Categorized | Agriculture, Business

‘SmallBiz Success’ for Big Island Bees


Lt. Governor Aiona last week spotlighted 10 small businesses that have quietly but tenaciously been able to thrive in their respective industries.

The owners of Big Island Bees and nine other small firms were recognized during the third annual Hawaii Business Magazine’s “SmallBiz Success” Awards at the Hawaii Prince Hotel.

The recognition comes at a time when small businesses account for roughly 98 percent of all firms across Hawaii and employ more than 137,000 people.

“Small businesses drive our economy forward, and we need their help as we move toward economic recovery during this difficult time,” Aiona said during his remarks. “That is why our Administration has proposed a number of legislative measures to reduce taxes and fees that will help reduce the burden on small businesses.”

Already the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs has saved businesses more than $45 million in waived fees and assessments.

In addition, the Administration has worked with the Legislature to lower the unemployment insurance tax, which will save Hawaii businesses an estimated $151 million over three years.  

Also, the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations introduced a bill to give some small business owners the option not to obtain worker’s compensation insurance, which would lower the cost of doing business in our state and give small businesses the means to hire the staff they need.

“Any recovery must include small businesses,” Aiona said. “We want to free up entrepreneurs to keep them doing what they do best, generating wealth, drawing investment and creating and preserving jobs.” 

Kealakekua-based Big Island Bees is finding sweet success all over the globe. In the summer of 2007, the company joined a Hawaii delegation at the HOFEX Food Trade Show in Hong Kong, where buyers buzzed about its natural, organic Hawaiian honey. From then on, Big Island Bees started filling orders to Hong Kong and mainland China and hopes to begin distribution to Japan as well.

Big Island Bees was one of six Hawaii companies recognized last year by the U.S. Department of Commerce with an Export Achievement Certificate.

“Oddly enough, even though we’re a very small company, we found that the Hawaii market wasn’t big enough,” says Whendi Grad, who co-owns Big Island Bees with her brother Phil Grad. “By expanding to Asia, we were able to diversify our market — although we still aren’t anywhere close to realizing our full potential.”

Big Island Bees started four years ago as the packaging and labeling arm of Captain Cook Honey Co. Ltd, which is owned by Whendi Grad’s husband, Garnett Pruett, a fourth-generation commercial beekeeper. In 2008, the company increased its sales by almost 25 percent over 2007, selling more than 33,000 jars of honey.

“Made in Hawaii — that’s still our biggest selling point,” says Whendi Grad.

Phil Grad said Big Island Bees plans to continue increasing its presence in Hawaii, on the mainland and throughout Asia by developing and offering products that are tailored to specific target markets within those areas. “We intend to emphasize the uniqueness and rarity of the honeys we produce,” he said.

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