Hawaii Enterprise Zones Success Story – Mulvadi CorporationPosted on Jul 28, 2015 in Enterprise Zones, Success Stories
By: Chelsea Cooper and Dean Pescador, Hogan Entrepreneurial Program
As we arrived an hour early at the Mulvadi coffee factory, we were greeted by Mulvadi’s friendly staff. Steven Mulgrew, owner of the company and President was more than happy to meet up with us. His lively spirit flowed through him while he graciously offered us samples of his Mulvadi Pure 100% Kona Coffee. As we conducted the interview we realized that his was a story of determination, perseverance and a lesson on why keeping the Aloha Spirit is alive in today’s business world.
After being stationed on Oahu for his work in the Navy, Steven began his business career by selling slippers at the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet. With his family on the Mainland, he realized there was no place that sold 100% Kona coffee. There have always been mixed blends sold, but he wanted to enrich people’s taste buds with the pureness and high-quality of 100% Kona coffee. He found a supplier and made a decision to sell pure 100% Kona coffee. He started knocking on doors, going door-to-door in the Kahala neighborhood to sell his Kona Coffee. Working tirelessly, only to have people slam doors in your face, is how he earned what he now refers to as his “grit and mental toughness.”
Steven’s first few years started off a little tumultuous with so many other competitors, and trying to balance his finances. Then things began to pay off for his company. “If you’ve made it past 3 years, you know you’re going to make it,” he tells us. Steven enrolled his company into DBEDT’s Enterprise Zone (EZ) Program in 1997. Enrolling into the EZ program lowered his costs of doing business in Hawaii, and also provided phenomenal savings for customers. By qualifying for EZ Program benefits Steven’s company could also afford to hire more local employees. Mulvadi remained in the Program for seven years, plus an additional three years afforded to manufacturers and agricultural related businesses. Steven mentioned how he has participated in a lot of economic programs, but the Enterprise Zone Program was the only one that impacted in a positive way and provided support since his beginning.
The Mulvadi list of goods is still growing, from the 100% Kona Coffee, to Hawaiian Macadamia Nuts, Cookies and Aloha Wear. Their best selling product continues to be the 100% Kona Ground Coffee, which can be found at the ABC stores, Longs/CVS drug stores, military commissaries and Don Quixotes. Marketing their products through Japanese publications, magazines and television commercials aims towards creating the strong demand from tourists wanting high quality local products. As for local promotion Mulvadi relies on word-of-mouth and trade shows. Customer loyalty is very important in this aspect. The company remains successful by utilizing both print and word of mouth in its marketing plan.
Steven offers some words of advice for other local companies stemming from his mission of keeping the Aloha Spirit — “It’s all about relationships and taking care of one another, from the suppliers to the customers.” As far as future plans go, he would like to expand internationally and hopes his children will take over and run the great coffee company. This determined man, who once started out selling rubber slippers at the swap meet, provides us an example of how anyone with great ambition, determination, passion, and an idea can create a successful business.