Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in clothing but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Scott Foster, Founder of Asana Hawaii, located in Kamuela, HI, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
As the Founder and Lead Designer of Asana Hawaii, I wanted to introduce my unique designs on activewear and swimwear to inspire an aloha spirit. Its vibrant colors and styles make the brand stand out with the beauty of a Hawaiian lifestyle. This is what inspires me to design. There is an excitement in always learning, growing, and refining those unique designs with the customer in mind. It starts with understanding that customer. They want comfortable and stylish activewear that can be worn multiple times, from the gym to work. Also, when they look in the mirror, it must appeal to their individual needs. This includes whether it's a stretchable, moisture-wicking, form-fitting fabric that allows easy exercise movement.
Tell us about yourself
For me, my passion for art began as a watercolor artist at an early age and exploded once he discovered placing designs on fabric. That first happened while working at a t-shirt shop. It was amazing to see the art blending on the shirts that the customer fell in love with. Then the years went by, and life marched on. Meanwhile, I started a career and a family while planting deeper roots in Hawaii. All the while still painting, drawing, and designing. Yet, it wasn't enough.
Fortunately, life is filled with endless possibilities, and a door can open when you least expect it. In my case, it occurred through a sudden, traumatic injury. There I was, helping a customer when I slipped and fell in a coffee field. The pain was excruciating. I had completely shattered my ankle in a work-related accident that left me unable to walk for nearly six months. Surgery and rehab followed.
Since I couldn't walk, I realized that he had the opportunity to build a website and share his unique designs through social media. Asana Hawaii was born. So, with my leg in a cast and propped up on a pillow, the focus was on the dream that must become a reality. The passion and desire to create colorful activewear both saved and healed. It pushed. It pulled. It guided me through the pain.
The most memorable moment is seeing my yoga instructor try one of my first designs and move through a yoga sequence. With the colors moving and blending with the shapes and postures of yoga, my mind really went into orbit with new creations.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
While sharing the first generation of ideas on social media, I saw people from all around Hawai'i and the United States go to the website and order the designs. Inspired by that love for the majestic Hawaiian Islands, it is amazing to see them embraced by people around the world. My passion is to create unique styles that are made to be worn by yogis, athletes, Cross Fitters, and anyone who admires excellent activewear that is made to last. I am thrilled to see customers find us on our website, the local shops here on the island, and now our own Amazon shop. What is even more exciting is we are in the early stages of connecting with wholesale groups that represent not only small Hawai'i brands but brands from all around the United States and are making those unique brands, like ours, available to shops and boutiques all over the States.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
From the beginning, the most challenging aspect is getting our brand viewed and in the hands of a very discerning buying public. Activewear, while growing in use worldwide, is a highly saturated space with lots of mega brands already dominating the market. They literately have bought and locked up all the popular keywords used in searches on Google and other search engines, so a small brand like us has very little chance of even getting seen. No matter how much money we put into Ads, the big guys have already secured the top slots in viewing.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
From the start, once you have a product or service, no matter what it is. Get amazing photos taken by yourself or a professional photographer to show off what your business is. Go all out. Make those images show exactly what the customer can expect from your business. As an example, I first had nothing but fake mock-ups of my work. No live models. It wasn't until I met an amazing lady at a site that I was doing work on for my day job. I shared with her my website, and she said, "looks like nice stuff, Scott…but you need real models. My daughter is a professional model, so why don't you have her model your designs." From there, she introduced me to her daughter and her core group of Miss Hawai'i Island USA.
Get a great team or manufacturing group in place that can help you scale your business. This took some serious effort on my part, with traveling all over the West Coast and contacting companies worldwide to find the right fit. It wasn't until I went to an actual manufacturing tradeshow that I found my core group that still helps me to this day.
Put together a solid and beautiful website. Do not skimp on features and the ability to build out that site later. I have tried so many different companies and services until I found Shopify and all it can do to scale my business. I only wish I'd found them sooner. I tried literally every other one out there, and I wasted so much time with all of them. This third one is also social media. If you have a good social media presence, you will see your website benefit with traffic and, hopefully, sales on your site. The two must work hand in hand for most businesses, especially if you have a physical product to promote.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
The oldest cliché has the most truth. Be persistent!!!! It will take time and a lot of faith to move forward in between all the negative that will come your way. Lastly, have a way to break up the desire to always work on your business in every moment of your free time. That was a mistake for me, and my health and sanity suffered. Now, I practice yoga and its freeing movements to help me focus and gain clarity. Even if it is just 20 minutes a day, give that to yourself.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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