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    Her Story Impressed Me

     By Kristin Brown 

    From: IMBUED.CO

    Eco-conscious robes For Free Spirited Beauties

    IMBUED's intention is to educate and contribute while exploring creativity through femininity. With each sale of IMBUED's sustainably made women's robes, a contribution will be made to Hawaii non-profits. 


    Her Story Impressed Me

    Q&A With Hoa Kai Surf

    I recently met with Kelly Kakalia, co-owner of Hoa Kai Turkish towels.  I’ve watched this local Kauai business grow over the past few years.  Their playful marketing is what caught my eye along with the simplicity of the products they offer. I knew I needed to meet Kelly.  I knew I could learn from her as an entrepreneur.  Her insights went above and beyond what I was expecting.   At 28 years of age this woman exudes drive, intelligence and openness in a unique down-for-whatever way.  Here’s how her adventure in entrepreneurship began:


     The idea for Hoa Kai

     She had no background as a business owner but that didn’t matter.  The idea for Hoa Kai came from of a poncho towel her son was gifted on his 3rd birthday.  This gift was used plenty since towels are sort of a big deal on an island.  She started to think it’d be cool to make something similar.  After spending a day “nerding out” on the internet she discovered Turkish towels.  The Turks are known for their intricate rug weaving techniques which they applied to towel making dating back to 7th century A.D.  Because the cotton grown in Turkey has especially long fibers, it spins into strong, soft threads which, when woven, possesses superior absorbent properties… perfect for making towels.  Hoakai has taken Turkish towels to another level by being the first company to ever print designs on them.


     How long did it take to bring the idea into reality?

     It took about 3 months for Hoa Kai to launch.  Kelly was working full time at night as a waitress/shift manager at a restaurant, while her husband worked as a lifeguard during the day.  She would go weeks without spending quality time with her husband while raising 2 boys under the age of 4, building a house, and working to build Hoa Kai.  During this time her Dad got diagnosed with stage 4 esophageal cancer and got really sick fast.  She ended up becoming his fulltime care giver.  Watching her Dad die made her realize that she didn’t want to waste precious time.  She knew that meant she needed to quit her job and make Hoa Kai work.  She was lucky enough that her Dad got to see the beginning of Hoa Kai and that she quit her job 3 months before his passing.  She got to bounce ideas off of him and he got to see her enthusiasm and excitement at starting her first company. Kelly’s Dad was very involved politically on Kauai.  Her father, Tim Bynum helped pass the ban on plastic bags, helped write the bill to stop GMO companies here on Kauai from spraying toxic chemicals and raised funds to build the bike path and the amazing Kamalani Playground.  He was the biggest influence in Hoakai becoming a reality.   His legacy lives on.


    What were some of the most important steps in creating Hoa Kai?  Most important connections? Most important events/synchronicities?

    •  Some of the most important steps for Hoa Kai were the bumps in the road.  Snafus that held up inventory for months ended up being of huge benefit.  Some of the manufacturing errors led to new partnerships that actually improved the quality of the towels.   

    • One of the most important connections came from reaching out to collaborate with artist Heather Brown.  This is where the idea formed to do prints on the Turkish towels.

    • One of the most important events was a locally held Kauai type of “Shark Tank” that Hoa Kai won.  This event connected Hoa Kai to top local business owners that have provided strong mentorship.

    • One of the most important synchronicities was making a new connection simply through an Instagram comment.  This connected Hoa Kai to all the major Hawaii surfing events, a perfect fit for Hoa Kai towels.


     As a business owner what advice would you give other aspiring entrepreneurs out there?

     Grit is Kelly’s favorite word.  She explained there’s always ups and downs in business, the key is learning how to stay motivated, positive and relaxed when times are discouraging.  Her tips are:

    • Find good mentors.

    • Focus on getting good at one thing.

    • Put yourself out there and be open to when opportunity comes around. 

    • Surround yourself with successful people. 

    • Read at least 10 pages a day from books that help the growth of your business.  One of Kelly’s book recommendations is The Slight of Edge by Jeff Olson.  A next on my list.


    Kelly’s top core values:

    1.  God 

    2. Integrity

    3. Grit


    What ways does Hoa Kai give back?

    Hoa Kai helps Turkish families keep their weaving traditions alive, an art that has been handed down for generations.  Hoa Kai often donates towels to different organizations.  Hoa Kai’s donated to the Kauai Lifeguard Association, non-profit Friends of Bethany and continues to donate to different causes every year. 


     What is some important advice you would give your younger self?

     Nothing because she wouldn’t have listened anyway.  She needed to learn the hard way figuring it out for herself.


    How do you describe success and how would you consider yourself successful?

