“Everyone Matters!” Mantra Is Key to Success for Eskimo Candy

Posted on Jun 23, 2015 in Enterprise Zones, News, Success Stories

Assorted seafoodHawaii Enterprise Zones Success Story – Eskimo Candy, Inc.
By: Jasmine Cho and Dane Malinovich, Hogan Entrepreneurial Program

“Everyone matters!” That is a part of the formula that has made Jeffry Hansen, owner of Eskimo Candy Inc., successful for many years.

Eskimo Candy may sound familiar to big and small businesses that buy wholesale seafood and meat. Today, while it is one of the largest distributors of seafood and meats in Hawaii, it was not always the case. Just like many other businesses, Jeff encountered, and overcame, many challenges. In 1987, Eskimo Candy was founded out of the back of Jeff’s Jeep Scrambler, from where he sold smoked salmon. In addition, he worked two other jobs, shooting wedding videos and working as a bouncer at night. Jeff did not have a business degree so he had to “wing it” while learning from his mistakes.

Despite the challenges he faced, Jeff was able to conquer them by relying on his values, including respecting others and practicing the Golden Rule – treat others the way you want to be treated. These values are also instilled into his employees. As a result, Eskimo Candy has forged strong, personal relationships with its customers. “They’re the ones who take care of us,” says Jeff.

Because of these relationships, Eskimo Candy treats clients equally. Although Eskimo Candy is one of the top seafood and meat providers in Hawaii, it caters to not only large, but also serves smaller businesses. It does not matter which client is more successful, each customer – whether they are the shrimp food truck down the street, or the Four Seasons Hotel – will be provide the same high quality service.

This care is extended to employees as well. Despite the severe economic downturn in 2008, Eskimo Candy did not downsize because Jeff decided to find ways to keep everyone on staff.

Having been introduced to the Enterprise Zone (EZ) Program in 2012 by his accountant, Jeff views the program as a good motivational tool, and through it, he has been able to grow his business. The EZ Program lowers the cost of doing business, so Eskimo Candy is able to hire more employees as his business grows. And Jeff thinks about the community by prioritizing locals first when hiring.

According to Jeff, the EZ Program also allows him to keep his inventory up. He mentioned a “trickle- down effect” where everyone benefits: with reduced business costs to strengthen the business, Eskimo Candy has greater purchasing power to secure better deals on its products. This savings is passed on to customers, who in turn can also lower prices for end users. Everyone wins! Jeff highly recommends the Enterprise Zone Program because, he says, “small businesses really need the help.”
Jeff is currently building a facility on Kauai, while on Maui, he is installing PV panels to transform his facilities to be eco-friendly and green for benefit now and in the future. Jeff is looking forward to passing down his business to his two sons, Joshua and Jordan. He hopes to train the two and, in five or six years, slowly allow them to take over. “My boys will probably be the next generation to take this to the next level,” says Jeff.