OluKai Premium Footwear

Aliso Viejo, CA, 27 Employees

Playing the Field: Starting a Business

STATUS REPORT: Yes, bankruptcy rates are up, but even in good times more than half of new businesses don't survive beyond four years. And while access to capital is harder in a recession, "the truth is, even in flush times, 80 percent of all business startups are self-financed," says Rieva Lesonsky, CEO of GrowBiz Media, an entrepreneurship-consulting firm, and author of Start Your Own Business. In fact, more people started businesses in the past two recessions than in recent flush times. Credit the ingenuity of the underemployed.
OUTLOOK: "As long as you don't need a lot of capital, times like these are pretty good ones for starting a business," says Gregg Fairbrothers, professor of business administration at the Tuck School of Business, at Dartmouth College. "Finding good people and access to resources at reasonable prices is much easier, and competitors fail at a higher rate." According to analysis by Economy.com, businesses expected to grow next year include those promoting sports and other events, as well as firms managing artists, athletes, and other public figures.
BREAKING IN: Get free advice. Most cities have SCORE (score.org), a government-supported program in which retired executives volunteer consulting services, and America's Small Business Development Center Network (asbdc-us.org), which offers free consulting and workshops for nominal fees. For startup cash, try tapping a local network of angel investors (see angelcapital­association.org).

SOLE SURFERS: This four-year-old anatomical-sandal maker's commitment to environmental responsibility is born out of the Hawaiian-bred founder's wave-chasing way of life. The company devotes time, resources, and a percentage of sales to organizations engaged in the preservation of traditional Hawaiian culture. As if that weren't enough, employees enjoy "Surf Wednesdays." olukai.com


OluKai is committed to creating quality footwear products while leaving the smallest footprint possible on the planet. We strive to be environmentally responsible as manufacturers and pledge to actively support and work for a clean environment and a better quality of life. We build premium footwear for the ocean lifestyle.

To reduce the use of plastics, primarily water bottles, we have provided our staff with reusable aluminum water containers for their drinking water. We also use reusable plates, ceramic cups, and silverware to reduce the use of paper and plastic products. We recycle our paper and cardboard and participate in our community's trash-recycling program. Our product catalogs are produced using FSC-certified papers and printers. We use 100 percent recycled content and soy-based ink on our boxes and hangtags. When we manufacture our product, we make sure all of our leathers come from environmentally conscious ISO 14001–certified tanneries, and we use natural latex rubbers and repurposed compounds in our outsoles. We also encourage and reward OluKai employees who use a more sustainable form of transportation at least one day per week, such as carpooling, mass transit, or walking or riding their bike to work. Employees who partake in this program are rewarded with a variety of things—gift certificates, company product, and reserved parking—and receive company-wide recognition.

We established the OluKai ‘Ohana Giveback Program to support people who are working to preserve and enjoy Hawaiian culture. Our ‘Ohana includes the Hawaiian Lifeguard Association's Junior Lifeguard Program, Maui Cultural Lands, and Team OluKai of the Hawaiian Sailing Canoe Association. Each year we contribute time, resources, and a percentage of our sales to support the ‘Ohana initiatives. On May 16–17, 2009, we are holding our inaugural OluKai Ho'olaule'a Ocean Festival at Kanaha Beach Park, Maui, Hawaii. Part of the proceeds raised will benefit our ‘Ohana Giveback Program.

We have a casual atmosphere that contributes to a family-like environment, which welcomes pets, who roam our facilities as office companions. Children of staff members are welcome to come to OluKai on days other than the official bring-your-child-to-work day. Our small office structure builds strong interpersonal relationships and allows for a communication system that supports individual input and ideas. Weekly, we encourage all staff to experience "Surf Wednesdays"—morning surf sessions at Trestles and San Onofre beaches. In addition, we celebrate every quarter with a company Beach Day. We like to play as hard as we work and also support our shared passion for the ocean lifestyle, our brand's foundation and philosophy.

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