     Kelly describes success from the words of Tony Robbins, “doing what you want, when you want, where you want, with whom you want, as much as you want”.  She’s not there quite yet but she’s grateful for all the growth so far.  She also considers success being so financially abundant that donating $1 million dollars to local causes is effortless.  I like the way you think Kelly!

    This holiday season head over to and see what all the buzz is about. My Hoa Kai towel is one of my most used belongings. It’s been on many adventures from mauka to makai. The best part about this gift is it’s so practical, so well made and supports small businesses. 

    Kelly of Hoa Kai

    Kelly of Hoa Kai 

    This month Kelly of Hoa Kai shares her journey of being a Lady Boss. She was the recent winner of an Entrepreneur Competition host by the Northshore Rotary for funding towards the growth of her business. Here we get to hear about what sparked the idea, what motivated her, what challenged here and what she has plans for next! 

    What was the turning point that made you decide to launch your business?
    I was working full time at night as a waitress/shift manager at a restaurant and my husband is a lifeguard working days. I would go weeks without being able to spend time with him and we were raising 2 boys under 4, building a house, and I had just started Hoa Kai. At the same time as all this hectic normal day stuff my dad got diagnosed with stage 4 esophageal cancer and he started getting really bad fast. I ended up becoming his full time care taker. Watching my Dad die made me realize that I wanted to spend as much time with the people I love, doing what I want, wherever I wanted to be. And I knew that meant I needed to quit my job and make Hoa Kai work. That’s when I feel like Hoa Kai really launched. I was lucky enough that my Dad got to see the beginning of it and I quit my job about 3 months before his passing. I got to bounce ideas off of him and he was really a huge part in it. He got to see my enthusiasm and excitement of starting my first company. 

    What surprised you along the way?
    What surprised me along the way is how many cool relationships I’ve built with people I would’ve never met had I not started my own company. And also how many cool places I’ve gotten to travel to so far. 

    What failure led to success?
    All my failures have led me to something that was instrumental in my success. I feel like there’s always something that’s a struggle and I somehow work through it and it brings something better than I could have anticipated. 
    Here’s an example: I recently did a print collection with an artist and the printers in Turkey just got really sketch. You see we have our weavers weave the towels and we then send them off to a print factory where they have to use these special machines to print on the 100% cotton towels. But this time the printers were being weird. They ended up sending a ton of bad prints. Like I’m talking 100s. A project that was supposed to take 5 weeks took 5 months no joke, with 100s of misprints we couldn’t sell costing us a ton of time and money and here I am the one who has explain this to a very successful artist who’s been waiting for months for their towels. I was devastated because prints are our number one seller and I had this opportunity to work with this amazing individual and I felt like I was blowing my chance. So after we finished that run I decided to focus on woven designs while I figured something else out with the printers. I was looking into buying my own printers in Turkey, but that ended up not being an option because of cost and logistics of trying to run a factory in Turkey while living in Hawaii. I tried talking with the current printers about new machines but they ended up going out of business. 

    So I was stuck, it’s almost impossible to find someone half way around the world in the country that doesn’t speak English that has the capability to print on these 100% cotton towels. Hoa Kai was the first company to discover the process of printing on Turkish towels.. so we know what we needed and the combination of machines to do it is not a normal set up and fabrics printer would have. 

    But after weeks of searching and discouragement I found new printers and machines with the ability to produce a higher quality print. A quality I could never have imagined, giving Hoa Kai a whole new opportunity to bring new designs to the market. *** we will be releasing some of these designs this fall :) 

    What strength did you discover that you didn't know you had? 
    Grit. I had no idea I had so much grit. It’s my new favorite word. I have the definition written on my fridge. Grit: The tendency to work strenuously towards challenges, maintaining effort and interest over years despite failure, adversity, and plateaus in progress. 

    What is a memorable moment?
    Gosh there’s too many. Here’s two.
    The first meeting I ever had with a store buyer. I walked in with a bin of towels, I didn’t even have packaging or logo embroidered on any of these towels. I had no line sheet, catalog, price sheet, pretty much I had nothing but a bin of towels. I ended up selling a bunch of towels that day and when the buyer asked if I worked on Net 30 terms I just said “sure” having no idea what that meant I went home and googled it. Hahaha  I’ve come so far since then. 
    The second memorable moment would have to be the Catch a Wave competition in May. It started with 38 businesses on the island who applied and ended up with 8 finialiast who were to present their business in front of a panel of 5 very successful entrepreneurs (kind of like shark tank). I was one of the 8 finalists and I ended up winning first. It felt good to be recognized by people who mattered. When I say mattered I mean by people who have been very successful in their lives with their own businesses. It meant what I was doing was good and to keep doing it. You see, it can be hard in business because there’s no real rules, there’s nothing really to grade yourself on as every business is so different.  

