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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Cut and paste, Hawai'i style

By Dan Nakaso
Advertiser Staff Writer

Bella Finau-Faumuina, left, and Delia Parker-Ulima started a business together in 2001 when they decided that if they wanted just the right kind of Hawaiian print paper for scrapbooks, they'd have to produce their own.

Deborah Booker • The Honolulu Advertiser

Best friends Delia Parker-Ulima and Bella Finau-Faumuina couldn't find any Hawaiian-print, acid-free paper to feed their scrapbook hobby, so they created their own manufacturing business.

Now they're so busy running their Creative Native Crafts company that they have no time for the hobby that got them started in the first place.

"It's ironic," Parker-Ulima said. "We have a scrapbook business but we don't have time to scrapbook."

Parker-Ulima, 30, and Finau-Faumuina, 31, remain best friends from their days at The Kamehameha Schools — more like family, really. And they swear that they've never argued since they went into business together in 2001.

"Trust me," Parker-Ulima said, "we would tell you if we beef."

Or as Finau-Faumuina said: "Even if we went out of business tomorrow, we would still be friends. That's the main thing."

Their philosophy toward their company is laced with an easygoing attitude based on their Mormon faith and a belief that hard work will be appreciated.

But Finau-Faumuina and Parker-Ulima started by just trying to satisfy their own desire to decorate their scrapbooks with Hawaiian print paper.

They scoured the handful of scrapbook shops on O'ahu with no luck. So they made their own lei patterns out of colored paper.

Parker-Ulima, who has a law degree from the University of Hawai'i, had just been laid off when the Circuit Court judge she clerked for retired. Finau-Faumuina, a professional musician, elementary school music teacher and Hawaiian studies instructor, was looking for a job that would allow her stay home and take care of her first child.

Parker-Ulima, a mix of Hawaiian, Japanese, Portuguese and English heritage, and Finau-Faumuina, who has Hawaiian, Tongan and Portuguese blood, couldn't get into an entrepreneurial program through the Office of Hawaiian Affairs because it was full. So they turned to a similar program through a Samoan organization.

Through the class, they decided to form their own company to produce made-in-Hawai'i paper for scrapbook decorating. They set up individual offices in their Kalihi homes and chipped in $2,000 apiece from savings and family loans. The money went toward $1,400 worth of dies to make cutout flowers for scrapbook decorations and $2,500 for their first order of 32,000 sheets of hibiscus- and plumeria-patterned pages that Finau-Faumuina designed.

In December 2001 they rented a booth at a craft fair at the Neal Blaisdell Center for $400 and came away with $700 in sales and many compliments on their product.

"People who know crafts were so happy to see us," Finau-Faumuina said. "We got good reaction and we didn't lose money."

A friend made business cards for them.

They enlisted family members to attend "packing parties" where they assembled the pages and readied them for shipment.

They produced homemade color catalogs at a Kinko's and sent them out to seven scrapbook stores around Honolulu, getting three orders in return.

The first order was for $432 for a few thousand floral cutouts but Finau-Faumuina and Parker-Ulima were ecstatic with the response.

The business that placed that first order sold all the cutouts in a couple of months.

Parker-Ulima and Finau-Famuina had to figure out everything, including how to make an invoice and a receipt and knowing how much wholesale tax to charge.

"It was a day-by-day, step-by-step adventure," Parker-Ulima said.

They've since expanded their line of scrapbook paper and cutouts to include a Hawaiian-print origami kit that comes with an instruction booklet.

In January, they received a $16,000 loan from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs' Native Hawaiian Revolving Loan Fund.

Now their products are sold in 50 stores across five states and in Australia, Japan and South Africa.

Sales have gone from $25,000 to $26,000 to a projected $75,000 to $100,000 this year. By 2005 they hope to reach $1 million in annual revenue.

The appeal to customers is that Creative Native Crafts is the only company producing its own paper and designs in Hawai'i, said Lynne Souza, owner of the Down Memory Lane scrapbook store.

"There are other companies that do make Hawaiian printed paper," Souza said. "But because theirs is made locally, a lot of local scrap-bookers really like that. It makes it really special to the local scrap bookers. And tourists like to buy made-in-Hawai'i products."

Parker-Ulima and Finau-Faumuina constantly ask for feedback, Souza said, and responded quickly when customers asked for hibiscus papers in red and white and plumeria designs in yellow and white.

"They're excellent to work with," Souza said. "They're very prompt in answering questions, returning calls, delivering product."

Finau-Faumuina and Parker-Ulima know their niche lies in being the only company to make such products in Hawai'i. But they're not afraid of someone competing someday.

"It would be good for everyone," Finau-Faumuina said. "Especially the customers, who would have a choice."

Reach Dan Nakaso at dnakaso@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8085.