SHAKEN YET DETERMINED: Katie is not giving up

SHAKEN YET DETERMINED: Katie is not giving up

SHAKEN YET DETERMINED: Katie is not giving up

Running a small business is never a walk in the park. Katie Wilson of West Maui Sports and Fishing Supply knows this all too well. Along with her husband, Lopaka, they've built a brick and mortar around renting snorkeling gear and other equipment to help both residents and visitors fully embrace the beauty of the Maui sun on West Maui's breathtaking beaches. But their journey has been far from easy.

The store was more than just a rental shop; it had a retail side, catering to adventure seekers, spear fishermen, and outdoor enthusiasts, providing them with the equipment they needed for their passion. As the only sporting goods store in the West Side, they felt a deep connection with their community, knowing they were serving a need that was appreciated.

This year started with promise and hope. Katie and Lopaka were not just meeting their goals; they were exceeding them. This success fueled their ambition to explore expansion opportunities and venture into new markets and services.

Envisioning the rest of the year seemed effortless, but their dreams took a tragic turn on August 8. On that fateful day, a devastating fire engulfed the town of Lahaina, including their business, reducing it to ashes along with all their retail inventory. The losses were overwhelming, which led to a substantial financial hardship.

Katie vividly remembers August 8th as the day her kids were supposed to start school. Instead, an eerie glow illuminated the sky, turning night into day. Fear, anxiety, and questions hung in the air.

Fortunately, Katie's house was spared from the fire's fury. This blessing allowed her to open her doors to friends and family who had lost their homes that night, offering a safe haven for about 19 survivors at one point.

In the face of adversity, Katie and Lopaka turned to the Small Business Administration for a loan, seeking relief and support. However, Katie understood that a loan would only deepen their financial woes. In a time of substantial loss, what she truly longed for were grant-based programs or other forms of financial assistance to restore hope.

But let's be clear: Katie and Lopaka weren't seeking handouts. Their resilience and determination pushed them to yearn for a return to work.

Support for small businesses like Katie's is a top priority for us at the YWCA. We offer programs to help entrepreneurs with online presence, branding, accounting, and other tools for success. Katie is eager to develop a recovery plan, even when her confidence is shaken by the uncertainty and mental health challenges she faces.

With many in their community still grappling with the aftermath of the fire, Katie calls for support for small businesses and implores authorities to step up in providing leadership and addressing fundamental needs such as housing, education, economic recovery, and support for those who are grieving.

West Maui Sports and Fishing Supply will rise from the ashes, of that, there's no doubt. The timeline may be uncertain, but Katie exemplifies the unwavering determination of an empowered woman, inspiring us all to overcome and succeed.

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