Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Ashley Watts, owner of Local I'a, located in Honolulu. HI, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

We buy local seafood directly from fishers and sell it to chefs and community members island-wide. Our business is redefining our local fish as resources, not commodities- keeping our fish here and not exporting it! Our seafood is the freshest and highest quality you can get because it comes straight from the fishers for whom we pay fair prices. Our customers are those who love fresh quality fish and are concerned with where it came from and how it was caught.

Tell us about yourself

I have been a marine biologist since I was a very young girl and have always been fascinated with the ocean and everything in it. I grew up raised by both my parents and grandparents in the panhandle of Florida and central Alabama. My grandpa raised cattle, fished, hunted, and grew most of the vegetables that we all ate. We knew where our food came from, and it made a huge impact on not only our economic survival but also our health. After moving out here, over the years, I became connected with many local food producers. I started eating mostly only food that I knew the story of. My health improved to the extent that I don't get sick unless I work myself that way by not taking care of myself. Access to local produce and meats isn't widely available for most people. When it is, sometimes it is unfortunately mislabeled- like the case of Meadow Gold Dairy that says it's Hawaii's dairy but is not made or from here. This limited access and greenwashing motivate me to provide access to local seafood for our community and, in exchange, get the local fishers a fair wage that keeps our ocean resources here and not exported. We collaborate and advertise with many other local food producers in order to increase availability and access.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

For six years, I have successfully run a women-owned business in a highly male-dominated industry when everyone has always told me I would not succeed.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

I find the hardest thing about running and owning a business is managing your employees, that is, once you find good ones, which is also pretty damn difficult. Being mindful of your employee's needs while taking care of your own and those of your business is far tougher than moving hundreds of pounds of fish, lol.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Be resilient and know bumps in the road are going to come; just gotta hold on and keep your head up.
  2. Relationships are important and can be a driving force for your business if you malama them.
  3. Don't dwell on mistakes you make or things that go wrong- shit happens. It is how you deal with it that matters.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solopreneur that you'd like to share, then email; we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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