Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Daeus Bencomo, CEO of Mahilani Partners LLC dba Lavaloha Chocolate Farm, located in Hilo, HI, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Lavaloha is a business that grows and produces chocolate and coffee and offers Tree-to-Chocolate Tours that show the entire process of how we turn raw cacao into finished, ready-to-eat chocolate. Our customers are mainly families of 4 or retired travelers, but we've been expanding our brand and rebuilding our customer base to cater to locals as well as tourists.
Tell us about yourself
I'm originally from New Mexico and joined the New Mexico National Guard but never actually got the opportunity to serve with my unit as I was on Active Duty my first two years of service. I then requested a transfer to Hawai'i to go to school at UH Hilo for Astronomy/Astrophysics. I realized I didn't like the classroom and quickly started working full-time and leaving academics altogether (that's a fancy way to say I dropped out). I helped rebuild a zipline and maintain braking systems for zip lines around the Pacific. I needed a change and decided to work with the company I'm at now as a part-time agricultural worker. Four years later, and after lots of learning, I am now the CEO and President of Mahilani Partners LLC dba Lavaloha and haven't looked back since.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Well, since I'm not (currently) a part of the ownership team, I would say having the opportunity to grow and expand my horizons with the role I'm currently in. I do love to learn and experience things; I'm just more of a hands-on person who can't sit and watch slideshows or read from a textbook at the pace of an entire semester. I'd say my biggest accomplishment is being able to successfully put together a cohesive and comprehensive team to achieve financial success and stability.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
Firing someone. For being a small company (17 total employees), everyone gets to know each other and meet each other's families. Sometimes it's hard to set the tone and hold the line for underperformers, but it's needed.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
Get a CPA, take some Business Strategy and/or Business Development courses, and learn the difference between Financial Accounting and Managerial Accounting.
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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