their money to help others with rent and basic needs rather than purchasing his products.

“We feel bad for the people who closed, restaurants, things that didn’t get a chance, and I think it shows the need for an online presence now more than ever,” Nagura said.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 30% of Hawaii small business owners said the pandemic had a “large negative effect” on their business.

That’s the highest in the nation and almost 7% higher than the national average.

This year, Nagura decided to ramp up his digital presence — and sales are soaring.

“We’ve seen orders from Japan or Austria, all around the world,” he said.

“It’s cool because we can share a little bit of Hawaii, some olelo with the mainland and around the world and share God’s word too because that’s what’s behind each and every one of our t-shirts.”

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