RESILIENCE: Claudia Navigates Adversity With the Aloha Spirit

RESILIENCE: Claudia Navigates Adversity With the Aloha Spirit

RESILIENCE: Claudia Navigates Adversity With the Aloha Spirit

Claudia Bustamente, the passionate owner of Koko Val Hawaii, a female-owned and operated small business based on Maui shares her story of resilience and strength as her community grapples with the aftermath of devastating wildfires that left trails of destruction in Upcountry and West Maui.

She vividly remembers that day - Aug. 8, as she and her family were enjoying a peaceful evening in Lahaina. The tranquil sunset would soon be replaced by the chaos and tragedy of the approaching fire.

Claudia and her family are safe, though many are slowly coming to terms with the loss of their home, livelihood, and even loved ones.

For Claudia, her business thrives on vibrant community events like farmers markets and craft fairs, where Koko Val Hawaii showcases its products and connects with customers. While the business sells its products online, these events were her primary source of revenue - having the personal connection was its heartbeat and drive.

She knew that her business would suffer a significant blow as the craft fairs in Kaanapali and the Lahaina Jodo Mission Farmers Market, where she often showcased her products, were both destroyed in the fire. With the loss of these main income sources, coupled with the departure of tourists and economic challenges faced by local companies, Claudia's sales plummeted.

Despite these hardships, Claudia found inspiration in the unity of the Maui community. 

When the wildfire struck, Claudia immediately channeled her energy into helping those affected. In the context of Maui‚Äôs small community, ‚Äúthose affected‚ÄĚ are literally neighbors and friends. Maui came together in an astonishing display of the Aloha Spirit, sharing resources, providing food, clothing, and shelter to those in need.¬†

She began donating baby items and necessities from her own home to support those in need. Many others joined in, providing clothing, household items, and meals. The community rallied together to aid their neighbors, demonstrating the profound connections forged on the island.

Claudia's journey is one of adaptation and resilience. She drew upon her Business Management education from Hawaii Pacific University, recalling the importance of resourcefulness during tough times. She decided to pivot her business, using her extra time to make and preserve jams, a skill passed down through generations in her family. Her low-sugar, tropical fruit preserves became a hit, resonating with customers seeking an authentic taste of Hawaii.

Claudia also recognized the growing necessity for e-commerce and expanded her online presence. She embraced the challenge of navigating the digital world and discovered excitement in connecting with customers through her website.

Now, Claudia's message to the Maui community is clear: "Malama Maui - let's keep taking care of each other and help wherever we can! Keep supporting local businesses with shopping at farmers markets and locally owned stores. Give back whenever you can!"

Claudia's journey is not just about business; it's a testament to the resilience and unity of the Maui community. Her story showcases the indomitable spirit of Aloha, reminding us all to come together in times of adversity and support one another. Claudia's business, Koko Val Hawaii, continues to thrive, offering a taste of Hawaii and a heartfelt connection to the island's vibrant culture.

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