    Who has inspired you to keep going?
    Any business owner who has ever been successful. And my definition of success is “Doing what you want, when you want, where you want, with whom you want, as much as you want”-Tony Robbins. Sara Blakey has always been a huge inspiration.  But I also have friends that inspire me everyday. Like Taryn from Kaikini, Nicolette from Foto Pop, Jen from Destination Events Hawaii. I’m lucky to be surrounded by so many friends who are entrepreneurs themselves. 

    Where do you hope to go next with your business? 
    The focus right now is to keep selling Turkish towels. To double sales every year and eventually expand products to stickers, Hats, shirts, shorts, dresses, bags, etc. create an overall surf brand with Hoa Kai.

    Goldfish Kiss X Hoa Kai


    By: Rebekah Steen (aka Goldfish Kiss)


    For anyone who ever asked if I could do a beach towel with my artwork on it… here you go. Hoa Kai X Goldfish Kiss Limited Edition Turkish Towels are here, and they’re rather rad.

    For anyone who is just on the hunt for a beach towel, I think you’d like it too.

    So, long story short, I teamed up with Hoa Kai to make one of their oh so soft and useful, hand loomed Turkish Towels. I came up with a fun print made up of plumerias I’d painted…et voila. You can now lay down, dry off, or be wrapped up in a bunch of puas. If only we could’ve made it smell like them too.

    As fun as the print and collab is (we’re so pumped with how these turned out), I think it’s rather amazing what Kelly at Hoa Kai is doing as well. So let me shout out some praises her way really quickly…

    Hoa Kai is a family owned and operated business in Kauai. Lifeguard. Two boys. Beach momma. They know beach gear. Big time. So when they found their first Turkish Towels, they were fans, and started investigating where to find the best ones to buy for family and friends.

    That’s where the interesting part begins…

    They learned that the creation and weaving of Turkish towels has been around for centuries, is an amazing trade that has been taught for generations, and very skilled craftsman are raising cotton and hand-looming these beautiful pieces in Southeast Turkey.

    BUT, they also learned that most of the Turkish towels sold today are mass-produced by large scale manufacturing companies. In fact, only a handful of traditional weaving workshops remain because industrial textile manufacturing has all but wiped out Turkey’s weaving culture. Which meant hundreds, maybe thousands of weavers have been put into poverty. Selling these huge quantities of towels at a lower cost put families who have been creating these towels for centuries out of business and out of work. Urg.

    That’s where Hoa Kai stepped in…

    They wanted to support these weavers and their craft, and definitely appreciate an old-style-shuttled loom more than a mouse click. So, through their research, found some incredible weavers (that they work with directly) who’ve been making Turkish towels for over six generations. They are in a small village in Southeast Turkey near the Syrian border, and have quality that no computer controlled loom can copy. Humans for the win.

    So, all because of an initial admiration of a Turkish Towel, some research, and taking a leap of faith, Hoa Kai is bringing awareness, work, and some much needed moolah to some Turkish families who have been struggling.

    Extremely functional, soft and well made towels that are covered in a print that’s designed and painted by yours truly, that also helps keep an art form and tradition alive…Yup. I’m definitely a fan of these towels.

    For many reasons.


    Hoa Kai X Goldfish Kiss - Available at …and at a few really cool surf shops and online stores. 



    One of my must bring items while I travel is the Hoa Kai Surf towels which are super cute and can be used for like a bajillion things when your travelling.

    I love bringing one of these towels with me. We all know it gets a bit chilly at airports when your traveling, even if your going to a tropical island, you always want to be prepared with articles that will keep you warm (cause you never know!). I use my Hoa Kai Surf Towel as a throw over blanket when I’m on the plane and I wanna get cozy. If I’m walking in the airports, I drape it over my shoulders like a shawl for extra warmth. And when I don’t feel cold anymore, I roll it up and pack it in my backpack which doesn’t take up much room.

    Hoa Kai Surf works directly with families who have been weaving for more then 6 years which is incredible because shops now a days are usually mass produced by factories. It’s great to see companies involved in supporting local artisans. These Turkish Towels are weaved to be quick dry and easy to maintain. Wash in cold water and hang to dry. I’ve used my towel as a beach towel, a yoga mat towel, a shower towel, and a blankie. And it’s been amazing in doing almost everything I need it for my everyday activities when I’m travelling.

    You know what else is awesome about it? Wrap it around your waist and you got yourself a sharong!! Sometimes when I don’t feel like wearing pants (which is basically like all the time lol) I wrap this around my waist like a skirt. It’s so comfy and it adds to your travel wardrobe which it typically limited.

    Check out how I styled my Hoa Kai Surf Towel in Hawaii below. Shop their selection of designs and towels here.